Herbal Medicine for Dogs
uses plant extracts to help treat conditions ranging from allergies and
digestive problems to depression. Herbal Medicine is probably the
oldest system of natural medicine used by man. Nothing could be more
natural than harnessing the healing powers of the herbs
and flowers around us to cure our diseases and those of our pets and it
is surprisingly the
ancestor of modern drug medicine. As soon as man took on domestic
animals, they inevitably became ill through this process, but also
through normal wear and tear
and old age. These animals were treated with herbs internally and
externally to help with their ailments. The tradition of herbal medicine
(herbalism) predates history. Animals in the wild have an
ability to seek and eat plants which will help when they are ill. Herbal medicine involves
plants to treat disease. The chemicals in plants (phytochemicals) have
a very wide range of effects, and can affect every organ system and
in the body. The tradition of herbal medicine (herbalism)
predates history. All human civilisations depended upon it,
subject to availability, of course (deserts and ice caps present
problems!). Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine
are based on herbal medicines. The Indian sub-continent brings us
Indian herbs,, which are now marketed in the West. Even modern medicine
is a direct descendant from this vast natural and instinctive medical
practice (a large and surprising proportion of modern drugs have
been derived, more or less remotely, from plant material. These
been modified by chemists and patented to provide the great commercial
intrinsic to modern medicine. At the same time as providing
profit, sadly this method of adapting plant materials to create
drugs takes them out of their holistic context and brings to the fore
spectre of side effects). Modern drugs are often isolated
extracts of herbs, or are more likely to be synthetic derivatives of
these substances. Aspirin (derived from the bark of the Willow tree)
and Digitalis (derived from the Foxglove) are two drugs still in common
use today with herbal origins. However
isolated extracts and synthetic compounds are more likely to cause side
effects and have less total healing power than the herb itself. Off-shots of herbal medicine are
Aromatherapy and Bach Flowers or Flower Essences.
Dogs, cats and other
species also respond well to veterinary herbal medicine (veterinary
herbal medicines can prove very useful. Herbal medicines have an
role to play in all diseases where conventional medicine or surgery
does not provide a cure. However, they may not be compatible with
some modern drugs and may, in some circumstances, dangerously
to over-medicate the patient. One also has to be careful of 'doping'
sporting animals. Herbal medicines can be used to treat symptoms of
but they are particularly effective at supporting the body to heal
and preventing disease. For this reason, herbal medicines can be used
effectively alongside conventional treatments. Herbal medicines are gentler,
safer, yet no less effective than their conventional counterparts.
Drugs are very effective. Almost too effective. They are very highly
targeted at certain enzymes or specific receptors and thus have side
effects. Herbs can, in most cases, mimic the effect of many drugs, but
without the side effects. This is because they contain hundreds of
drugs that can have a
balancing effect on more toxic consequences. Herbs provide us with a vast
variety of pharmacological capabilities; demulcents, calmatives,
laxatives, purgatives, vulneraries (treating wounds and injuries),
stimulants, febrifuges and
astringents to mention a few. Different herbs can be mixed
to produce a balanced effect, suited to the patient in question.
herbs are not compatible with others and should not be mixed; some are
for long-term usage.
Herbs provide us with a vast
variety of pharmacological capabilities; demulcents, calmatives,
laxatives, purgatives, vulneraries (treating wounds and injuries),
stimulants, febrifuges and astringents to mention a few.
Different herbs can be
mixed together to produce a balanced effect, suited to the patient in
question. Some herbs are not compatible with others and should
not be mixed; some are unsuitable for long-term usage.
Herbs are best prepared freshly (or bought dry) and tailored to the
individual patient and its own special requirements, not made into
off-the-shelf products to be sold as a ‘cure all’ by unqualified
commercial organisations. Herbs which have been harvested as
far away from modern pollution as possible, are rich in both content
and diversity of nutrients vital to your horse. Spring and Summer
a real joy, for there is medicine for free, all around you.
However, be careful not to harvest from roadsides or on the margins of
‘non-organic’ arable land. Valuable indigenous herbs include
Comfrey, Willow, Meadowsweet, Burdock, Rosehips, Seaweed, Dandelion and
Herbal remedies are
now available in tablet form, making dosing easier as tablets are often
more acceptable to pets than traditional herbal tinctures or teas.
Always ask your own vet for a
refferal with a veterinary surgeon well-versed in herbal medicine, when
trying to treat health problems, for two reasons. One is the law,
which forbids the diagnosis or treatment of animals by
non-veterinarians, the other is the need to avoid the pitfalls of
long-term toxicity or incompatibility.
Some Treatments Herbs are Used For
Parsley tea for a vomiting dog
Eyebright (Euphrasia) can be used for eye inflammations. You can buy
ready-made Eyebright solution or make a tea.
Herbal flea sprays.
Pill curing (a chinese patent medicine), peppermint tea, catnip
tea, and chamomile tea can be used to cure gastritis.
Pure yucca to help dogs' with hip displasia.
Akebia 14, a chinese herbal formula, can be used to prevent
Skullcap tea, goldenseal, and valerian are used to cure patients with
An Introduction to Chinese Herbal Medicine
Herbal medicine is the world's most ancient form of medicine. Every
culture and ancient civilisation used plants to heal. Even today around
75% of the world's population, especially those in developing
countries, relies on herbal medicine.
Chinese herbal medicine dates back to the late Bronze Age / early Iron
Age 2500-3000 years ago. During excavation of a grave from 168BC,
scrolls containing information about actions of 247 different herbs
used to treat disease were discovered. These are the first records of
use of herbs and are over 2000 years old. Further excavations of graves
discovered scrolls with information about 30 different combinations of
herbs and herbal formulas containing around 100 herbs. This shows the
of Chinese herbal medicine during this time from use of single herbs to
combinations with enhanced therapeutic efficacy.
In the year 500 the first comprehensive materia medica, or herbal
compendium, was published. It detailed the effects of 364 herbs.
Chinese herbal medicine continued to develop and by time of the
publication of a 'Grand Materia Medica' in 1596, 1892 herbs were
included. This book is still in use today. Today, both ancient and more
modern formulas are in use. New formulas have been created to treat
specific symptoms not seen in
ancient times and formulas have also been created for specific animal
Acupuncture is thought to be an older form of medicine than herbal
therapy, dating back 4000 years or more. Today acupuncture and herbal
medicine are used together to enhance their effects. In general herbs
treat internal medical problems more successfully than functional or
musculoskeletal problems, which are better suited to acupuncture
Herbs can be used to good effect alone, particularly in those few
who will not tolerate acupuncture, for example to treat behavioural
such as aggression.
All parts of plants are used in Chinese herbal medicine and a specific
herb may be a plant root, stalk/stem, leaf or flower. Traditionally,
Chinese medicine included use of not only herbs, but minerals such as
gypsum and animal parts from tiger bone and bear to earthworm and
Today, since exotic animal species are endangered and due to concerns
about this and the welfare of animals used in China to supply parts for
use in medicine, western herbal companies have found plant substitutes.
Animal parts are no longer used in Chinese herbal medicine in the West.
Great care is taken by Western herbal companies in harvesting, testing
processing plants for use in herbal formulas, to ensure that exactly
right plant and part of plant are used, that it is ethically sourced
that they are free from contamination by pollutants.
Today in China, both western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine
are used. Unlike many indigenous forms of medicine, Traditional Chinese
Medicine and herbal medicine have not been supplanted by western
medicine and remain a distinct form of medicine in their own right. In
many Chinese hospitals both western and Traditional Chinese Medicine
will be offered, so patients may choose one or a combination of both to
best treat their symptoms. In China these two systems of medicine are
not seen as being in conflict and the most appropriate treatment for
the condition is used.
Traditional Chinese Medical theory
The Chinese developed complex theories of physiology and pathology
largely based on observation of illness and response to treatment. Out
of the respect which is due to ancestors, bodies were not dissected
after death, so the only knowledge of the internal structure of the
body came from observation of battlefield victims. Despite this
handicap, many of the Chinese theories were subsequently proved to be
correct, for example their theory of circulation. Other theories, such
as the relationship
of the heart to emotions and damage caused to it by stressful events
worry, are only recently becoming recognised in Western medicine. For
example, a recent study found that some patients presenting with an
apparent heart attack had none of the expected physical damage to blood
vessels and the heart. A recent stressful event such as a robbery,
death of a family member or even a surpise party had caused symptoms of
a heart attack despite
a functionally healthy heart. Another study showed a relationship
between depression and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, energy (known as Qi, which is
pronounced and may be spelt as Chi) circulates around the body to all
a system of 20 channels or meridians. Each of the twelve main meridians
is associated with a specific organ. Balanced energy in all areas is
essential to health. For example the flow of energy may become blocked,
stagnation in one area of the body and therefore causing pain.
points are places on these meridians where use of needles in the skin
manipulates the flow of energy and blood around the body and influences
the internal organs. The Chinese located 361 points in humans and 173
Another central part of Traditional Chinese Medicine is the theory of
Yin and Yang. These are equal and opposite. Yang is associated with
activity, sun, fire and the male and Yin is associated with physical
shade, water and the female. To be whole, everything is made up of a
of both, therefore being partly Yin and partly Yang. If Yin and Yang
out of balance disease results. By restoring balance, healing can occur.
The Chinese developed specific theories for each organ in terms of
function and relationship to Yin, Yang and Qi. In addition to the
circulation of Qi in the meridians, there is also the circulation of
blood in the
blood vessels and a specific form of defensive energy circulating
the muscles and skin.
Disease in Chinese medicine results either from an internal imbalance,
such as blockage of flow of energy leading to stagnation in a
particular area, or an external pathogen invading. These pathogens are
as elements and are wind, heat, summer heat, cold, dry or damp.
the Chinese did not really have a concept of bacteria or viruses
infectious disease, infection can be described within the framework of
Chinese theory as heat invasion as a patient with an acute infection
be hot with a fever (since heat and redness are some of the signs of
inflammation). The patient can therefore be treated successfully.
With an understanding of the theories of Chinese medicine and
consideration of all aspects of the patient's disease and personality a
diagnosis is made. The patient's tongue and pulse are very important
diagnostically. Whearas in Western medicine only the pulse rate is
in Chinese medicine there are 27 different types of pulse. Qualities
as strength, width and regularity are considered along with rate. The
tongue is examined with respect to colour, coating and size. The
different organs relate to different parts of the tongue and therefore
diagnosis of organ
pathology can be made.
Palpation of specific acupuncture points is another part of diagnosis.
If there is an imbalance in the body, points may become sensitive or
a depression or raised area may be felt at the site of a point. Since
points and meridians relate to organs, diagnosis of imbalance in
organs can be made.
For an accurate diagnosis to made, all symptoms shown by a patient must
be considered, including those seemingly unrelated to the main problem,
for example insomnia in a lame dog. All aspects of a patient's
behaviour and personality are considered as well as the symptoms and
tongue and pulse diagnosis in determining the imbalance present. This
is a fundamental difference between western medicine and Traditional
Chinese Medicine. Since Chinese medicine deals with patterns such as
heat invasion, these apparently unrelated symptoms, behaviours and
personality traits may all be part of the same Chinese pattern.
Therefore these apparently unrelated symptoms or mental/emotional
problems can improve after acupuncture treatment. In treating the
insomniac lame dog, Western medicine will concentrate only on the area
affected by pathology, for example a specific joint, and the insomnia
will be ignored. If this lameness case is treated with Chinese
medicine, both the lameness and insomnia will be considered and
included in the diagnosis. Treatment will be aimed at the imbalance
causing both these symptoms, and so both will improve with treatment.
Classification of herbs and theories of Chinese Herbal Medicine
The herbs used in Chinese Herbal Medicine are classified in several
Each herb has a specific temperature and may be classified as cold,
cool, neutral, warm or hot. This classification is based on the effects
of the herbs on the body. For example in a patient with a fever (who is
therefore hot), a cool or preferably cold herb will decrease the fever,
Herbs are then classified based on their flavour, which may be pungent,
sweet, sour, bitter or salty. Each taste has it's own functions and
characteristics. For example sweet-tasting herbs strengthen and balance
the body and pungent herbs cause sweating and tonify Qi and blood.
Each herb is associated with a specific meridian or meridians and
therefore with a specific organ or organs in Chinese medical theory.
For example menthol is associated with the lungs and liver.
Based on it's classification in these three categories, each herb has a
specific profile and therefore use. In addition to it's functions based
on this classification, a herb will also have it's own unique effects.
There are often several forms used of the same herb. For example
both cinnamon bark and the cinnamon stalk are used. Although they are
both called cinnamon and from the same plant, the different parts have
different effects and therefore uses. The age of the herb can also
it's effects, for example immature and mature (ripe) orange peel have
different effects. Different forms of a herb may be produced by
This may be necessary to remove toxicity and make the herb more mild in
it's effects. For example there are different forms of processed and
aconite. Use of the incorrect form of a herb can be dangerous. This is
why self-medication is not recommended as an extensive knowledge of
and their actions is required to safely prescribe an efficacious
However, it is not only the characteristics of the individual herbs
which are important in a Chinese herbal formula. When looking at a
formula, the classification and functions of all it's constituent herbs
must be taken into account to see the overall picture. For example, a
formula may contain both hot and cold herbs, so it must be looked at as
a whole to decide if it will warm or cool the patient. Most warming
formulas will also contain cooling herbs (and vice versa) in order to
prevent the formula from becoming too warming and therefore to balance
Uses of Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese Herbal Medicine can be beneficial in treatment of almost
any disorder and has been used for thousands of years to treat almost
every illness. Herbs are particularly useful for internal medical
For physical or structural disorders such as musculoskeletal problems,
acupuncture is more efficacious although herbs may be used in addition
to aid in pain relief and healing. Herbs can also be applied topically
for these disorders for enhanced pain relief and healing and to treat
and prevent infection of wounds.
For acute internal problems, such as acute surgical colic in horses,
surgery may be more appropriate although herbs can be used in
preventation of the acute condition or after surgery to aid in healing.
Use of Chinese Herbal Medicine does not aim to replace surgery in these
conditions and surgery may indeed be vital to save the life of the
patient. As always, the best combination of western medicine and
Traditional Chinese Medicine is aimed for to provide the best care
possible and the best outcome for
Traditional Chinese medicine takes a very preventative approach to
disease, hence the ancient Chinese proverb:
'The superior doctor prevents sickness; the mediocre doctor attends to
impending sickness; the inferior doctor treats actual sickness'.
Scientific evidence for efficacy of Chinese Herbal Medicine
Much of the research into the effects and mechanisms of Traditional
Chinese Medicine have been directed towards an understanding of
acupuncture. However, attempts have also been made to quantitatively
determine the efficacy of Chinese Herbal Medicine, both of formulas and
There has been much interest recently in research into the efficacy of
Chinese herbal formulas in treatment of specific western diseases. It
has been difficult to design a scientific experiment to test Chinese
herbal formulas since the Chinese method of diagnosis is very different
to western diagnosis and therefore it is hard to compare patients with
a given western disease treated with western medicine and Chinese
Herbal Medicine. The patients will display different Chinese syndromes
and will receive different herbal formulas, although all will receive
the same western therapy. Studies which have used the same Chinese
herbal formula for a given western diagnosis
have shown poor results, but these studies have not followed
Chinese Medicine diagnosis and prescribing and so are of limited
These studies are often conducted by western doctors who do not have a
appreciation and understanding of Chinese mechanisms of physiology,
In addition to these problems in setting up a scientfically valid
double-blind, placebo-controlled trial due to the different logics of
and Chinese thinking, there are problems of finance. Such a study is
expensive and there is no motivation for pharmaceutical companies to
such a trial since the formulas and herbs cannot be patented and
whatever the results, will not generate significant revenue.
Despite these problems, Chinese Herbal Medicine has been shown to give
good results in the treatment of epilepsy (Ojemann et al), rheumatism
(Ho & Lai) and allergic rhinitis (Xue et al) amoung others. A
review of 84 clinical trials of Chinese Herbal Medicine in treatment of
II diabetes showed that the herbal formulas had a higher success rate
than conventional drugs in relief of symptoms and reduction of blood
sugar. 71-100% of patients who did not respond to conventional drugs
had a reduced blood sugar and relief of symptoms when treated with
herbs (Zhao et al). There are many reports of success in individual
of both human and animal patients treated with Chinese Herbal Medicine.
There is also evidence of synergism between Chinese herbs and drugs,
exampe in rheumatism (Ho & Lai).
Research has also been done into the constituent chemicals and possible
activity and effects of individual herbs. Herbs have been shown to have
specific effects, for example ginger relieves nausea and ophiopogon is
anti-inflammatory. Consitituents of some herbs have been isolated and
specific physiologial effects shown for these constituents. For example
Chinese wormwood has
been shown to contain artemisinin which has antimalarial activity (and
is now used to treat Falciparum malaria, which is the most severe form
malaria) and further research is being conducted into it's possible
effects. Several of the constituents of ophiopogon have been isolated
shown to have specific anti-inflammatory effects.
Safety of Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese herbal medicine is very safe and adverse reactions are rare.
The Chinese kept detailed records on their patient's symptoms and
response to treatment and the ancient formulas in use today have been
developed and modified over hundreds of years. We therefore have very
detailed information on the effects of individual herbs and herbal
formulations on a massive number of patients due to their long use in
China and also modern scientific studies.
Many of the cases of poisoning by Chinese herbs which occur annually in
Asia are due to self-medication or the use of unprocessed toxic herbs.
When used correctly, toxic herbs are processed before their use in
formulas, thus removing the toxicity. Self-medication or prescription
by an untrained person can result in use of unsuitable herbs which will
cause side effects, for example some herbs are unsuitable for those
with high blood pressure and so would not be prescribed by a trained
doctor. Also many herbs have names which sound similar, or there may be
several forms of a particular herb,
which can cause confusion and lead to the incorrect herb being taken
Herbal formulas produced by western companies have been processed with
great care to avoid any harmful pollutants such as pesticide residues
or heavy metals and to ensure the highest quality and safety.
A comparison of Western herbal medicine and Chinese herbal medicine
Western herbal medicine has developed since the time of the ancient
Greeks, although cultures such as the Egyptians also used herbs to
Classification of herbs used in Western Herbal Medicine is simply by
their physiological effects on the body. This is different from Chinese
Herbal Medicine, where there is a complex classification of herbs based
on their taste, energetic properties and effects on meridians and
In western herbal medicine a western medical diagnosis is made (for
example arthritis or depression). There is no unique western herbal
mechanism of diagnosis or classification of disease. Western herbal
medicine is therefore more accessible and accepted by those in the West
as accepted western
mechanisms of disease and nomenclature are used.
Western herbal medicine then differs however from western drug-based
medicine as the whole patient and not just the syndrome are taken into
account, in the same way as Chinese Herbal Medicine. Again as with
Chinese Herbal Medicine, there is a materia medica of herbs and their
and a combination of herbs is chosen to best suit that particular
- their disease and also apparently unrelated characteristics such as
emotional problems. Unlike Chinese medicine there are no set formulas,
and experienced herbalist will be able to combine herbs into a unique
formula to suit that particular patient. In Chinese Herbal Medicine
there are many established herbal formulas. This combination of herbs
is integral to the success of treatment, as some herbs in a formula may
detoxify others, balance heating or cooling effects, direct a formula
to a particular area of the body or synergise. The behaviour of herbs
in combination is more important than their effects alone. An
experienced Chinese herbalist may also design a unique formula for a
patient or modify and existing formula if that
is felt to be the most efficacious treatment for that particular
and their combination of symptoms. In both systems of herbal medicine,
use of whole plant parts and combinations of plants is felt to be more
beneficial than simply isolated consitituents, as side effects are
avoided and synergistic effects can be produced.
In both forms of herbal medicine the raw herbs may be cooked and
made into a tea, powdered, made into a pill form or applied externally
to the surface of the body.
Use of plants in modern western (conventional) medicine
Today, almost 25% of modern drugs come originally from plant sources.
Examples of such drugs include aspirin and digitalis, the heart drug
which is originally derived from the common foxglove, Digitalis
purpurea. Much research is done into separating and refining plant
constituents for use in future drugs. By isolating and modifying plant
compounds a patentable drug can be produced, so therefore the
expenditure by pharmaceutical companies can be justified.
This use of plants is very different to their use in Traditional
Chinese Medicine. In Chinese Herbal Medicine the whole plant is used
so that many constituent compounds are included in the formula. Some
of these compounds will produce the desired physiological effect while
others will have functions such as detoxification and balancing of
effects. In this way side effects can be avoided. Drugs produced from
a single active consituent will have effects other than the desired
which may be inconvenient or even harmful side effects.
Copyright © 2007 Lone Star Veterinary
Acupuncture. All Rights Reserved.
reprinted with kind permission from Lindsey
Harris MA VetMB CVA CVH MRCVS
Lone Star Veterinary Acupuncture
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Medicine for Animals - Veterinary Herbal Medicine - Phytotherapy
Herbs for Animals
Herbs have been medicine and food for animals, since animal life
emerged. Animals therefore have an inherent instinct for herbal
medication of their health problems (zoopharmacognosy), whether horses,
dogs, cats, cattle,
rabbits or other species. Human peoples also had this instinct for
own medicine and ancient civilisations used herbs for animals too, but
‘civilisation’ and ‘education’ have seriously lessened our natural
ability and capability.
Having said that, and despite the fact that the modern Western
establishment appears to like to relegate herbalism to the status of
'folklore' or 'old wives' tales', herbs or derivatives from herbs form
the basis of much of
the modern conventional medical armoury. Unsurprisingly, while very
to exploit the clear therapeutic benefits of herbs, the pharmaceutical
industry does not readily advertise these ‘humble’ origins!
Herbs contain a vast spread of pharmacologically-active ingredients and
each herb has its own unique combination and properties. They are
classified in modern herbal medicine according to their spheres of
action. Many herbs contain ingredients which provide the whole plant
with several such actions, combined in the one medicine. Recognised
actions include alterative, anodyne, anthelmintic, anticatarrhal,
anti-emetic, anti-inflammatory, antilithic, antibacterial,
antifungal, antispasmodic, aperient/laxative, aromatic,
bitter, cardiac, carminative, cathartic/purgative, cholagogue and
demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, ecbolic, emetic, emollient,
febrifuge, galactagogue, hepatic, hypnotic, nervine, rubefacient,
sialogogue, soporific, stimulant, styptic, tonic, vesicant and
Alternatively, herbal medicines may be classified according to the
category of constituents in their composition. Constituents include
acids, alcohols, alkaloids, anthraquinones, bitters, carbohydrates,
cardiac glycosides, coumarins, flavones, flavonoid glycosides, phenols,
saponins, tannins and volatile
Herbal medicines are traditionally selected according to the perceived
needs of the patient and based upon the individual herbs’ constituents
relation to the above mentioned actions. Whether single herbs are used,
or a combination of herbs is selected, depends upon the spread of
of each herb and whether or not it supplies the necessary spectrum of
in the body.
It is of fundamental importance in herbal medicine that plants are
identified correctly. They should be harvested from unpolluted areas,
where possible and should, if cultured, be grown without the use of
modern agro-chemicals. It is also advisable that, where possible,
indigenous species should be
used because they may prove more suited to the patient’s constitution
Practical Application - Veterinary Herbal Medicine
Herbs can be used for dogs, cats, horses, ponies and many other animal
species. Horses and ponies respond particularly well.
Traditional herbal medicine, whether Ayurvedic medicine, Indian herbs,
Chinese herbs (Traditional Chinese Medicine - TCM), Western herbs,
herbs, Native North American herbal lore or other indigenous practice,
a holistic therapy and relies upon the whole plant, or defined portions
of it. It does not presume to identify a single
ingredient for isolated use.
Modern herbal medicine is drifting towards pharmacognosy, the science
of defining specific supposed ‘active’ ingredients, then extracting and
purifying them and using them in isolation. This is not holistic
medicine and it carries inherent dangers, which do not attach to using
whole plants. Ingredients
of the whole plant tend to act in synergy and to balance each other in
nature, whereas man disturbs this balance with his ‘interference’. This
happening in the veterinary field. Many products are now being marketed
in this way, especially herbs for horses and herbs for dogs. Some nutraceutical products are formulated with this
It is then but a small step to altering molecules, patenting them and
making millions of pounds/dollars from a marketed drug, with even
greater potential for side-effects (this is the essence of modern
conventional drug medicine, which has clearly evolved from herbal
medicine in this way).
Herbal medicine includes such amazingly effective agents as willow bark
(providing salicylate, which is an Aspirin-like and effective pain
killer, at much lower doses than one might expect, when compared to
Aspirin itself), Digitalis or foxglove (a remarkably effective heart
drug, having action on all aspects of cardiac function), dandelion (an
effective diuretic, providing copious potassium, which modern diuretics
tend to drain from the body! - French
name pis en lit) and periwinkle or Vinca (a predecessor of the potent
In horses particularly, since they are classical herbivores, herbs
provide a useful source of minerals and vitamins, in my opinion better
than artificial sources. In this situation, we may describe herbs for
horses as food, playing an important part in the nutrition of the
animal. The boundary between food and medicine was never so blurred as
in herbal lore. Hippocrates is credited with saying “let food be thy
medicine and medicine thy food”. The distinction is not clear and there
is no reason for it to be clear. It is true to say, however, that herbs
fall into various categories, some much more food-like than others and
some much more medicine-like than others. It is the context, the
motivation and the dosage which govern the rôle of the herb.
Conditions often treated with herbs, in dogs, cats, horses and other
animals, sometimes in conjunction with other therapies, are: COPD,
laminitis, digestive disturbance, diarrhoea, nervousness, arthritis,
liver problems (hepatopathy), sinusitis, chronic cough, skin problems,
respiratory problems, heart problems, hoof quality (hoof health) and
kidney problems. At the AVMC, we also formulate herb mixes to accompany
grass pastures or for winter time, to ensure availability of essential
nutrients. Modern grassland management, whether supplying grazing or
conserved forage (hay, haylage, grass nuts, dried grass), is not
conducive to optimum horse health and well-being and supplying a
variety of nutritious herbs can compensate for this to an extent.
Species treated by the AVMC include: horses, ponies, goats, donkeys,
cats, dogs, cattle, pigs, sheep, llamas, alpacas, buffalo, rabbits,
ferrets, guinea pigs, lizards, terrapins, tortoises, snakes, raptors,
fowl), cage birds, budgies, canaries, budgerigars, parrots, parakeets,
birds of prey (raptors).
There is a logic in
the notion that herbs indigenous to the patient's country should be
preference to 'exotic' herbs, although Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs have
become fashionable in the UK, at present. There follow some simplified
of Western herbs, classified according to pharmacological activity:
Alteratives e.g.: Burdock (Arctium)
Antispasmodics e.g.: Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga - USA)
Aperients e.g.: Flax seed (Linum)
Astringents e.g.: Golden Rod (Solidago)
Anthelmintics e.g.: Garlic (Allium)
Bitters e.g.: Tansy (Tanacetum)
Carminatives e.g.: Sage (Salvia)
Cardiacs e.g.: Hawthorn (Crataegus)
Demulcents e.g.: Comfrey (Symphytum)
Diaphoretics e.g.: Elder (Sambucus), Cleavers (Galium)
Diuretics e.g.: Dandelion (Taraxacum)
Expectorants e.g.: Vervain (Verbena)
Febrifuges e.g.: Angelica (Angelica)
Hepatics e.g.: Motherwort (Leonurus)
Nervines e.g.: Hops (Humulus)
Rubefacients e.g.: Nettle (Urtica)
Sedatives e.g.: Skullcap (Scutellaria), Valerian (Valeriana)
Stimulants e.g.: Horseradish (Cochlearia)
Tonics e.g.: Elecampane (Inula)
Vulneraries e.g.: Marigold (Calendula), Cleavers (Galium)
Since finite doses of pharmacologically-active agents are being given
in herbal medicine, it is very possible that dosing with many of the
available herbal medicines would cause a horse or dog to fail
competition ‘dope’ tests. There is also a definite risk of residues in
food animal products, such
as meat, milk or eggs. It is possible, furthermore, that herbs can
'summate', potentially dangerously, with conventional drugs given for
Many unlicensed herbal ‘products’ exist on the market, advertised with
great vigour and containing quasi-legal, unsupported, medical claims,
in the literature, on the label or in the name. The AVMC advises to
these. They are not tailored to your animal. They are sold more for
than for medicine. No effort has been spent on supplying proof of
safety and quality (as required for a product licence), despite the
or implied claims of efficacy and many of the companies have no proper
tradition. Caveat emptor - buyer beware!
Aromatherapy (the use of so-called essential oils) is a branch of
herbal medicine. While homeopathy uses herbs in the preparation of some
medicines, it should not be confused with herbal medicine.
© AVMC - March 2007
reprinted with kind permission from Chris Day
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& Administration of Herbal Medicines
Please read all instructions
very carefully, before opening the medicines
Herbal medicines are supplied in a variety of forms. The usual forms
are leaf, chopped, powdered or liquids.
Since they supply material doses of pharmacologically-active
ingredients, they must be used with care.
They should be prescribed specifically for a given patient, rather than
being supplied ‘off-the-shelf’, since proper herbal medicine is a
The medicines may contain substances that would show in blood tests, in
competition animals and may give rise to tissue or milk residues in
They should never be given alongside conventional drugs, except under
the advice of a veterinary surgeon with appropriate knowledge and
experience. This is because they can combine with the drug to produce
toxic doses. They may even conflict with the conventional medication.
Herbal medicines can be given with food. If there is a palatability
problem, ask us for advice (01367 710324).
Dry herbal preparations should be carefully stored, away from damp and
heat. Open packs should be carefully re-sealed after each use.
Adhere carefully to the prescribed dosage régime and, if
questions arise, please do not hesitate to ask us (01367 710324). If in
doubt at any time, it does no harm to stop the herbal prescription,
pending further advice. Repeat prescriptions are only available by
© AVMC - March 2007
Chinham House, Stanford in the Vale, Oxon SN7 8NQ
reprinted with kind permission from Chris Day
The above information is simply
informational. It's intent is not to replace the advice of a
veterinarian nor to assist you in making a diagnosis of your pet.
Please consult with your own veterinarian for confirmation of any
diagnosis. Your pets life may depend on it.