Veterinary Herbal Medicine:Herbal medicine or phytotherapy is the use of plants or plant extracts to assist in the healing of man and animals. It has been practiced by man for thousands of years Many of our modern drugs are derived from plants such as aspirin. Herbalists prefer the more complex compounds found in plants as they interact together to produce a gentler, deeper healing response than do in individual components as drugs. Herbs are frequently combined in carefully calculated blends to give the correct combination of affects for a particular illness. e.g. Hops, Skullcap and Valerian is a combination used to relieve anxiety and stress in animals, each component on its own would not work as well. Hops and Skullcap have tranquillising properties Valerian also acts as a tonic to aid repair of stress nervous tissue. Herbs are useful to aid detoxification of the results of illness for example they can act as diuretics to stimulate urine flow. They can also serve as tonics to aid healing of particular parts of the body.
There are a number of systems of herbal medicine: The Western tradition, the Chinese medicines and the Indian Ayurvedic tradition are the best known. All are holistic systems when used by expert herbalists in that they take the individual's symptoms into account not just the disease.
Herbs can be given or prepared in a number of ways:
- Fresh herbs. Chop and mix with food. Perhaps the ideal way to give herbs when they are available.
- Dried herbs to add to food or to make into infusions or decoctions by adding hot water for internal or external use
- Alcoholic tinctures to give directly or diluted in water add given orally using a syringe or dropper
- Oil infusions or lotions are given externally for example rubbing into sore joints.
- Commercially prepared tablets or powders are the most commonly seen form of herbal remedy
Animals can be difficult to give herbs to especially cats. This is perhaps the main drawback of this branch of medicine. Tablets can be forced down but as most treatments are long term this may not be practical. Tinctures can be useful in cats if diluted as they hate alcohol. However many dogs will readily take fresh or dried herbs in food. Infusions or diluted tinctures can be given using a dropper giving 1 teaspoon twice daily for a cat and 1-4 tsp. twice daily for dogs. Horses of course are easier to dose, they are generally given the dried herb in with the concentrate feed. Infusions can be used to aid eye problems e.g. Euphrasia or to aid the healing of ear infections or wounds: Calendula for example or Aloe vera. There are proprietary creams and ointments available for pains, wounds etc. If you use herbs long term for a chronic problem it is generally best to 'pulse' them on and off for safety. i.e. Give daily for 2-3 weeks the stop for 2-3 weeks then repeat.
Some examples of useful herbs are outlined below. Many more are mentioned in the Ailment Pages under the specific diseases.
Milk Thistle Useful as a liver tonic. It aids recovery of a damaged liver after many diseases. Cranberry Used for bladder inflammation and cystitis. Available as 'Cranbiotic' in the shop. Buchu Also useful for cystitis Here in the shop pages to learn more. Garlic Has anti biotic properties against bacteria fungi and parasites. Aids circulation and respiratory conditions
Aloe Vera Apply the gel to burns, dry or itchy skin and infected wounds to aid healing. It can also be taken internally as a general tonic. Hawthorn or Cretageous This herb is a heart support herb and is often prescribed for older pets with heart conditions. Devils Claw An anti-inflammatory herb used in chronic arthritis and back pains mainly for older dogs and horses. and finally for this section Echinacea A stimulant of the immune system, helps prevent and treat chronic skin and other infections You can read more about many individual herbs on this new page or ailment areas of the site. which give more ideas about dosage etc.