Once upon a time there was a remedy to treat all the diseases affecting animals and humans in the world. This remedy was called 'belief' and whenever anyone in need took it, it helped them to get rid of the ailment.
Oxford dictionary defines the meaning of the remedy as “A means of counteracting or eliminating something undesirable.”
In nature animals will self-medicate with herbs naturally following their instincts. How do they know which plant will do the trick? Apparently it's due to their own intuition and learned behaviour passed from generation to generation for their own survival.
Similarly with humans, herbs were used for centuries to help with health issues. Herbal medicine is one of the oldest medicine in the world — people observed, learned, believed and later recorded their sources until new (allopathic) medicine came along, which is only a natural course of our modern evolutionary process.
Use of herbs as a medicine is generally safe and effective if used appropriately. However, ‘natural’ doesn’t equal safe as some may think. There are also herbs with restricted dosing, herbs which are toxic due to their chemical compounds or herbs to be used externally only, as listed in Medicines Act, 1968. Even foods we use daily can be an example of toxic compounds such as wheat containing gluten — a protein causing intestinal irritation in sensitive individuals. Pulses, for instance, contain lectins which are not digestible and can cause immune response reaction. We all know we shouldn’t eat green potatoes after all. It is when a qualified herbalist will formulate a unique herbal prescription based on individual needs and specific dose. Knowledge of herbs comes from extensive study of plants' chemistry, pharmacognosy, materia medica and therapeutics, drug-herb-herb interactions, herb contraindications, clinical diagnostics, etc.
Back to our story with the dog. My dog Oscar eats couch grass outside if he needs it. It is a great remedy with antibacterial and antispasmodic properties to clean the guts. For us humans we mostly use this herb for urinary tract infections. Oscar also eats powdered herbs sprinkled on his foods and believe it or not he drinks herbal tea, chamomile in particular. Does he know that chamomile is good to calm nervous stomach and distress from fireworks? Maybe, unless he does his own reading while I’m at work…. As domesticated animal now, he purely relies on my care anyway.
Herbal tea is a great way to introduce herbs if you are not used to them yet. Although herbal tea is not classified as a ‘true tea’ unlike black or green teas we are used to, it is a potent remedy to implement a change and good alternative to caffeine/tannin containing conventional teas. I’m going to discuss the type of herbal tea preparations another time though.
This article briefly highlights the safe use of herbs following our roots and intuition. We are supported with evidence based medicine nowadays. Available research shows safety, efficacy and toxicity of the herbs. There’s plenty of human clinical trials comparing herbal remedy versus pharmaceutical agent or placebo with substantial results in various conditions. However, it’s the clinical expertise which matters the most, traditional use of herbs, our beliefs and forgotten connections to the nature. As my friend keeps saying “Nature is in balance and all we need is balance.”
Love and hugs J.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not trained in vet medicine. I’m only responsible for my own dog who trusts me endlessly. If you wish to treat your pet animal you need to seek a professional advice of a holistic veterinarian near you.
Milles, Y. S. (1991). The essential Book of Herbal Medicine. Penguin Group, London.