- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (March 19, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0618340688
- ISBN-13: 978-0618340682
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,077,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Wild Health: Lessons in Natural Wellness from the Animal Kingdom Reprint Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
A timely treatise for a health-obsessed culture, this book takes the idea of "natural remedies" quite literally. Engel, a lecturer in environmental sciences at the U.K. Open University, has compiled a wealth of fascinating laboratory studies and field observations on how animals treat and prevent diseases. Eschewing pseudomystical assertions about the innate wisdom of beasts, the author bases her assertions on scientific premises. For millennia, humans have observed animals in the wild eating plants and minerals and applying naturally occurring topical antitoxins from the same sources to combat infectious wounds, parasites and internal disorders. Herds of elephants risk injury and death in a perilous journey to hidden salt caves where they supplement their sodium deficient diets. Monkeys rub poisonous millipedes on their fur to repel biting, disease-carrying insects. Birds line their nests with parasite-resistant herbs. Engel details a world where nature is the pharmacy and every animal is its own practitioner. The reader also learns about the inbred weaknesses unintentionally visited upon domesticated animals through centuries of faulty genetic tampering by humans. Engel notes that the implications of all this for human health are sadly familiar: our biggest killers today (cancer, heart disease) result from unhealthy eating. Animals in the wild stay remarkably fit because they stick to a diet for which they were adapted, while human beings are ill-equipped to handle our current predilection for dairy, grains and processed foods. Occasionally, Engel lapses into apocalyptic rhetoric about the ravages of technology, which gets in the way of her otherwise clear-sighted and crisp narrative. Nevertheless, this is an engaging book that will enlighten those interested in health, biology, environment and animal behavior. Photos.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Birds do it, bees do it, and animals of every stripe seem to know how to forage for plants and minerals that will promote health. The author is a leading researcher in zoopharmascognosy, or animal self-medication.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Messages from pharmaceutical-industry-led medicine have misled us for too long. Who realised, before reading Cindy Engel's book, for example, that having a temperature is the body's mechanism for combating harmful infection? Or that secondary compounds in food, some `toxic', can be deliberately ingested by animals for their protective health effects? Or that, though we know instinctively that lemon and pine are cleansing, we may not be aware that the volatile oils in those plants interfere with bacterial respiration and are commonly detrimental or repellent to arthropods and insects?
Cindy Engel concludes that human beings are too much like animals in captivity in the way we have limited our own healthcare strategies. Like Native Americans, she advocates, we should observe animal behaviour as the first step to achieving sustainable healthcare.
Read this book to find out.
The author takes a very scientific approach explaining how there are important differences between romantic notions about animals magically knowing exactly what they need to stay well vs. hard scientific evidence of an animal intentionally seeking and engaging in self-medication.
In truth, animals don't magically know what is good for them, for when animals raised in captivity are let go in the wild, they can die from eating poisonous plants that no one taught them to avoid. It is also exceptionally difficult to meet a scientist's rigid definition of self-medication which entails a observation in the wild of 1) an animal is visibly unwell 2) it starts eating things that it normally does not eat 3) it goes out of its way to find those things to eat 4) it becomes visibly better after consuming the unusual `food' in a reasonably short period of time and 5) there is a clear cause and effect link between the treatment and the condition.
Such observations are hard to make because most animals are healthy and fit most of the time just by living a naturally healthy lifestyle with varied diet, plenty of exercise etc. If you get plenty of vitamin C in your diet, you will never get scurvy. Similarly, many animals from mice to primates to elephants eat clay on a regular basis - it seems to prevent many forms of disease.
Yet such examples do exist. A most interesting one is the widespread consumption of rough textured bitter leaves which are carefully folded up accordion-style before eating by primates. The texture and folding is used to catch and mechanically expel worms.
Animals have been observed chewing on the root of a specific tree known to protect against malaria, during times of heavy infestation. Animals watch other animals to see what is safe to eat, or to see what they are eating when sick.
Native people have watched what animals eat to learn how to treat human ills. Bears are a particularly good source of information. Western societies have in turn, learned much from native peoples about medicine.
There is a lot to learn from this book, both in terms of what we can apply in our lives, as well as just remarkable facts from nature. Like: why do so many animals seemingly intentionally get drunk on fermenting fruit? Could it be that alcohol reduces stress which is keeps animals healthy and thus has an adaptive benefit?
Did you know that when a giraffe starts eating leaves from a tree, the leaves turn bitter in 10-15 minutes. Furthermore, the nearby trees sense this is going on, and their leaves turn bitter as well. Yet this only happens to the leaves that are in reach. Those that are higher up in the tree out of reach, remain succulent. The trees are not wasting any more energy than needed. The giraffes have learned that after they graze on one tree, they need to go quite a distance (45 minutes or so) to find trees that did not get the signal from the last feeding.
Highly Recommended Reading!
It also reminds us that real life does not take place in a laboratory, that more field research is needed, that living with parasites, diseases and co. to a degree may be better than bombarding them out of our lives, and that there is still a whole lot we can learn by observing nature and it's creatures.
I highly recommend this book!