In Thailand the use of Thai traditional medicine is promoted and accepted as an important medical section in public health.1 Many herbs and spices used in Thai cuisine are identified as having traditional medical uses. These include but are not limited to chili (Phrik), cumin (Yira), garlic (Kra thiam), ginger (Khing), galangal (Kha), several different types of basil, kaffir (Me Krut), lemon grass (Ta khrai), lime (Ma nao), pepper (Phrik thai) and turmeric (Kha min). Many of the traditional medicinal properties are supported with pharmacological and clinical studies (albeit not in cats and dogs) and this reservoir of plentiful, inexpensive plants provide potential new opportunities for some common health problems in people and animals.
Note that the following applies to use of the fresh or dried form of the plant. Patch testing for topical application is recommended for sensitive individuals; however, all of these have been used by the author without adverse events observed.
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis)
Ginger rhizome contains pungent phenolic substances known as gingerols. They exhibit a variety of biological activities including anticancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidation.2 Ginger suppresses prostaglandin synthesis through inhibition of cyclooxygenase-1 and COX-2 and also inhibits 5-lipoxygenase.3 More recently an extract common to both ginger and galangal has been shown to inhibit the induction of several genes involved in the inflammatory response including genes for encoding cytokines, chemokines and inducible cyclooxygenase-2 thus ginger modulates biochemical pathways activated in chronic inflammation.4
A recent meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety of ginger in 593 human osteoarthritis (OA) patients showed a significant reduction in pain and disability following ginger intake and concluded ginger had modest efficacy and reasonable safety for treatment of OA.5 Ginger has been studied using dogs as models and demonstrated anti-emetic effects against chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting6, an earlier study showed anti-emetic efficacy of ginger against cisplatin induced emesis in dogs7. Ginger also possesses in vivo antimicrobial effects.8
Potential veterinary uses: adjunct to nausea control in cancer care and chemotherapy; osteoarthritis, improving circulation in geriatric or non-ambulant patients. Dose: dried 15–200 mg/kg divided dose daily (cats 0.1–0.5 g divided); infusion 5 g per 250 ml administered ¼–½ cup per 10 kg divided daily.9
Galangal (Alpinia galangal)
Galangal has similar properties to ginger. It has been used traditionally in human traditional medicine for its anti-leishmanial, carminative, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiulcer, anti-flatulent, anti-allergic, nerve tonic, stimulant activities and for its anticancer, hepatoprotective, analgesic, antibacterial, anti-amoebic and antioxidant activity. It has been used to treat a broad range of conditions including bronchitis, heart disease, chronic enteritis, renal calculus, diabetes mellitus, rheumatism and kidney disorders.10
Potential veterinary uses: gastrointestinal disorders such as IBD, colitis, nausea, vomiting, spasms and cramps, for fever support, topical poultice for sprains and spasms. Dose: dried 15–20 mg/kg divided dose daily (cats 100 divided); infusion 5 g per 250 ml administered ¼–½ cup per 10 kg divided daily.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric has shown numerous potential therapeutic activities, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial and antiplatelet effects, as well as choleretic and carminative actions and gastro-protective effects through its anti-inflammatory action.11 Turmeric has a traditional use for ulcers and wounds and has been used for diabetes, eye diseases, ulcers, anemia, bronchitis, and liver disease.12 The yellow coloured polyphenol curcumin, derived from turmeric, is receiving an immense amount of interest as a source of anticancer activity. It also may prove to be a key herb for the treatment of intestinal permeability disorders and also chronic kidney disease.13 It has been recently suggested as a treatment for cytokine storms in humans associated with severe viral infections as well as acute pancreatitis, severe burns and traumas because it blocks multiple cytokine release.14
Turmeric (powdered) mixed with ghee (to 70 degrees C) has a potential therapeutic effect on surgical wound healing in dogs, particularly improvement of periodontal treatment consequences after surgery.15
Potential veterinary uses: topical application to ulcerated lesions, small tumours, dermatitis (note it stains fabrics), adjunct to cancer treatment and prevention, osteoarthritis, adjunct to several viral infections such as parvovirus (administered rectally), uveitis, hepatitis, post-dental surgery. Dose: curcumin 50–250 mg/kg divided dose daily (cats 50–100 mg divided); dried 50–600 mg/kg divided (give with fat to improve absorption); decoction 5–30 g per 250 ml administered ¼–½ cup per 10 kg divided daily.
Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus)
Lemon grass possesses various pharmacological activities such as anti-amoebic, antibacterial, antidiarrheal, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Various other effects like antimalarial, anti-mutagenicity, anti-mycobacterial, antioxidant, hypoglycemic and neurobehavioral have also been studied. Decoction of the lemongrass stalk has antidiarrheal activity and reduces fecal output in a dose dependent manner16; a tea (hot water extract) of the dried leaves has anti-inflammatory activity given orally17 and when applied topically. It has antiseptic qualities against skin infections (bacterial and fungal).
Potential veterinary uses: adjunct to treatment of diarrhea, gastrointestinal inflammation. Topical use for fungal and bacterial skin infections. It may have some insect repellent properties too. Dose: infusion 2.5 g dried stem per 250 ml administered ¼–½ cup per 10 kg divided daily. Cats love lemon grass.
Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Basil (note Thai basil is basilicum var. thyrsiflora)l has been used as a traditional medicine for the treatment of various conditions such as poor digestion, nausea, abdominal cramps, gastro-enteritis, insomnia, depression, dysentery, chronic diarrhea and exhaustion.18 It is also demonstrated the following activities: cardiotonic, anti-diarrhea, hypolipidemic, hypoglycemic, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant.19 It has been used for a variety of neurological disorders such as anxiety, headaches and migraines, nerve pains and as carminative and antispasmodic.20 Basil represents a potent source of anticancer materials.21 An extract of the leaves of basil have shown strong efficacy against Rhipicephalus microplus in various cattle22 and might therefore have some potential as tick repellent in dogs.
Ocimum basilicum leaf extract 100 mg/ml solvent/kg BW given orally to mice was shown to improve neuromuscular coordination, exploratory behaviour, object recognition ability and short term memory and was safe.23 Studies show basil could be useful in the prevention of stroke.24
Potential veterinary uses: Adjunct to treatment gastrointestinal conditions such as mild diarrhea, poor digestion, with suspected stroke or neurological damage. Topical use may have insect repellent properties too. Dose: infusion 2.5 g fresh leaves per 250 ml administered ¼–½ cup per 10 kg divided daily.