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).
Tonic actions and nutritional aspects of herbal vs. drug therapy.
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 is a major concern. Check out www.consumerlab.com for some product analyses.
Proportional recommendations for dogs and cats are as follows. Doses below are given q8–12h.
* concentrated extract
**may be powdered or concentrated herb so dose is more variable
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.
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
Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association
Websites on Traditional Chinese and Western Herbal Medicine in Humans and Animals
Evidence based or scientifically oriented
Southwest School of Botanical Medicine
WSAVA Contact Information