“I fell head over heels in love!” exclaimed Vicki Rae Thorne, founder, master herbalist and aromatherapist of Earth Heart, describing her introduction to essential oils. Thorne had suffered a car accident that left her with painful fibromyalgia. Her five year old son was on and off antibiotics for chronic ear infections and she was looking for a better way. An aromatherapy class presented itself and she took the plunge. That was 22 years ago and Vicki has never looked back. From blends to ease her pain, to arresting her son’s on and off again infections, Thorne found the better way she was looking for. And, lucky for us, she’s taken her expertise into the pet world. Here’s the story of how a passion for plants helped this mom heal not only us humans, but our pets, too. It’s the story of Earth Heart.
It began in the 70’s with food. A generation of young people, myself included, were enchanted with the burgeoning natural food movement, and herbs were a key part of preparing a meal. Vicki was passionate about cooking and did some research, discovering that gardens in monasteries were used for medicinal purposes, as well as culinary. So, she experimented with gardening and something called companion planting. That’s when you plant together two or more things that help each other grow and repel certain insects. She also learned that the companion plants can share similar properties for healing. For example, garlic is a good companion for tomato; they both are tonics for one’s heart. It translates to cooking, too, and we’ll often see tomato paired with garlic on the menu.
As the mother of a five year old, Vicki was already following a more natural lifestyle. After taking the aromatherapy course, she learned she was pregnant again, and wanted to make sure everything she made was safe for everyone in the family to use. Her new-found passion led her to buying books and essential oils, cross-referencing everyday ailments for families and for her. She started creating formulations for massage therapists, friends and family. What Vicki learned about how essential oils work in the body is fascinating, and I want to share it with you so you have a better understanding, too!
For us, like dogs, it’s about the smell
When we inhale an herbal scent or an essential oil mist, there is a distinct limbic response. Our limbic system is defined as “a complex system of nerves and networks in the brain, involving several areas near the edge of the cortex concerned with instinct and mood. It controls the basic emotions (fear, pleasure, anger) and drives (hunger, sex, dominance, care of offspring)”. Pretty powerful stuff. Scent is the only one of our five senses that has a limbic response before a cognitive one. So, what we smell, has a specific impact on how we feel. Example: when you smell a skunk, you know it’s a skunk before you see it. We smell things before we put them in our mouths, so scent is also part of our survival system. If someone doesn’t smell good all of a sudden, it could indicate they’re ill, so it’s also critical as a diagnostic tool. Someone’s scent can attract us or repel us, like pheromones in animals. And, I’ve learned 90% of taste is attributed to smell. Wow!
Vicki explained to me the way essential oils work, either applied in a lotion or oil, or diluted into a spray mist. “They are absorbed into the bloodstream and have a physiological effect,” Thorne emphasizes. “Lavender has a calming, soothing physiological effect, because it directly affect the nervous system. It also has a soothing and calming effect on the skin.” Vicki went on to describe, “In ancient times, cedar and frankincense were burned to fumigate temples in times of epidemics. What they were actually burning were respiratory cleansers.”
After Thorne gave birth to her second son, she wanted the kids to feel safe around in the garden, so she didn’t plant anything that wasn’t edible. She was regularly blending essential oils at this point, and was focusing on those that were commonplace. “I wanted to focus on these, so the names and scents would be recognizable to people who weren’t familiar with essential oils, and to make sure the oils I was using would be readily available to make more,” Thorne explained.
How pups entered the picture
With a growing aromatherapy business for humans, Vicki began what would be a ten year stint teaching it at a local massage school. Thirteen years ago in one of her classes, a kennel owner came up and asked for help with a growing problem. Her dog clients were restless, especially when new animals were introduced into the kennel and during feeding time. Could Vicki help? Thorne began researching aromatherapy and pets and discovered something very cool. In the 1800’s, the early clinical trials were done on horses and dogs. “It was the success of those veterinary trials that led to more trials on humans,” Vicki shared.
The kennel challenge led Vicki to create Canine Calm, a blend of bergamot, tangerine, lavender, geranium, marjoram, and ylang ylang. At that time, this was in oil form. With diffusers pumping Canine Calm into the atmosphere (they even had a diffuser in the reception area, to calm people that were waiting), life at the kennel dialed right down. It was so zen, customers started asking where they could buy some of this amazing oil. As a result, Vicki created the mist spray, a more diluted version for home use that, when sprayed on your hands and rubbed on your dog’s ears, does calm them down.
Customers at the kennel really led the way when developing new formulations. Some started asking about traveling with their pets, who sometimes got nauseous and threw up in the car. Travel Calm, with ginger to settle upset tummies, was born. More successes, more requests for new blends. Guard Well grew out of owners’ concerns about immune systems issues, including the skin; Buzz Guard was the result of owners asking about a natural remedy to deter fleas and ticks. Before long, Vicki had a steadily growing arm to her human business, helping dogs.
Here’s a video of Vicki explaining the products and how to apply them to your dog.
One of my favorite success stories involves a roommate of Vicki’s younger son at college. Her dog is a rescued Miniature Pincher named Krissy. Krissy has severe separation anxiety, something many rescue dogs suffer from. It can be paralyzing for the dog and very difficult for the owner. Vicki’s son suggested Canine Calm to his friend, and they tried it, rubbing some on Krissy’s ears. After that first application, Krissy took a 45 minute nap, something she’d never done. When she woke up, she didn’t shake or bark right away. So they kept using it, and it has so helped Krissy that, when he goes to get it from the cabinet, she knows. She’ll run over, sit by him, and wait for her Canine Calm! Here’s a photo of Krissy, looking adorable.
I purchased the four pack of aromatherapy mists from Earth Heart, and tried Canine Calm on Sophie several times. I’ve noticed she’s not as anxious on the plane, and her panting and shaking has definitely lessened. Vicki suggested Canine Calm, as opposed to Travel Calm, because Sophie doesn’t get nauseous. The smell is gorgeous and it calms me down as well, which is a bonus! I’m going to keep using it on her and, now that the weather is finally warming, I will be pulling out the Buzz Guard. 🙂
Dorah from Wisconsin said, “I tried Travel Calm with my 6 month old Airedale, Sonja because she vomited every time she rode in the car, and I had tried most of the usual fixes, to no avail. I did not want to drug her since we were going to dog training class. To my delight, Sonja rode to and from class last week without vomiting, and she was so focused during class that the instructor commented on her performance.”
Dorothy from New Jersey said of Buzz Guard, “Buzz Guard was much more effective than anything I had tried in the past and I especially liked that I could use it on both myself and my furbabies. It is safe and natural, and smells great!”
Karen from Verging On described her experience with Guard Well, “My one dog Toby is allergic to grass and he gets a red rash on his undercarriage when he spends too much time rolling around outside. Toby has really responded well to Guard Well. I spray him before he goes outside for extended periods and he has yet to develop another rash. There have been much fewer episodes of scratching too and I know he’s enjoying the outdoors a whole lot more, thanks to this wonderful product.”
Earth Heart is a conscious company, and has put a Non-Profit Program into place to help others. Vicki has been offering products to shelters for years, at such a reduced cost, the shelter can make up to a 200% profit. Vicki also told me about a program called Circle of Change, which is a dog-training group for veterans with PTSD. Earth Heart is getting more involved in supporting this program, as well.
We love our pups and want only the best for them. I think more and more of us are learning that products made with chemicals, whether it be a flea and tick repellent, a calming product, a product to clear up problem skin or handle car sickness, may give our dogs temporary relief, but the long term side effects could be substantial. Having a master herbalist, with over 20 years experience blending essentials oils, makes me feel safe in Vicki’s hands. But it’s her calm, kind nature and commitment to the highest quality and safety practices that really seal the deal. I use Canine Calm with confidence that it will never harm Sophie. And, it’s so diluted for use on our babies, that we can use it as often as we want, on us or them. I like that. I won’t hesitate to try Buzz Guard or any of the other aromatherapy products Vicki makes for our dogs. I gave them the scent test, and they all smell gorgeous. Spring is here, and there’s just something about the smell of beautiful herbs that makes me happy.
Does your dog have a issue that an Earth Heart product could help? Tell me about it in the Comments below.
(Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Five Barking Dogs. Please refer to the Disclosure & Disclaimer page on this site for additional details. Thank you!)