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Healing Herbs for Cats & Dogs - A Guide to Starting with Animals

herbal-medicine-cats-dogs


Using herbs and plants as medicine is as old as time itself. Everything starts with plants and plants have a knowledge that is hard to replicate in pharmaceutical drugs. Plants are ever adapting to the changing environment so they are always one step ahead of our needs. 

If we were to look at many pharmaceutical drugs, a lot of the formulas started with extracting certain constituents from plants to then combine them with chemicals so companies could patent and market their "wonder drug". However, what holistic medicine is showing us is that, we're missing out on some fundamental benefits by not using healing herbs or medicinal herbs as they come with a whole host of healing properties that work together to help us heal. Take for example curcumin extracted from turmeric, curcumin has some amazing healing properties but by only using this extraction of the plant we're missing out on the full healing properties of turmeric.

Ancient and indigenous cultures still to this day rely heavily on using herbs, plants and mushrooms for healing. Traditional Chinese Medicines recommends many different varieties, around 5,700 to help with different ailments, imbalances and for keeping healthy. Ayurvedic medicine also relies heavily on around 2,000 herbs and plants for healing. Plants and herbs help support the body to re-balance and regain good health.

One of the reasons why natural care is so effective for your dog or cat is that they have an innate connection with the natural world. Nature is constant energy that forms patterns and rhythms and by tapping into these subtle energies and working in line with the seasons, you'll start to see harmonising patterns and rhythms in your dog and cat.

Healing herbs work with the body providing on-going support and maintenance for both you and your pet. By working with and using herbs in season it allows their body to maintain defences for the season ahead. Following the seasons, strengthens the organs that are associated with each season, it's a powerful preventative medicine as it creates vitality in your cat and dog and is a natural tool for preventing disease.

By allowing your cat and dog to work with the seasons and self select herbs, allows your pet to correct any underlying issue before it flares up into an illness or disease. Natural substances like plants, mushrooms and herbs have their own identity patterns that when they are delivered energetically, they can move the body towards balance.

If possible plant you're own seasonal mini herb garden. Not only can you enjoy the fruits of your labour in teas, soups and condiments for your everyday food but more importantly, it will allow your cat and dog to self select the herbs they feel they need at any particular moment in time. 

Ideally you want to create a mini herb garden or windowsill garden that has different herbs all year round but that are in line with the seasons. Alternatively you can buy fresh plants or herbs but know the source of your herbs and try to buy from sustainable sources.

By having access to medicinal herbs both you and your pet can benefit from their curative properties. It's only been in the last 70 years or so that western culture has moved away from working with plants but still today, the ancient and indigenous culture rely heavily on plants for their health.


Ailments Herbs and Plants Help Heal 

Real food allows the processes of the body to use the food to transform it into nutrients the body needs for good health. Most diseases start with inflammation which is usually down to poor digestion and if incorporated into the daily diet, herbs provide essential nutrients, support vital processes, the energy of the organs and are a prevention to disease.

There are endless benefits to using herbs in both yours and your pet's diet and they are some of the best sources of preventative medicine. Herbs are high in antioxidants helping to reduce the damage of oxidative stress, they are high in natural vitamins and minerals. Healing herbs are antimicrobial but support healthy gut flora compared to many pharmaceutical drugs that tend to destroy the healthy flora in the gut as well as the illness.

Herbs help keep the digestive system in balance, support the nervous system and the immune system which is why so many ancient cultures still use them today as their go to medicine to treat illnesses.

Healing herbs support

  • Supports natural health
  • Strengthens bodily functions
  • Allergies
  • Circulatory problems
  • Skin problems
  • Digestive disorders
  • Nerves and stress related issues
  • Respiratory problems
  • Musculo-skeletal problems
  • Urinary and fungal infections
  • Reproductive and menstrual problems
  • Pregnancy
  • Helps promote healthy ageing and the onset of old age ailments


Energetics of Herbs 

Like everything, herbs have energy and these qualities can effect how the body processes them on all levels. Foods and herbs treat a broad spectrum of issues in the body and everything that enters your dog or cat's mouth either heals or causes imbalance. 

The energetics of a plant or herb are based on three main areas. 

  • Temperature - hot or cold
  • Moisture - dry or moist
  • Tension - constricted or relaxed 

Food therapies work best when you match the energetics of the herb or food, with the energetics of the season, the energetics of your cat or dog and the energetics of any illness, disease or condition that is being treated.

You want to chose herbs that balance the energetic of your pet and the illness or condition being treated. The energetics of the herbs should align with the energetics of your pet to bring everything back into balance. To read more about your pet's hot or cold energies click here.

For example using ginger or tumeric to treat your pet's inflammation instead of a prescription medicine is a great holistic way of treating your pet but before you start, you need to consider if your cat or dog is more inclined to a cool or hot energy. For example is your dog always seeking out warm places and your cat cool places or vice versa? 

The individual energetics of your pet will determine how effectively they work with the energetics of the healing herbs. Warm or hot herbs such as ginger and turmeric could make you hot energetic dog feel worse and exacerbate the condition or imbalance.

Each individual dog and cat has it's own "body constitution" which is their body's level of energy, heat tolerance, digestion, and organ health. They also have individual emotions on how they approach the world. Energetics are the key to using food correctly in order to prevent disease and build your pet's own individual healing cycle. 

The basics of energetics deal with the concepts of hot, cold, damp and dry. 

All pets are made up of different degrees of each quality but your pet will tend to align more one way or the other. Energetics can also change over time and sometimes depend on the season. All of these are balancing out each other. For example giving your cold dog warming herbs in winter and your hot dog cooling herbs in summer. 

It's important you understand the individual energetics of your dog and cat and then match the herbs to their individual needs rather than using a blanket approach when dealing with herbs. The individual energetics would be your pet's day to day feeling or sensation based on the four concepts of hot, cold, damp or dry. Your pet's constitution can also be impacted by external elements such as changes to food, weather, stresses, medication, sleep habits and emotional well-being.

At the heart of herbal medicine is personalising the treatment to the person or animal not the actual disease or illness. Herbs and illnesses have energetics but choose herbs for your individual pet rather than for a particular problem. Be aware and observe how herbs effect your pet. If you match the wrong energetics of the herb to your pet, you'll likely see little to no benefit or unwanted effects. Aim to chose herbs that fit your individual pet's energetics to bring everything back into balance, which will happen over time as healing herbs and plants are working to restore health on a fundamental level, not as a quick fix. 


The Taste of Herbs 

The energetics of plants in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine are categorised by their taste. As well as the ranking below, it's a great way to begin to understand the full potential of herbs.

Pungent - These herbs are warm and spicy. They work with the circulation stimulating warmth from the core to the outer parts of the body. Pungent herbs are mainly heating but there are a few pungent herbs that are neutral or cooling. Many culinary herbs are pungent.

Salty - These types of herbs are mineral tasting as opposed to salty in taste. These herbs are rich in nutrients, very nourishing and are high in vitamins and minerals. They work and affect the fluids in the body.

Sour - These types of herbs are not sour like bitter fruits but much more subtle. They are high in antioxidants and are classed as sour as they are contracting or astringent herbs. These work with the digestive system and help reduce inflammation.

Bitter - Bitter herbs do taste bitter. They effect the nervous and digestive system by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and increasing digestive secretions. These herbs tend to work with the health of the liver and are important to digestive health and the lungs. Many digestive problems start due to a deficiency of bitters in the body. Most bitter herbs are cooling and drying. 

Sweet - These herbs a not sweet to the taste but more sweet in how they work with the body. These herbs have building and nourishing properties. They are adaptogens aiding the body to adapt more effectively to stressors and help balance homeostatis regulation. They help with energy levels in the body, working with and tuning up the immune system. They generally work on all areas of the body rather than just effecting or working with one element. They work on the overall health and are great at easing the first signs of illness or dis-ease such as inflammation. Consider these types of herbs as preventative. These types of herbs can be warming, cooling or neutral.


Food therapies work best when you match the energetics of the herb or food, with the energetics of the season, the energetics of your cat or dog and the energetics of any illness, disease or condition that is being treated.

by Rita Hogan, Dog Herbalist 


Herb Ranking  

If you're new to herbal healing then some of the best ways to start using herbs safely with you pet, is to begin using herbs according to the ranking.

Herbs are ranked on a safety scale of 1 to 5 depending on their gentleness or potency. So unless you working with your herbalist vet aim to stick with and plant herbs that are level 1 and level 2.

Level 1 Herbs. Are the most gentle and considered nutritive herbs. Herbs that are like everyday food such as parsley, basil, violet.

Level 2 Herbs. Herbs that are considered slightly stronger and are nourishing tonics. They help to nourish the body and organs. Herbs such as burdock, red clover, marshmallow root.

Level 3 Herbs. Are herbs that are stimulating tonics, more stimulating to organs and the body and there may be side effects if used incorrectly. Herbs such as ginger, echinacea.

Level 4 Herbs. Are acute-use herbs. that activate and adjust processes in the body and need to be used for a restricted time, such as wormwood.

Level 5 Herbs. Are low dosage herbs. These are strong herbs where the line is delicate between being healing to becoming toxic and these herbs can potentially have potent effects if you don't know what you're doing. These are herbs that would normally be administered and monitored by your herbalist vet, for example arnica.

source: The herbal safety continuum scale.


Herbal Preparations 

Herbs can be prepared in various ways such as water, alcohol, vinegar, glycerin and oil. The main methods are;

  1. Natural method, using parts of the plant as a food or as an ingredients in a recipe.
  2. Infusions or water based preparations. It uses water to extract the plants constituents such as herbal teas and you can use fresh or dried herbs. The infusions use the flowers and leaves whilst decoctions take longer to prepare as it's cooking the roots, bark and twig to extract the constituents. Again it can be taken like a tea and hot or cold.
  3. Tinctures. Are made by soaking a herb in alcohol to extract different constituents from the herb or plant.
  4. Tonic Wines, cordials and syrups. Not applicable for your pet.
  5. Capsules and powders, that can be sprinkled onto food or taken as a capsule
  6. Infused oils. The herbs are added to a carrier oll such as coconut oil or olive oil and form the foundations for creams and salves. These are not essential oils but an essential oil may be added to the cream or salve
  7. Ointments that are oils or fats heated with herbs to be used externally
  8. Poultices

Ideally you want to allow your pet to self select herbs from your herb garden but you can also work with your pet using infusions, which are basically a longer brewed tea, cooled, then poured over your pet's dinner, or try herbs grounded down into a powder and sprinkled on the food or you can also use tinctures. Serving or supplementation will depend on what herb you choose, the ailment and the size of your pet. 

If you're not allowing your pet to self select then work slowly using just a couple of herbs, get to know them—learning about their energetics, what they do in the body, their contraindications, and benefits as described below.

A dog and cat selecting the herbs and plants they need for their day 


Using Herbs Wisely 

Try to use fresh herbs whenever possible as they have the most curative properties and most herbs are incredibly safe to use but as with everything if over used or in excess they can cause a reverse effect. Like all medicines there can be side effects so respect the power of plants and their possible potent effects. 

If you're administering tinctures, then ensure you work with the correct dosages for your cat or dog and always work with your vet if your pet is on any medication as medicinal plants and herbs may interfere with the drugs or their existing health condition.

The idea of healing herbs is that you use them for a short amount of time, not long-term and that you rotate them, which is why if you grow them and use them in line with their seasons, you'll be working with the power of their curative healing. You also want to avoid giving too many herbs at one time.

The ideal would be to allow your pet to self select the herbs it needs from your mini garden, this will reduce the risk of any over-intoxication, allow your pet to eat the herbs it needs, that day, that week etc. all in line with the seasons and your pet's own needs.

The good news is, adverse reactions to herbs tend to be few and far between compared to pharmaceutical drugs and any side effects are normally mild. If your pet does have a reaction to a particular herb then stop its use immediately.


Your Pet's Organs and Energies Associated with the Seasons

Spring 

Spring focuses on the liver and the gall bladder. The liver is responsible for over 500 functions but most importantly it helps eliminate toxins and metabolize fats, hormones, vitamins and carbohydrates. The gallbladder assists the liver and digestive system with breaking down fats and oils, a pertinent part of digestion. 

Spring energy moves upward and transitions from cold to warmer temperatures. Supporting the liver and gallbladder is crucial to getting your pet's energy moving and clearing liver congestion. Click here to read about conditions that are likely to present in your pet and which spring herbs and vegetables to give your pet.

Summer 

Summer focuses on the heart and the small intestine. The heart pumps oxygenated blood to vital organs and tissues. Nutrients important to the heart are magnesium and potassium as well as the amino acids, taurine and carnitine.

The second organ with an affinity towards summer is the small intestine. The small intestine is an important parts of your pet's digestive system because it's responsible for the absorption of nutrients along with the stomach.

Summer energy is heating. It warms the body giving it nourishment. The sun's energy moves upward and outward. Supplementation in Summer should focus on light cooling foods that expel heat while providing stabilizing energy. Click here to read more and see which summer herbs to use.

Autumn 

This season's energy focuses on the lungs and the large intestineAs part of the respiratory system, the lung's, their multiple lobes and airways take in air, oxygenate blood and send it to the heart. The lungs need support and care because they are difficult to treat in cats and dogs, especially with dogs that have short snouts. 

Conditions of the lungs don't always give us the time to work with them as much as other systems of the body because breathing is such an important part of what the body does to stay alive. The Lungs are also sensitive to dry weather so if your climate is dry in the fall, your pet is at an extra risk for bronchial conditions.

The large intestine works with the small intestine as part of the digestive tract and elimination systems. It facilitates water and electrolyte absorption as well as a wealth of beneficial intestinal bacteria which aid in digestion and elimination.

During Autumn, be mindful of the emotional well-being of your cat and dog as well as their elimination and breathing. Click here to read more and see which autumn herbs to grow.

Winter 

Winter focuses on the bladder and the kidneys. The element of winter is water and water represents the entire urinary system. It's energy has downward movement towards the kidneys and into the bladder. 

The goal for winter is to optimize energy flow. You can use canine and feline massage principals, reiki on your cat or dog or chakra and crystal healing to help your pet's body with moving stagnant energy through increased circulation. This is especially important if your pet spends a lot of time inside your home.

Each season is associated with certain conditions that coincide with the kidneys and bladder. Your pet's kidneys are an important part of their disposal and cleansing system. They remove waste material leaving the body as urine. Knowing how to recognize related kidney and bladder symptoms is an important part of preventative seasonal care.

Winter is normally the season when the most bladder and kidney infections, urinary tract infections and imbalances in the kidney occur. Click here to see which winter herbs to have available for your pet.

When using healing herbs with your cat or dog take things slow. Your pets are sentient beings innately connected to nature so learn how your pet uses the herbs from season to season and over time, this process of preventative healing gets easier and easier as you let nature and your pet be your guide in helping them heal themselves with giving them access to herbs and plants they can forage. 

Herbs can provide the daily support the body and organs need to move into or remain in a balanced state of good health.


"A wise wo/man ought to realise that health is the most valuable possession"

By Hippocrates


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Natural lifestyle, naturally health, naturally thriving!!

Resources

Encyclopedia of herbal medicine, Andrew Chevallier
Herbs and plants that heal, Cabecera
The herbarium, Herbal Acedemy Study
Alchemy of herbs, Rosalee de la Foret
Healing Energy for Animals Joan Ranquet
Behind the vegetables, Carlos Chiriani
Do Cats Fart?
Healing Crystals for Cats & Dogs

Related Posts

 

Comments

Guest
Guest - Janet on Friday, August 14 2020 13:37

Wow what great advice. It's so important to understand how the health and organs of my pet can be affected by the seasons. Thank you.

Wow what great advice. It's so important to understand how the health and organs of my pet can be affected by the seasons. Thank you.
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Sunday, August 14 2022

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