The term “herb” as used in herbal medicine means a plant or plant part that is used to make medicine, food flavors, or aromatic oils for fragrances. Herbs for health is one of the oldest forms of medicine. Before there were drugs there were herbal remedies. Many of the conventional drugs used today had their origins in herbs. Nearly all modern medicines are based on the “active ingredients” of some herb. To give a few examples, cortisone was from a plant called Yucca, aspirin from White Willow, Digitalis from Foxglove, and Valium was extracted from Valerian root. In general, herbal medicine works in much the same way as do conventional drugs. Herbs contain numerous naturally occurring chemicals that have biological activity.
In past 150 years chemists and pharmacists have been isolating what they believe are the active ingredients in medicinal herbs. These active ingredient can then be made into a drug which the pharmaceutical company can patent. Today approximately 25 percent of all prescription drugs are still derived from trees, shrubs, or herbs. However, holistic practitioners believe that there is no such thing as an active ingredient and that the full benefit of the herbal remedy comes when the whole plant, stem, leaf, flower, seed, fruit, bark or root is used. They believe that the various ingredients within the plant function synergistically and reduce the likelihood of the side effects that you may get when only a single isolated ingredient is used.
There are 3 major systems of herbology: Traditional Chinese medicine, Western herbal medicine, and Ayurvedic herbal medicine. These herbal remedies come in various forms: whole teas, capsules, tablets, extracts and tinctures, essential oils, salves, balms and ointments. Also herbs can be divided into 3 different classes: 1) Nutritional herbs such as garlic or alfalfa; 2) Medicinal herbs that are used for specific illnesses such as goldenseal, pau’d arco, and Hawthorn berries; 3) Toxic Herbs such as poinsettia, poison mushrooms. Finally, herbs are prepared in several ways and consequently are available as dried herbs, tinctures extracts, glycerin extracts
There are herbs that can help with almost any condition where a drug would be used. Conventional medicine criticizes the use of herbs for several reasons. First, they have often not been proven effective by clinical studies. Secondly, there is no FDA monitoring of herbal manufacturing processes and that the amount of the ingredients in the herbs is not standardized. That being said, the top notch herbal companies are committed to providing very high quality standardized herbs. They assay both the raw ingredients they receive and the end product they put out.
Herbal remedies come as single herbs or mixed herbs. Two or more herbs are put together to make the combination remedy more effective at solving certain health care issues. Also, the various herbs in the combination may help balance each other out and reduce the likelihood of side effects. Herbs may be combined not only with other herbs but also with nutritional remedies. Common herbs are AloeVera, Cayenne, Chamomile, Echinacea, Ma-huang, Feverfew, Ginger, Ginkgo, Ginseng, Goldenseal, Hawthorn, Hops, Licorice, Milk Thistle, Nettle, Passion Flower, Peppermint, St. John’s Wort, Saw Palmetto, Valerian, Witch Hazel.
I use herbs to treat arthritis, behavioral problems, skin diseases, bladder disease, bacterial infections. Herbs can be used in combination with allopathic drugs. What follows is a brief description of just some of the commonly used medicinal herbs used in China, Europe, north and south America and Africa.
ALOE VERA: The gel taken internally is used in pets to treat arthritis, gastrointestinal upsets such as gastroenteritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. Externally the gel can be used to treat hot spots, burns, and other skin conditions.
ASHWAGANDHA: Is termed an “adaptogenic” herb which means that it is used to balance organs and bring them back to function within a normal range. Ashwagandha is an Ayuvedic which can be used on pets to increase endurance, stamina, and overall health. Therefore, it can be of great benefit to treat old tired dogs, athletic dogs, and breeding dogs.
ASTRAGALUS is a Chinese herb that has powerful immune stimulation properties. It builds resistance, heals and repairs the body. Specifically, it is used to kill viruses and to treat cancer. It would be good to consider giving a pet this herb after exposure to a contagious disease and during periods of hard work, athletic events and extreme stress.
BLACK WALNUT HULLS comes as a power or tincture and is most often used as a anti-parasite to treat intestinal worms and other external parasites.
BOSWELLIA is an Indian herb which has a variety of uses but its primary use is as an anti-inflammatory to treat arthritis, hip dysplasia, and back pain.
BURDOCK ROOT is actually a weed that can be used as blood builder, blood cleanser and kidney strengthener.
CALENDULA is an herb that can be used both internally and externally. Externally it helps heal wounds, burns and skin infections. Internally it acts as a blood cleanser with a particular attraction to the digestive system.
COMFREY is used to greatly enhance the healing of wounds and broken bones. It has also been used to heal digestive problems and urinary tract disease. It is believed that an overdose can cause liver disease so feed with some caution.
DANDELION is used as a digestive track toner, diuretic, and blood cleanser.
ECHINACEA stimulates the pets immune response and fights bacterial infection all over but especially in the respiratory system.
GINKGO is known for its ability to in blood flow to brain of older animals who may have cognitive dysfunction and dementia. It also used to treat Alzeimher’s in people. It helps pets to concentrate more on the jog at hand. It interferes with blood clotting so it should not be given to pets having surgery or with clotting disorders.
GINGER is a spice that can be used to treat arthritis, vomiting and motion sickness. 1 capsule one hour before a car trip should be sufficient to treat a 25 pound dog for car sickness.
GINSENG is an adaptogen which balances organ function. It balances blood press, the immune system. It reduces stress, improves endurance and helps animals to train and compete. Panax ginseng helps support the adrenal gland and can prevent adrenal shutdown as a result of prolonged cortisone therapy or prolonged stress. The effects of Ginseng therapy may take up to 1 month to show its effect.
GRAPEFRUIT SEED EXTRACT has been found highly effective in treating bacteria infections including staphylococcus, streptococcus, salmonella, candida, herpes, giardia, and Chlamydia infections in birds. It should not be confused with Grapeseed extract. It can be used to detoxify produce and fruit or can be sprayed on to sores or cuts after it is diluted approximately 6 times. It should be used for only one week at a time but can be alternated with Echinacea.
HOPS can serve as an anti-arthritic, anti-diabetic, diuretic and digestive aid. Fresh hops can be used to balance the endocrine system. It is also helpful in the treatment of autoimmune disease.
HORSETAIL is an herb which helps the body repair bone and connective tissue. It also has been shown to support the urinary tract, the cardiovascular system and the musculoskeltal system. It can be used internally and externally to enhance the skin, coat, and nails. Topical application of Horsetail can help with nail bed inflammation and abscesses.
KELP is a great source of trace minerals and helps prevent toxic metals from being absorbed by the digestive tract.
LICORICE ROOT has a particular affinity for the digestive tract, the respiratory tract and the adrenal gland. It can be used to treat chronic coughs, bronchitis and congestion, gastritis, vomiting, gastric reflux, skin allergies, arthritis, and to support an overworked exhausted adrenal gland resulting from chronic stress. When used continually for long periods of time it result in fluid retention and elevated blood pressure reading. To prevent fluid retention (from sodium retention) either stop treatment every three weeks and stop for one week or give the “deglycyrrhized” for of the herb.
MILK THISTLE is extremely effective at reversing liver damage in both pets and people. It works for liver disease resulting from drug damage, mushroom poisoning, and hepatitis. It is even helpful for gall bladder disease.
MULLEIN is probably the most effective herb for respiratory disease and functions as both an anti cough remedy and an expectorant. It protects the respiratory lining and reduces congestion.
STINGING NETTLE has a number of medical applications but its primary use is on respiratory and urinary tract disease. It is especially effective on respiratory allergies. It can be combined with Mullein to treat asthma.
SLIPPERY ELM BARK is well know for its ability to treat coughing, diarrhea, vomiting and constipation. When this herb is mixed with water or with body secretions it forms a thick mucus like liquid which adheres to and protects the mucous membranes of the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.
VALERIAN ROOT is most commonly used as an anti anxiety and anti spasmodic remedy. It calms and soothes nerves, reduces muscle cramping, helps with pain, and reduces spasms in the respiratory bronchials. It has also been used to treat epilepsy. Pets that are fearful of car rides, thunderstorms, loud noises etc often become much less agitated when given this herb.
YUCCA is an herb often found in herbal formulas used to treat arthritis. It reduces joint pain and swelling and stiffness. It contains some of the same properties as hydrocortisone and may also be used to treat itching and scratching resulting from skin allergies.