Saturday, January 13, 2018

Aromatherapy for Pet Birds

Aromatherapy for Pet Birds:  Why Hydrosols May Be Helpful
By Christi R Pugh for Nature’s Gift Aromatherapy

Recent forum discussions focusing on animal aromatherapy (which is an expertise all its own!) eventually led to questions about using essential oils and hydrosols with domesticated pet birds such as Amazons, Macaws, Conures, Parakeets, and English Budgies. 

Most of us are aware enough to know cats cannot metabolize essential oils, thus essential oils are never to be used on cats and many folks take the extra step of choosing not to diffuse around them either.  

As a longtime bird lover and owner, and someone trained as an aromatherapist, my advice is to always err on the side of caution.  I am not an expert in animal aromatherapy and can only share what I have researched, practiced, and observed over the past fourteen years. 

You may wonder, why is it a problem to use these “natural, healing oils,” around pet birds.  The main reason is that birds have very small lungs and cannot tolerate smoke, chemical smells from pots and pans, synthetic cleaners, etc.  There are reports of pet birds dying from exposure to Tea Tree essential oil, as well.  Some uninformed individuals spread word online that birds are “allergic” to Tea Tree.  This is untrue as far as I can tell, because many of these birds, particularly parakeets in Australia, regularly live in these trees and eat the leaves.  The problem lies in the concentration of Tea Tree and other essential oils with the aroma and chemical composition overwhelming their lungs and their body systems.  My thought about Tea Tree killing little pet birds, is that it happened to be the most often used essential oil in the home for cleaning, etc., and sadly some birds exposed to it did die. (Perhaps an owner cleaned the cage or perches with full-strength Tea Tree.  This could definitely overwhelm a pet bird.)

So how can aromatherapy be beneficial to our pets, particularly our birds?  Birds love, love, love being spritzed with water for an impromptu birdy bath.   Hydrosols or floral waters is the safe way to bring aromatherapy to your birds.  Over the years I’ve found my birds have a fondness for Neroli Hydrosol and German Chamomile Hydrosol as everyday spritzers.  My English Budgie, Opie, even makes a loud kissing noise (sweet kisses) after I spritz her with Neroli or German Chamomile hydrosol.  

 Recently after she fell and injured her eye, I spritzed Lavender Hydrosol in and around her house (cage) to calm her and I spritzed German Chamomile and HelichrysumHydrosols several times per day around her injured eye.  After two weeks her eye injury was a memory and the area completely healed up.  I was astonished and grateful.

A caveat on using Hydrosols or Floral Waters around pet birds:  some companies label essential oil sprays/blends as floral waters or hydrosols.  These are not to be used on pet birds, ever, no exceptions.  Make sure you know what you are purchasing and read the ingredients beforehand.  Hydrosols contain only the water based distillate which is the result of the steam distillation process.  This is the water left behind after the essential oils are removed, so hydrosols contain trace amounts of the plant in the water itself.  Hydrosols do not contain preservatives.  If you see a hydrosol labeled with alcohol or something else as a preservative, do not use it on or around your bird.   

Storage:  Always keep hydrosols refrigerated for safety. 

If you do not feel comfortable using a hydrosol “on” your bird, you can always spritz around inside the cage on their chew toys, etc.  Neroli (Orange Blossom) for an anxious bird or Lavender for an unsettled bird…both are calming. 
As I said in the beginning, I am not an expert in animal aromatherapy, but these are some suggestions from my own personal experience.  To learn more about using aromatherapy with pets, a good starting point is Kristin Leigh Bell’s book: Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals.

Nature's Gift offers a full array of pure, natural, true hydrosols here.

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