The Fundamentals of Veterinary Botanical Medicine
2002 SAVMA Symposium
Robert J. Silver, DVM, MS

Historical Antecedents

Anthropological evidence exists for the use of medicinal herbs by prehistoric hominids from their observations of animals’ usage of plants in the wild.

Systems of Botanical Medicine

In every culture, the use of herbs as medicines is based upon using a system to match the characteristics of the medicinal herbs to the characteristics of the patient and the disease. The plant characteristics that are used in selecting medicinal herbs varies from culture to culture, based on the values and the perceptual reality of each culture. Representative ethnobotanical systems include: Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Eclectics, Pharmacological system

Properties of Herbs

Herbs are defined based on certain qualities they possess. These qualities include how they taste and smell, their “temperature,” organ affinity, how they affect the body a whole, the “Doctrine of Signatures” (plant looks like organ or disease it treats), and as defined by our scientific “culture,” namely: Their pharmacological constituents and biomedical actions.

Herb-Drug Interactions

Herbs will have interactions with other herbs, as well as with pharmaceuticals. These interactions can be beneficial to the patient, or potentially harmful. These interactions are based not just on the combining together of the herbs and/or drugs, but also upon their relative proportions as administered to the patient. These interactions are : Additive, Synergistic, Neutralizing, or Subtractive.

Forms of Herbal Medicines

Herbs are supplied in a variety of different formats. It helps the medical practitioner to understand which form would be best suited to each patient’s individuality. Formats of herbs include: Fresh herbs, dried herbs, herbal infusions, herbal decoctions, alcohol tinctures, powdered extracts, herbal glycerites, pharmaceutical extractions.

Dosage and Administration of Botanical Compounds

The appropriate dosage of an herbal formula depends upon the potency of the raw materials, the herbal format being used, and the species, size, age and disease condition being treated. Experimentally derived dosages based upon clinical research are not widely available. Empirical dosages are more commonly used, and are based upon anecdotal information and extrapolation from established human dosages.

Conditions Amenable to Botanical Therapies

Chronic diseases, general and specific nutritional support, certain acute problems

Establishing Reputable Sources of Botanical Medicines

The veterinarian must learn to identify herbal products produced with GMP level quality control, formulations derived from evidence-based research, and clinically “proven” botanical remedies. Reputable companies provide certificates of analysis of product purity, technical monographs detailing scientific evidence that the formulas or constituents of the formulas have efficacy for the conditions for which they have been designed, and provide clinical research that supports the safety of the individual botanical compounds and their combined effect on the species for which they are being used.

HOUR TWO: The Practice of Veterinary Botanical Medicine: Useful Herbs for Pets (discussion)

Speaker Information
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Robert J. Silver, DVM, MS

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