Some everyday herbs to prepare and use...
The subject of herbal medicine, particularly that used for animals, is a very complex one. There are no veterinary surgeons in the UK who use herbal medicines exclusively, although many homeopathic veterinary surgeons also use herbal treatments. The following general information supplied by Mary Boughton of Dorwest Herbs may be helpful to you in treating your dogs naturally.
Nowadays there are a growing number of the more orthodox veterinary practitioners using herbal medicines in conjunction with other treatments. This seems the most acceptable and sensible way for herbal medicine to be used - as another form of treatment to be used when appropriate for the condition presented.
Veterinary herbal medicines are licensed in the UK by the VMD (Veterinary Medicines Directorate) which is a government agency associated with MAFF. There are only 26 herbal veterinary medicines which are licensed in the UK, the remainder of 'herbal' products being sold as food supplements and not to treat medical conditions.
There are many sources of herbs which are suitable for preparation in the home - many of the fresh or dried culinary herbs available in shops can be used in other ways and there are also suppliers of quality dried herbs. The cheapest and simplest way, however, is to pick the plants fresh from your garden or the wild.
As so many of us now live in an increasingly polluted environment, the most important thing to remember when proposing to pick herbs for use for ourselves or our animals is the one of quality and purity. If you are lucky enough to live in a rural area you can often pick plants from the wild, but remember it is illegal to uproot wild plants so pick only the leaves, stems or berries that you require and leave the plant to grow again next year.
Of course, it is essential that you are able to identify the plant that you are going to pick, and unless you are very familiar with the species it is best to refer to an standard book on wild plants or herbs. A good herbal or botanical book will usually give you the information you need to positively identify the plant but remember the golden rule is that if you are in doubt - don't use it! As the common wild and culinary herbs are the easiest to find and require little botanical knowledge, it is with this group that we shall start and you may be surprised at the properties that some of these herbs have.
As carnivores are designed to cope with meat rather than the chlorophyll in plants, they can only make full use of leafy herbs if they are chopped very finely. It is this lack of ability to digest plants in their raw form which is the reason that carnivores will often obtain partly digested plant material by eating cow and horse dung and wild dogs and large cats will be seen eating the stomach of their prey with great relish! It may not be so appealing to us but this does explain the sometimes strange preferences that our domesticated animals still have for these tasty items. So make sure that you chop all herbs very finely before adding it to the feed.
So there we have Parsley, Nettle, Celery, Watercress and Dandelion - all of which can be finely chopped and added to the daily feed. To provide a variety of nutrients it is advisable to choose just two or three of these at a time and change the mix regularly, perhaps depending on the needs of the animal, what you have available and the season of the year. Next time we'll look at some of the cultivated herbs in the garden and how they too can be prepared and used.
Most of the herbs mentioned here will be growing in your garden and as you probably will have either grown them from seed or a plant from a reputable nursery, identification should be simple, but before using any of them always ensure you know the true identity of the plant.
Although its use internally is of greatest value, the juice and oil can be used externally to aid healing of wounds and its strong smell acts as a flea repellent. The cloves of garlic can be crushed and added to the food but it really is one of the herbs which is best given in tablet form, mainly so that sufficient quantities can be administered but also to avoid the smell which some people find unpleasant. To increase resistance to fleas and worms, to treat and prevent infections and increase general health there is nothing to approach the effect of this wonderful herb.
It has much too woody a leaf to be able to chop finely enough to add to the feed but can be given in its powdered form, or pulped in a blender. For external use it is best used from an infusion made with 1oz dried herb to 1 pint boiling water and allowed to cool.
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