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Herbs in Small Animal Practices

Susan Wynn United States

Why would a doctor choose to prescribe an herb, rather than a single active constituent such as those contained in a drug? It is true that a single active constituent may be more precisely characterized and that “extraneous” chemicals contained within the whole plant may complicate our understanding of its action? Doctors practicing botanical medicine believe, however, that prescriptions of whole plants provide these advantages: 1) synergistic action; and 2) safety.

Why herbs are different than drugs?

 Herbal formulas concentrate a therapeutic principle (different herbs with potentially different mechanisms of action for the same problem).

 Unique actions.

 Tonic actions and nutritional aspects of herbal vs. drug therapy.

Prescription systems

Traditional herbal medicine is based largely on ethnobotanical data, usually from ancient cultures such as China (giving us “Traditional Chinese Medicine” or TCM) or India (giving us “Ayurvedic medicine”). These practitioners, ancient or present-day, use an “energetic” system defined by characteristics such as yin, yang, heat, cold, cool, warm, moist, and dryness that herbs possess or impart to the patient. For instance, an older cat that is thin and dehydrated (and Yin deficient) would receive a “moistening” Yin tonic herb. These are forms of “energies,” therefore; this kind of herbal medicine is sometimes called “energetic” herbalism.

Pharmacologic prescribing is more likely to be utilized by scientifically trained practitioners such as DVMs, MDs, and NDs. Since the science hasn’t caught up with herbal practice at this time, even scientifically trained practitioners rely on empirical knowledge (like their clinical experience) and traditional knowledge when deciding on an herbal prescription.

Quality control

Quality control is a major concern. Check out www.consumerlab.com for some product analyses.

Herb Form

Preparation

Comments

Fresh plants

Picked from the herb garden and fed fresh

Not palatable in many cases

Dried bulk herbs              

Available as whole, dried plant from health food stores and herb suppliers

Dried herb may be mixed with food, but often unpalatable

Dried powdered herb

Available as powder, or more commonly in capsules

May be mixed with food; may be unpalatable

Dried extracts

Available as powders, granules or capsules

May lose active constituents in processing

Tablets- pressed

Dried herb is compressed with a binder to form firm tablets

Found in many health food stores

Pills

Dried herb is compressed with a binder to form firm pellets

Found mainly as Chinese patent herbal medicines

Teas, Water infusion

Hot water is poured over dried herb, steeped and allowed to cool             

May be flavored with bouillon; herb constituents sometimes not water soluble so this form is not the most desirable

Oil infusion

Dried or fresh herb is steeped in olive oil for about one month; usually for topical application

Must be protected so that animal does not lick oil

Decoction

Herb is heated in water and simmered for 20–40 minutes

May be flavored with bouillon; herb constituents sometimes not water soluble so this form is not the most desirable

Tincture—alcohol extract

Dried or fresh herb is extracted by soaking in 30–70% grain alcohol

Unpalatable, however, preparation is likely to be more potent than water extracts (like infusions)

Tincture—glycerin extract

Dried or fresh herb is extracted by soaking in 40% glycerin

By far the most palatable liquid herb form due to sweet taste of glycerin; potency much less than alcohol tinctures

Poultice

Boiled and cooled herb is applied topically

Must be protected so that animal does not lick or destroy poultice

Compress

Cloth or gauze soaked with water extract (decoction or infusion) is applied topically

Must be protected so that animal does not lick or destroy compress

Standardized extracts

One (presumably most active) constituent is concentrated to a consistent percentage in each batch of herb

Consistency is a plus; preparation is semi-synthetic

Ointment

oil infusions of herbs are combined with beeswax and used for topical treatments

Must be protected so that animal does not lick ointment

    

Proportional recommendations for dogs and cats are as follows. Doses below are given q8–12h.

Species

Tincture

*Granules (tsp)

Tablets

*Patent pills

**Capsule (500mg)

Loose herb (tsp)

Canine

small

5-10 drops

1/8–¼

¼–1

1–3

1/3–½

½–1 ½

medium

10-20

¼–½

1–2

3–5

½–1

1 ½–2

large

20-40

½–¾

2–3

5–8

1–2

2–3

giant

40-60

½–1

3–5

6–10

2–3

3–4

Feline

5-10

1/8

¼–½

2

1/8–½

½

* concentrated extract

**may be powdered or concentrated herb so dose is more variable

Summary

Herbs are more than drugs and there are multiple systems to learn in prescribing them to their full potential. A more complete listing of single herbs, their characteristics and supporting science can be found in Wynn, 1999.

RESOURCES

Veterinary Herbal Therapy books

1.  Wynn S, 2000. Emerging Therapies: Nutraceutical and Botanical Medicine for Small Animals, AAHA Press, Boulder, CO.

2.   Schoen, A. and S. Wynn. 1998 . Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine: Principles and Practice. Mosby-Yearbook, St.Louis, MO

3.   Huiesheng, Xie , 1994.Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. Beijing Agricultural University Press, Beijing, China

4.   *Schwartz, C, 1996. Four Paws, Five Directions.Celestial Arts Publishing, Berkeley, CA.

5.   Wulff-Tilford M, and G Tilford, 1999. AllYou Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets. Bowtie Press, Irvine, CA.

6.   Fetrow CW, Avila JR, 2000. The Complete Guide to Herbal Medicines. Springhouse Corporation, Springhouse, PA.

7.   Pizzorno J, Murray M, 1999. Textbook of Natural medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Baltimore.

8.   Mills S and K Bone, 2000. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. Churchill Livingstone, New York NY.

Training for Veterinarians

Chi Institute

9791 NW 160th ST
Reddick, FL 32686
Tel: (352)-591-3165
Fax: (352)-591-0988
www.chi-institute.com

Chinese herbal medicine

Healing Oasis Wellness Center

2555 Wisconsin St
Sturtevant, WI 53177
262-884-9549
FAX: 262-886-6460

Introductory courses in Western Herbal Medicine and Chinese medicine

New Mexico Chinese Herbal Veterinary Medicine Course

1925 Juan Tabo NE Ste E
Albuquerque, NM 87112
505-450-4325
FAX: 505-332-4775

Chinese herbal medicine

Websites

Veterinary

Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association
http://members.fortunecity.com/swynn/VBMA

Websites on Traditional Chinese and Western Herbal Medicine in Humans and Animals

http://homepage.eircom.net/~progers/herblink.htm

Evidence based or scientifically oriented

HerbMed

http://www.herbmed.org
Excellent detailed monographs

Traditional

Southwest School of Botanical Medicine
http://chili.rt66.com/hrbmoore/HOMEPAGE/HomePage.html


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