Picture of Dr Anuska Viljoen

Dr Anuska Viljoen


Natural Does Not Equal Safe

Just because something is NATURAL it does not necessarily mean it is SAFE!

This is a very dangerous misunderstanding amongst many untrained (however well meaning) individuals. Herbs, tinctures, essential oils and nutritional supplements have very strong material substances which act in a very widespread manner in the body of any individual, having physiological actions often very similar to conventional drugs which in some instances have been isolated from many of these originally natural substances. Many of these substances are highly toxic in high doses, and it is often this toned down effect in much lower doses which we utilise as medicine.

Holistic medicines have a profound effect on our neuro-endocrine (nerves, hormones and brain chemicals), immune system and basic physiology (general chemical functions which keep us alive and functioning the way we do). This PNEI (physiological neuro endocrine immune) axis is often mentioned and discussed as the basis of holistic medicine which takes into account the whole picture i.e. what happens to the whole body mind, emotions and physically during disease, healing and health.

We all know the effects of pleasant fragrances on our mind, stimulating memory and feelings of well being. Essential oils in particular are highly concentrated aromatic oils which penetrate the body deeply and affect the PNEI resulting often in feelings of euphoria from the release of endorphins (happy hormones), the immune system by means of stimulating specific fighter cells and can be directly warming, cooling, relaxing, stimulating or can kill parasites, bacteria and fungi outright. Being highly concentrated, they are also highly toxic to many small creatures and especially CATS.

There are many documented deaths due to liver failure by means of the use of essential oils innocently used by ill advised pet owners. The major culprits are Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Pennyroyal, Citronella, Bergamot and Khakibos oils.

Tea Tree oil is a very common natural panacea (cure all). The truth is it is highly toxic and can NOT be used undiluted on any animals contrary to popular belief. Never use it on cats and birds unless properly diluted and directed by a trained individual that understands the interactions in animals, such as an aroma therapist with specific animal training or a holistic veterinarian that has adequate knowledge or training in aromatherapy. Just because it is OK for human use does not mean it can be used in animals. PLEASE BE CAREFUL.

This last week I had to treat a parrot for Tea Tree toxicity. He collapsed within 5 minutes of applying the oils to the skin. It was a very close call, as he was almost in a coma and was hardly breathing. I have had many cats and small dogs presented with “toxic” signs owing to overuse of essential oils.

There is only one “safe” essential oil, which can be used undiluted in people. This is lavender. I still advise diluting lavender for the use in animals.

My Golden Rules!

Do not use any essential oil without expert advice, except maybe lavender greatly diluted on the following:

  • Any creature weighing less than 1kg
  • Any animal less than 8 weeks old
  • Cats and birds in general (unless specifically under direction of a vet)
  • Any immune compromised individual without medical advice
  • Any individual with liver or kidney failure without medical advice
  • Dilute all essential oils in carrier oil such as sweet almond oil, by at least 1drop in 50-100 drops carrier oil.

Another safe way is to disperse it in hot water. In a mug of hot water 2-5 drops in total. Apply only a small amount of the resultant suspension.

Please be aware of what you do to your charges. They are like helpless babies in our hands, unable to decide what could do them major harm, so we as their caretakers have to take care and know what it is we do for them and to them before we do it. Become informed. If you do not know or are not sure of anything, please ask the advice of the appropriate professional. If they do not know for sure, rather than take a chance, find out from someone who does.

“Spokie” the Parrot recovering after his close call to Cuckoo Land where he very nearly became a ghost!

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