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Plant Medicine: A Softer, Gentler Approach to Healing

Story at-a-glance -

  • Dr. Barbara Fougere is an integrative veterinarian with a practice in Sydney, Australia, where she is best known for her skills as an herbalist
  • Dr. Fougere began studying alternative therapies 30 years ago so she could offer more help to her patients than conventional medicine provides
  • Dr. Fougere recently helped a veterinarian in Iran cure a fatal poultry disease that was killing 1,400 chickens a day

By Dr. Becker

Today I’m chatting with Dr. Barbara Fougere. Dr. Fougere runs a thriving integrative veterinary practice, All Natural Vet Care, in Sydney, Australia, and she’s also an herbalist.

As a youngster, Dr. Fougere had migraine headaches. She lived in Perth in Western Australia at the time, and her family’s general practitioner happened to be Chinese. Dr. Fougere received acupuncture for her migraines starting at about age 11, during a time when the treatment wasn’t widely practiced in western cultures.

She grew up thinking of acupuncture as a mainstream type of treatment rather than an alternative therapy, which is probably what spurred her interest in integrative medicine. She was curious about alternative ways of treating both people and animals that went beyond and/or incorporated conventional medicine.

“Having these tools in my toolbox really helps me with problems that can’t be solved just using conventional medicine alone,” says Dr. Fougere.

In her final year of veterinary school, Dr. Fougere had the opportunity to take a complementary medicine course as an elective. She feels fortunate the course was taught by a professor who had lived in China for 14 years.

Finding New Ways to Solve Difficult Problems

Dr. Fougere graduated from veterinary school in 1986, and at the time there were no integrative vet practices in existence, so she had to start her career in a conventional practice.

However, her interest in alternative medicine drove her to take on further studies. “I pretty much studied for another 30 years,” says Dr. Fougere, “just finding new ways to solve different problems. Setting up my own integrative practice was just a natural progression.”

Back home in Sydney, Dr. Fougere is most well known as an herbalist. She explains her passion for herbs this way:

“Strangely enough, one of my favorite subjects in the university was pharmacology – how we’ve got these cells in our body that respond to different medications. It just so happens we’ve got the same cells that respond to chemicals in plants.”

She is fascinated by the complexity of plants and plant medicine. As compared to drugs, “Plants are a lot gentler,” explains Dr. Fougere. “They have some built-in mechanisms to avoid side effects and things like that. It’s a very soft and gentle approach. We’re actually helping the body select what it needs to get better.”

An Herb Cures an Untreatable Fatal Disease in Chickens

Dr. Fougere also teaches about herbs, and she has veterinary students from 50 different countries around the world. They are primarily veterinarians who are looking for additional tools to help their patients.

“It’s truly one of the most satisfactory and rewarding things I’ve ever done,” says Dr. Fougere, “to help inspire veterinarians to explore different ways of treating illness.” Her students return home and write to tell her about cases they’re treating, and they tell her, “It works!”

Dr. Fougere has a wonderful story that demonstrates how holistic and integrative veterinarians and other animal healers across the world network and connect to share information. I asked her to share the story with us.

“Well, 80 percent of the world’s population actually relies on plant-based medicine,” says Dr. Fougere. “They don’t have access to the drugs we do.”

Recently a poultry vet in Iran contacted her. “I don’t know much about poultry,” admits Dr. Fougere, “but I know a bit about herbs.” The veterinarian in Iran got in touch with her because he was dealing with an outbreak of Newcastle disease, which is a fatal virus that affects chickens.

The vet wanted to know if Dr. Fougere could suggest anything he could use to help his flock, so she recommended an herb that he happened to be familiar with, and suggested a dose.

The vet got back in touch with her after using the herb at the dose she suggested to let her know the death rate in chickens had plummeted from a high of 1400 a day, to 1200, to 800, to 50, to 40, and finally to 0 over the course of about a week.

“That makes me really excited,” says Dr. Fougere, “because that’s a disease we don’t have a treatment for in conventional medicine.”

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Funding for Research into Alternative Therapies is Needed

Dr. Fougere would like to see funding, if and when it becomes available, go toward research into these types of devastating diseases. For example, if an herb is the solution to Newcastle disease, “let’s find out how it works, why it works, and if it’s going to be helpful for other patients,” says Dr. Fougere.

I couldn’t agree more, and Dr. Fougere’s Newcastle example demonstrates what can happen when we spread the word and remain open to the idea of alternative therapies. Many thanks to Dr. Barbara Fougere for joining me today!