Case study of a dog with a spinal condition (Part 4 of 4)

In the previous 3 posts I’ve shared what happened at a recent zoopharmacognosy (self selection) session with a canine client of mine, Willow.  The session was offered via Skype by Rachel Windsor-Knott of My Animal Matters.  Having asked Willow’s owner to fill out a detailed consultation form Rachel then sent a box of samples and, during the call, described how to offer these to Willow.  Rachel’s selection of herbs and oils was spot on, and Willow worked with everything in the box.

Rachel also recommended that Willow’s owner offer her Coconut oil in addition to the remedies to make sure that she was choosing the macerates for their herb content, rather than for fats (see further information in Part 3).  Willow proved to be very keen on this and her owner realised that it has also been helping her skin.  (Willow had had a tendency to lick at her paws causing redness and broken skin but this has now cleared up.)

Rachel added Spirulina to Willow’s selection of remedies.  This is helpful in cases of anxious behaviours and joint problems.  It is detoxifying and helps to stimulate the immune system.  It’s also a great supplement for senior dogs or those who are a little run-down as it is rich in protein and nutrients.  Willow proved to be very fond of this too!

Following the initial session, Willow’s owner continued to offer the remedies, particularly the Peppermint, Marjoram Sweet and Violet Leaf oils, the Comfrey and Arnica macerates and the Rose water.  To these she then added the Coconut Oil and Spirulina.  She shared this message with us when her box of remedies arrived:

Willow was so excited when your parcel arrived and was ripping off the bubble wrap with me! She’s loving the arnica, comfrey, violet leaf (rubs on side of head with it and mouthing/chewing the cloth) and marjoram on her back, more than the others… She is much more relaxed and softer… 

Rachel had included small sachets of Devil’s Claw and Barley Grass which Willow took for a few days. (Devils Claw is good for arthritis, inflammatory pain and musculoskeletal issues.  Barley Grass supports animals with anxious and hyperactive behaviours and those with skin conditions.  It is rich in nutrients, particularly magnesium). Her owner then sent us this message:

Not keen on devils claw today so offered barley wheat grass … then offered spirulina… Lucky I put a towel down, specks of green everywhere! … Still wanting marjoram on her back and generally sleeps with either violet leaf/peppermint. 

Willow is twitching now, she hasn’t done that for a while.

Throughout this whole process I was also offering Reiki to Willow to help her body enter into it’s Rest and Repair mode.  She can tend to be an anxious dog who is always on the alert so the Reiki helped her to relax so that her body could heal and so that the oils and other remedies could work effectively.  Several of the remedies she chose were also supporting her on this emotional level.  This is a picture of Willow after one of our Reiki sessions:

In our fifth session, Willow’s owner said that had she not seen it for herself she would not have believed the change in her dog over the last month.! From having been very wobbly on her back legs and walking with a rather odd, wide-legged gait, scuffing her toes, Willow now almost looks normal when she walks.  She had lost some muscle tone but is slowly building this up again as she regains strength and feeling.  She now knows when she needs to go outside for toileting and so there have been no further accidents in the house.  Her owner is overjoyed!  When she’d first been given the diagnosis from the vet she had thought she might soon have to say goodbye to her beloved dog whereas now it seems that Willow has been given a new lease of life!

If you’d like to know more about how these therapies could be used to support an animal in your life please get in touch:

07980 669303

For Reiki and META-Health information you can see my website:

For information on Zoopharmacognosy (self selection) see:


(You can read the whole article here)


Case study of a dog with a spinal condition (Part 3 of 4)

In the last 2 posts in this series I’ve described a zoopharmacognosy (self selection) session offered by Rachel Windsor-Knott of My Animal Matters to one of my canine clients, Willow.

Having offered all of the remedies that Rachel had sent – of which Willow accepted every single one – we then put each remedy on the floor and watched to see what she would do.  She lay down with her jaw parallel to the Peppermint oil.  Throughout she had kept returning to this cloth and Rachel suspected that, as she was inhaling rather than licking, she was using it for it’s clearing properties, more than as a pain killer.

As Willow was lying there she began to twitch gently, as if she was dreaming, and she did appear to be asleep. (During the session she had also shown blinks, yawns, licking, chewing and stretches as she worked with the oils, processing and releasing).

Rachel recommended continuing to offer this selection to Willow, particularly the Peppermint, Marjoram Sweet and Violet Leaf oils, the Comfrey and Arnica macerates and the Rose water.  She also suggested adding rice bran oil and / or coconut oil* to Willow’s diet to ensure that when she chooses the macerates this is done solely for the herb content rather than the fat.  (Fat is essential for nerves so she might be choosing these remedies for this as well, particularly as she’s on a dry food diet which can result in low levels of healthy fats.  Coconut oil is also antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral so helps with infections.  The vet had said that this is a possible cause for the lesion in Willow’s spine so this oil might be beneficial in this way too.  It is also good for the skin and coat, and supports the thyroid.)

The day after the session Willow’s owner posted this message:

Hey! Just wanted to say – Wow!! Willow’s legs have improved dramatically! After only one session! So I’m very hopeful and can’t wait to continue on with it. 

Less collapsing … she also seems more relaxed and affectionate and her muscles are softer. She is always tense and alert being the alpha dog and protects the house… this morning seems a bit tense/back to normal but no collapsing yet, plus she told us she needed to go outside for a poo (she has been having a lot of accidents so we have to make sure she goes out regularly) so she is definitely feeling her back end and legs again. 

Thanks again! 

Rachel replied: 

That’s amazing. Which makes total sense with the peppermint in particular as it’s able to stimulate new nerve pathways.

Next week I’ll share further information on how things have been progressing for Willow since this session.


*Please note that fats should not be offered to dogs who suffer from pancreatitis


(You can read the whole article here)

Case study of a dog with a spinal condition (Part 2 of 4)

Last week I started sharing a little about a recent zoopharmacognosy (self selection) session with a canine client of mine.

Rachel Windsor-Knott, of My Animal Matters, sent a box of samples to Willow’s owner and, via Skype, talked us through how to offer them and what signals to watch for.

Having offered some essential oils, we then moved on to the 2 macerates that Rachel had thought would help Willow: Comfrey and Arnica.  Willow devoured these, lapping up all that Rachel had sent.  (Comfrey – also known as ‘knit bone’ – is good for fractures and also helps in cases of soft tissue damage.  It eases inflammation of the stomach, too, so can be helpful in easing the side effects of pain killing medication.  Arnica helps with bruising, muscular injury and inflammatory pain.  It is also an immune system stimulant.)

Rachel then suggested offering the Rose and Valerian Root waters.  Willow licked and chewed at the bottles so her owner poured some out and again she lapped these up and wanted more.  She seemed to have a slight preference for the Rose water.  (Rose is used in cases of anger and resentment, hormone balancing, feelings of rejection and emotional wounds, trauma and unwanted memories.  Valerian root is a muscle relaxant and sedative which helps in cases of anxious behaviours.)

We then moved on to Marjoram Sweet.  This was on a cloth and again Willow showed interest.  Her energy come up and she appeared quite playful.  She approached her owner which made Rachel think she might want to have the oil applied.  Rachel gave instructions for Willow’s owner to rub the cloth on her hands and offer these to Willow.  Willow accepted this so her owner gently rubbed her hands first on Willow’s chest, then her neck and shoulders and on down to her back.  Willow then turned  round and presented her rump and back for the oil to be applied there too!  (This oil is an antispasmodic, helps to ease stiffness in the muscles and is also very comforting in cases of grief.)

Lastly there was a cloth with Violet Leaf oil.  Willow showed great interest in this, chewing at the cloth.  (This oil is very supportive when there is anticipation of pain.  It is comforting to the heart and helps those of a nervous disposition.)

Next week I’ll talk about how we drew the session to a close and how things progressed for Willow.


(You can read the whole article here)

Case study of a dog with a spinal condition (Part 1 of 4)

I’ve recently been working with a canine client, Willow, who has been experiencing loss of strength and sensitivity in her hind legs.  The vet diagnosed a lesion, within her spinal canal but outside of the spinal cord, causing compression at the T7 vertebra and resulting in weakness and loss of sensation.

Over the next 4 weeks I’ll describe how Willow’s owner, another therapist and I have worked together to support Willow and I’ll also share how she’s doing now.

I began by taking a history of Willow’s condition and reading the vet report.  Having done a basic META-Health analysis I felt that, in addition to the Reiki that I would be offering, she would benefit from a zoopharmacognosy (self selection) session and so I recommended Rachel Windsor-Knott of My Animal Matters, particularly as she now offers consultations via Skype.

Willow’s owner went ahead with this straight away, contacting Rachel, filling in the consultation form and booking in a session, which I was also able to attend.

Rachel had put together a box of oil and herb samples that, having read the vet report and Willow’s information, she thought Willow might find helpful.  She started by asking the owner to offer the Ginger essential oil (warming, soothing and analgesic).  Willow sniffed and accepted the oil – a gentle ‘yes’.

Rachel then moved on to Peppermint and Birch (on cloths) both of which Willow sniffed, seeming to favour the Peppermint.  (Peppermint is an anti-inflammatory, a digestive stimulant – often selected by animals taking strong painkillers – and helps in cases of nerve damage as it is clarifying and stimulating.  Birch is good for inflammatory pain, muscular aches and trapped nerves.)

Next was German Chamomile which Willow again accepted.  (This oil is good in cases of anxiety and tension and can help to support inflamed tissues.)

Next week I’ll cover some of the other remedies that Willow selected including macerated oils, flower water and some more essential oils.


(You can read the whole article here)

Applied Zoopharmacognosy session with Kali – 29 January 2016

self selection

I recently booked Kali in for her second Zoopharmacognosy session with the lovely Kim Matthews.  Kali is a rescued Cornish Rex cat who has some ‘issues’.  She is typical of her breed and so is rather ‘high maintenance’!  The challenging part, though, is that she tends to get stressed and to regurgitate her food.  We’ve had her fully investigated by a number of vets, including the wonderful Holistic Vet, Nick Thompson, and it has been confirmed that Kali is in good general health, is not intolerant to her food (she is now on a raw food diet) and does not suffer from mega oesophagus.  It definitely appears that her issues are purely stress related.  Having tried her on conventional medicines and homeopathy with no improvement, and having attended some amazing workshops with Rachel Windsor-Knott of My Animal Matters, I decided to try zoopharmacognosy to see if Kali had any particular needs that she herself would like to express.

Both sessions started in a similar way with Kali taking some time to settle and tune in.  This was not entirely unexpected.  For practical reasons the best place to hold the sessions was in my cabin, however the wind and the sight and sound of the birds in the garden were a distraction at first.  Also, it was all too new for Kali and she didn’t know what to make of it all.  Kim laid out a ‘herb garden’ for her and offered some oils.  Kali explored everything but didn’t show any particular interest.  Then Kim offered her some Cornflower Water, which can help some animals to focus, and suddenly there was a subtle shift and Kali was able to give us more of her attention.

cornflower water

During the first session, Kali chose to spend some time with the catnip.  This was amazing to me as she’s never showed any interest in catnip before.  (In the time between the 2 sessions I have placed catnip around the house and have occasionally seen her sniff and even eat some of it.  Apparently when cats ingest the catnip they are doing so because of its calming effect.)


On this occasion Kali took a little while to fully settle and engage with the session.  She was moving around, seeming not to want any of the oils we offered.  (However she did show some signs of processing and releasing – she was sniffing and licking and also gave a yawn and a stretch.)

I was sitting on the floor and she came over and jumped on to my back.  Kim offered her some Peppermint Oil and she took a slight sniff then dropped down onto the floor again.  Shortly after this she came and lay down on my lap.  (Looking back now, I wonder if her stomach was a little uncomfortable, due to the unfamiliar situation, and the Peppermint allowed her to release this sufficiently to carry on?)

Looking for oils that might help her to release and relax Kim gave me Hops and Hemp to offer Kali.  She showed a preference for the Hops and so we sat with this for a few minutes.  She was trembling slightly and she was blinking deeply so we could tell she was processing.  She then gave a yawn and a couple of shudders indicating a release.

The oil that Kali had mainly engaged with previously was Yarrow.  This is a very powerful oil which works on a deep emotional level, helping the animal to let go.  It is good for over-sensitivity and inner wounds which I suspect is why Kali chose it.  In this session we offered it again, this time alongside Vetiver.  Still sitting on my lap, Kali slowly moved her head slightly from one side to the other, breathing in the oil from each bottle, seeming again to give more time to the Yarrow.  (It might seem a little strange that she went so quickly from apparent disinterest to such an intense oil, but that’s typical of her character.  She’s very much an ‘all or nothing’ kinda gal!)


Shortly after this, Kali turned round on my lap, curled into a tight ball and went to sleep, bringing an end to that part of the session.  So far we had been in the cabin for about 55 minutes.  We sat on, chatting, reluctant to break the spell of the deeply sleeping cat and keen to let her get the full benefit of healing sleep.  After about three quarters of an hour I was becoming very uncomfortable, sitting on the hard floor, and it was time for me to get ready to go to another appointment.  I shifted slightly and Kali woke up.

This was an amazing session, watching how Kali was able to let go and fall into such a prolonged sleep.  I think Kali will always be a very ‘intense’ cat but, hopefully, we have found something that can help her deal with her emotions when they become overwhelming for her.


  • Please note that cats are particularly sensitive to essential oils. Always allow your cat to show you how much – or how little – exposure they want to the oil and never directly apply any oil to your cat.  For this reason it is also important to take care when offering a bottle of oil for your cat to sniff.  Make sure that you offer it in such a way that they can’t accidentally come into contact with the bottle.
  • You can try putting a few drops of oil onto a piece of cloth and putting this on the floor for your cat to examine (see above). They can then choose how close they want to get to the oil.
  • Also always make sure that your cat can remove themselves from the smell of the oil if they choose.



Essential Oils: molecules, electrical impulses and energy

EO workshop

I recently attended a very interesting workshop entitled “Essential Oils: molecules, electrical impulses and energy“, organised by Jane Lawson of The Natural Approach in Cheltenham and lead by Cathy Skipper.

I’ve been interested in essential oils for some time, since my Mum trained as an aromatherapist years ago, and I use a few staples at home, including lavender and tea tree, but recently I’ve been keen to learn more.  I have attended other workshops of Jane’s and they are always very informative, so I knew this one would not disappoint.

Cathy started by explaining exactly what essential oils are: they are the volatile, light, aromatic fraction of the plant, extracted by steam distillation.  (Citrus oils are the exception in that they are mechanically extracted, ie they are cold pressed, and are therefore still true ‘essences’ – products that exist within the untreated plant which are altered by the heat of the steam distillation process).


Essential oils are the secondary metabolites of the plant and form part of its immune / defence system.  They actually aren’t oils in themselves, but are lipophilic – that is they blend more easily with oils than with water.  This makes them easily absorbed by the skin.

We also looked briefly at hydrosols, another product of the distillation process.  These are not merely a diluted form of an essential oil; they are the hydrophilic (‘water loving’) part of the distilled product, which collects at the bottom, under the less dense oil.  They will contain some oil molecules in suspension and also the water will hold a ‘memory’ of the oil.  They are a gentler form which can be used without the caution necessary with the stronger oils but still with the beneficial effects.

Three aspects of essential oils have been studied:

  • substance
    • their chemical constituents – the molecules they contain
    • analysed using gas chromatography
  • electrical
    • this relates to their use in air diffusion
    • this use has its own protocol
  • energetic
    • oils can be incredibly effective, even at minute dilutions
    • this relates to light diffraction off the molecules
    • even one sniff can have a profound impact

*One important point to note is that essential oils are highly concentrated and for this reason it is very important to use organic oils.  If oils are produced from non-organic plants the chemicals these contain would contaminate the oils, and in a higher concentration than in the raw plant material.

The effects of a particular essential oil depend on its chemical constituents and we looked at a few of these, including monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes and diterpenes.  Monoterpenes are the lightest of the compounds and appear first in the distillation process.  (The weight of the molecules is determined by the number of carbon atoms they contain.)  In industrial distillation the process is sometimes stopped before the later, heavier molecules have been extracted.  It makes the process simpler and cheaper however it means that some of the plant essences, and therefore the beneficial synergy of the composition, is lost.

We also had the opportunity to sample some of the oils and explore our responses to them.  It was interesting to see the variety among the group ranging from extreme dislike, through neutral to wanting to sit and sniff the oil all day!  Some people even experienced emotional reactions to some of the oils.

essential oils

On the second day we looked at chemotypes.  The chemical composition of oils can vary depending on the soil in which they are grown, the climate and time of harvest.  This can affect how the oils work and even the level of caution that needs to be used with them.

Take for example rosemary (Rosmarinus officionalis).  This can come in the following chemotypes:

  • camphor
  • verbenone
  • 8 cineol

The chemotype shows the predominant chemical constituent of the oil.  Which one you choose will depend on what you want to work on, how you want to use it, and the acceptable level of the stronger, more irritating or even toxic, compounds.

Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) comes in the following forms:

  • stoechas – mucolytic (ie it promotes the production of mucus in the body)
  • spicata – good for burns
  • lavendin – a hybrid form of lavender which contains a lot of keytones. These are neurotoxic and must be used with care.

Lavender can also be classified according to the altitude at which it is grown.  The higher the altitude, the more esters the oil will contain.

From this you can see why it is so important to know the chemotype of any oil you intend to use.

november workshop

Oils are classified according to the properties of their constituents.  Some are drying (or apolar) while others have an ability to bind with water (polar).  Some are cooling (more yin in nature) whereas others are more stimulating.  When choosing which oils to use, you need to consider the issue being treated, the characteristics of the person in question, the general properties of the oil and its particular chemotype.

This workshop has given me a deeper understanding of, and respect for, essential oils.  I already knew that some need to be used with caution and even some of the basic oils can be unsuitable for some people.  Did you know that lavender oil should be used with caution if someone has low blood pressure as the oil can cause it to drop further and that clary sage can cause night terrors if taken within 12-24 hours of alcohol?

We also learnt that essential oils could play a much bigger role in health care in the future as bacteria and viruses struggle to develop immunity to them.  This is due to the large number of chemical compounds which they contain which makes it difficult for pathogens to adapt to them.

I would highly recommend taking a look at the workshops offered by The Natural Approach.  This was an amazing 2 days and great fun as we sampled oils, learnt about their uses and even got to do some blending.

Click here to find out more and learn how to use these amazing oils safely and effectively for greater health and wellbeing.