Why give herbs to pets?

Many of today’s pharmaceuticals are derived from herbs, but they use only a few compounds from the plant to achieve specific goals. Whole herbs offer a range of health-supportive benefits to our pets, and address the root cause of disease, not just the symptoms.

As more people turn toward natural and holistic approaches to caring for their dogs and cats, their quest for healthful solutions will often lead them to a plethora of herbal remedies and trendy herbal products. But what exactly do herbs do? What can they contribute to health that good food and conventional medicines cannot?

It’s nothing new

First, it’s important to realize that herbal medicines are nothing new, either to humans or animals. In fact, wild animals have been using medicinal plants as their primary source of medicine and food supplementation since the beginning of their existence, and it’s likely that early man first learned of plant medicines through observing animals. Today, a full 40% of the drugs used in the Western world, including the top 20 bestselling prescription drugs in North America today, are derived from plants that people have used for centuries. However, don’t assume that all medicinal plants are simply drugs in a crude form. Quite the contrary — when taken in the context of what they really are, herbs are capable of many things that more “conventional” medications cannot address.

Herbs address the causes of disease, not just symptoms

It’s also important to know while some herbs can be used to directly replace pharmaceuticals in the suppression of disease symptoms, their performance as such is often disappointing. This is because pharmaceuticals per se are derived or synthesized from only one or a few of the many chemical compounds contained in the host plant for the purposes of achieving a very narrow set of goals generally confined to treating symptoms, but not the causes of disease. But the whole plant can do much more, reaching far beyond symptoms to address underlying imbalances that contribute to the causes of disease.

Herbs are should not be considered alternatives to conventional drugs, but rather as a functional system for supporting the body in its natural abilities to maintain health and heal itself.

Again, herbs are nothing new to the animal kingdom. Animals have been using herbs, by these principles of this brief article, for millions of years. What is new is that hundreds of millions of domesticated animals no longer have access to the medicines their ancestors consumed — medicines they still need, and the selection of which is up to us.

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Greg Tilford is CEO and formulator of Animal Essentials Inc., and an industry consultant and custom formulator for veterinarians worldwide. He is the author of five books, including Herbs for Pets, the Natural Way to Enhance your Pet’s Life. He has taught at veterinary institutions and conferences, including the annual AHVMA conference. Greg serves as honorary advisor to the Japan Animal Wellness Association for international pet care professionals. He is a charter member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the NASC. He founded the Animal Products Committee of the American Herbal Products Association and has served on Health Canada’s Expert Advisory Committee for Veterinary Natural Health Products.