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This is the first book on a fascinating new field in biology -- zoopharmacognosy, or animal self-medication -- and its lessons for humans. When Rachel Carson published SILENT SPRING, few people knew the meaning of the word ecology. Even fewer people today probably know the meaning of zoopharmacognosy. But that is about to change. In WILD HEALTH, Cindy Engel explores the extraordinary range of ways animals keep themselves healthy, carefully separating scientifically verifiable fact from folklore, hard data from daydreams. As with holistic medicine for humans, there turns out to be more fact in folklore than was previously thought. How do animals keep themselves healthy? They eat plants that have medicinal properties. They select the right foods for a nutritionally balanced diet, often doing a better job of it than humans do. Animals even seek out psychoactive substances -- they get drunk on fermented fruit, hallucinate on mushrooms, become euphoric with opium poppies. They also manipulate their own reproduction with plant chemistry, using some plants as aphrodisiacs and others to enhance fertility. WILD HEALTH includes scores of remarkable examples of the ways animals medicate themselves.- Desert tortoises will travel miles to mine and eat the calcium needed to keep their shells strong.- Monkeys, bears, coatis, and other animals rub citrus oils and pungent resins into their coats as insecticides and antiseptics against insect bites.- Chimpanzees swallow hairy leaves folded in a certain way to purge their digestive tracts of parasites.- Birds line their nests with plants that protect their chicks from blood-draining mites and lice. In other words, animals try to keep themselves healthy in many of the same ways humans do; in fact, much of early human medicine, including many practices being revived today as alternative medicine, arose through observations of animals. And, as WILD HEALTH, animals still have a lot to teach us. We could use a little more wild health ourselves.

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