Monkey business – essential oils for a capuchin’s broken leg

Aromatics help all animals heal

The principles of Animal PsychAromatica work with all animals. First learn about the species physiological and psychological needs so you understand how to reduce stress. Then offer aromatic botanicals for self-selection, this reduces stress and increases health in all species.  Quietly observing you can understand the communication and body language of that species, and interpret their responses to what’s offered.

While domestic animals such as dogs and horses make up the bulk of our clients, my students and I have treated everything from tortoises to elephants, to lamas and monkeys. I am currently involved in caring for a giraffe with a sarcoid, for instance. One of the great things about being a teacher is sharing in the adventures and successes of my students. Here I share a case study from graduate student Michali ben Zvi, who was working in a monkey sanctuary when she trained. Since graduating she has become a bit of a wildlife specialist, working with everything from alligators to rhinos.

 Capuchin monkeyAdam, the capuchin monkey

Adam had lived in the shelter for about 15 years. He came to them as part of a group of monkeys who had been in an unsuccessful project to train monkeys to assist disabled people. He is a really smart, active monkey, but aggressive to most people. He lived in a large enclosure with a friend, with his natural needs provided as much as possible. As stress free as a captive animal can be.

Adam meets Michal

Then one day, Adam broke his leg badly. While he rehabilitated he was put into a much smaller cage in the sanctuary’s medical clinic, so he could not move too much and harm his leg more. So now he was in pain, separated from his companion and enclosed in a small, unfamiliar place. Stress levels were peaking.

At that time Michal Ben Zvi was a keeper at the sanctuary and doing the Animal PsychAromatica Level 2 certificate course. She took him on as one of her case studies. Michal wasn’t counted as one of Adam’s ” close circle “, which meant he may be aggressive with her, and if she put her fingers in his cage they might not come back out again. So we had to devise a strategy for safely offering the oils.

Devising a strategy for safe use of essential oil with monkeys

Normally with undomesticated or fearful animals you can put the oils down in a bowl or bucket and leave, as they will lick or sniff them as they choose. Monkeys, however, use their hands to investigate things, and there is a chance they will get the oils in the eyes or other sensitive areas. Another way to offer oils to caged animals is to put them on the end of a stick and hold it through the bars, but monkeys will grab and not let go, and may get aggressive or frustrated by this technique. Ideally, you can use hydrosols diluted in water in these situations, but there were none available.

Monkey climbs on Michali's shoulder as she feeds them from a bucketFirst Michal just offered the oils from outside the cage, at a distance where Adam did not feel threatened. His first oils were carrot seed (Daucus carota, repairs cells, and lift feelings of depression or frustration) and helichrysum (Helichrysum Italicum, anti-inflammatory, repairs broken capillaries, supports bone repair). Both these oils also support healthy liver function, which is important after accidents and medical procedures.

Adam showed a very strong interest in the helichrysum, and through the process of offering the oil, as Michal waited quietly and patiently outside his cage with healing intention, he started to trust her. After a couple of days of this Michali felt comfortable enough to allow him to lick the diluted oil off her fingers. She also offered him comfrey base oil ( Symphytum officinalis a herb famous for its ability to aid healing of broken bones), which he allowed her to rub into his leg. In exchange he would clean under her finger nails.

Monkeys use tools

As time progressed, Michal came up with the idea of putting the oil in a syringe, so he could drink from it, and taught Adam to return the syringe when he was done. He was offered comfrey base oil, and the helichrysum diluted 1 drop in 5 ml of calendual oil every other day for the next 10 days. He loved his oils and would take about 1 ml of each at a session. Here’s a short clip of him taking the oil, it’s not the best quality but you get the idea.

Everyone at the refuge, including the vet, was amazed at Adam’s recovery time. He was returned to his large enclosure and his monkey friends within 3 weeks. Michali no longer works there (she’s healing all sorts of animals these days) but whenever she goes to visit she gets a free manicure.

Tips for treating monkeys with essential oils

MIchali helps monkey self select essential oilsI asked Michal if there is any difference working with monkeys than other animals, this is what she had to say: “Like all animals – you need to built trust from both sides. You also need to be really careful and focused with the products  because monkeys have hands like us, and they can steal the bottle in no time. And monkeys are very possessive – once he’s taken, there is no return – unless he agree to trade …

But the best part is becoming friends with such a wild animal, and although all animals can give you hugs in their own way, monkeys are the only ones that can give you a real hug with both arms.”

No matter what the animal, offering aromatics in times of crisis speeds healing and reduces stress. An added bonus is that they associate you with good times and healing,  instead of  becoming traumatised by medical procedures. This is particularly important when caring for wild animals.

For more about Michal

2 thoughts on “Monkey business – essential oils for a capuchin’s broken leg”

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top