Essential Oils and Parrots
February 22, 2012 § 19 Comments
In the past several months I’d been slowly hearing and reading about more and more people touting the health benefits and healing properties of essential oils for their parrots. My gut reaction was: no! Anything scented is something that I don’t want near my parrots at all, ever. I’m pretty extreme in that regard: not only have I ruled out air fresheners, candles, incense, scented sprays, and similar products in my home, but I myself no longer wear perfume or scented cosmetic products either. But when I’d read that a holistic avian veterinarian also promoted the use of essential oils along with some of my most trusted and knowledgeable parrot owning friends, I decided to do some more research.
What I learned was very fascinating. Yes, it’s true– in general, most scented items like the ones listed above are indeed harmful for our birds. But, some (very few actually) extremely high quality and high grade essential oils can actually be incredibly beneficial. I’ve learned so much over the past few months that it’s difficult to compile it all; in writing this post, I changed my “starting point” three times. But finally I’ve chosen somewhere to start: at the beginning, with the essential oils themselves.
What exactly are essential oils? At their most basic, they are aromatic, volatile liquids found in plants, and as their name suggests, they are vital for a plant to grow and live. One website calls them “living energy” and a friend of mine describes them as the life blood of a plant: just like we wouldn’t survive if we didn’t have blood, a plant wouldn’t survive without its essential oils. They support various life processes and regulate plant functions. Different oils have many different properties, from healing to purifying to protecting. Many are antibacterial and antifungal. Research shows that they may have been used as early as 4,500 BC, and the Ancient Egyptians used them for treating illnesses as well as for religious ceremonies and rituals.
They sound pretty incredible– but there is one big caveat. Essential oils come in many different grades, and can be easily adulterated with different chemical and synthetic additives in order to make them cheaper to produce for companies. These essential oils are the reason why the vast majority of parrot owners have always been told that essential oils are a big no-no: these essential oils are actually harmful and toxic to parrots. Over 90% of essential oils on the market are not of therapeutic grade quality, and even of those that are therapeutic grade, there are differing levels of quality. This is why it is incredibly important only to buy certain brands of essential oils.
In my research, only two companies are producing oils that are therapeutic grade and high enough quality (with the testing to prove it) to use around parrots. The most highly recommended one that I have come across is Young Living, who create pure, unadulterated, therapeutic grade essential oils. They begin with the soil: their plants are only grown on virgin land that has never been treated with pesticides or other harsh chemicals. Once plants are harvested, they are distilled using a gentle steam-extraction technique that leaves their chemical composition and healing properties in tact. Every single batch of oils produced is then completely analyzed for purity before being sold, ensuring the highest possible quality. And unlike any other company, their spectrometry testing is actually available for each oil. Many big believers and users of essential oils swear by Young Living and only use their oils, exclusively.
But why use them in the first place? I don’t normally need to “heal” anything in my flock, since (knock on wood) we are lucky enough to be in good health. (Ironically, we had an emergency situation with Sabrina this week, but the vet has been taking great care of her. Otherwise, we’ve all been in great health as of late.) For a few months I wasn’t interested in essential oils, simply because I thought they were more medicinal than anything else. But when I began reading several reports of essential oils not only healing birds but helping birds’ moods and behavior and hormones, I became fascinated. I’ve read testimonials of essential oils helping to calm hormonal birds, helping birds overcome the loss of mate or a friend, helping to increase birds’ appetites, helping to reduce screaming, and more. Even more alluring to me were the many reports I’d read that essential oils also helped the parrot owners themselves: they felt less stress, more calm, more happy, and more at peace when using certain essential oils. Parrot owners could also safely wear “perfumes” again in the form of essential oils. But perhaps the most interesting facet of my research on essential oils was that almost all of these reported changes were instant: I saw many people purchase their diffusers and oils and report positive experiences within days!
After several months of deliberation and discussion with many essential oil users (thank you to all of you who answered my barrages of questions!) and essential oil producers, I finally decided that we would also try diffusing and using essential oils. Although we are all healthy, I would love to see if perhaps some oil blends like Peace & Calming can help to calm down Sabrina a bit, or perhaps encourage her to get along with Charles a bit better. I’m also interested in Thieves, which many swear by for its cleansing abilities as well as its immune system support. It’s an all natural antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial essential oil that is 100% safe and non-toxic to use around birds. I finally took the plunge and purchased a diffuser, a model recommended by a holistic vet, along with a few oils to begin with.
I’m taking things very slowly at first while I am still getting started, but hopefully I will have more to report soon. My diffuser should arrive here on Thursday, and my fancy shmancy oils should be here soon after. Once those arrive, I’ll post more about how to choose a diffuser and some benefits of different oils and oil blends. This isn’t an inexpensive investment, but I truly believe that the rewards will be great.
For anybody interested in using essential oils with their parrots, don’t take my word for it: visit Dr. Melissa Shelton’s website on essential oils and animals, or visit the excellent Essential Bird group website. Read more about Young Living Essential Oils in particular or to get started. (If you do decide to get started, let me know if you need a referral number as they work through distributors and referrals.) A little research never hurt!