Natural Dog Health-Herb Actions
Have you noticed how your dog occasionally looks for certain plants and occasionally grazes on perhaps grass, chickweed, dandelion leaves, couchgrass, cleavers, fennel, mustard, borage? There are many reasons for this and dogs intuitively know the actions of plants. Science has recognized this and it is now called zoopharmacognosy -the study of how animals seek out certain plants to treat illness.
The powers of herbs cant be denied, herbal actions include the ability nourish your dog’s immune system (i.e. in recurrent infections, after frequent and unsuccessful antibiotic use), build the strength of the adrenal glands (i.e. after overuse of steroids, chronic fatigue), stimulate the regeneration of damaged liver tissue (i.e. after ingesting a poison, liver damage), stimulate milk production, improve digestion (i.e. diarrhea in dogs, constipation, bloating) and that’s just to name a few!
Specifically these actions can be categorized as:
TONIC: gradually restore and strengthen a dog’s entire system by helping cells, tissues and organs to maintain tone, or balance the dog’s body. Certain herbs have the affinity to strengthen either a specific organ, system, or the entire body. Tonic herbs are especially beneficial for the aging and elderly dog. They are a source of vitamins and minerals that are highly absorbable, and support and maintain the body’s own efforts to defend itself from disease. They are considered to be normalizing and nurturing.
ALTERATIVE: were at one time known as ‘blood purifiers’ due to their ability to gradually cleanse the blood and help the body to eliminate toxins more efficiently. Alterative herbs restore the proper function of the body and increase dog health and vitality via this action.
ANTIMICROBIAL; herbs which help the dogs body to destroy or resist pathogenic micro organisms, they help to clear up infection by strengthening the body's natural defenses
ADAPTAGENIC: Adaptagenic herbs increase the resistance to physical, environmental, emotional or biological stressors. Are considered strengthening and increase resistance to stress.
CARMINATIVE: herbs that are rich in volatile oils, often highly aromatic. They stimulate peristalsis of the digestive system and relax the stomach, thereby soothe and support digestion and help reduce gas and bloating in the digestive system.
DEMULCENT: herbs which soothe and protect irritated or inflamed internal gastrointestinal tissue (i.e. inflammatory bowel syndrome, after vomiting, diarrhoea in dogs)
ANTIINFLAMMATORY: herbs which reduce and combat inflammation, applicable in any inflammatory condition such as arthritis, in most cases where acute pain, stiffness and swelling is a symptom, gastritis, injuries.
NERVINE: tone, strengthen, and nourish the the nervous system of the dog. May further act as a stimulant (i.e. in depression with fatigue), or relaxant (i.e. anxiety, hyperactivity, restlessness).
DIURETIC: Herbs that increase the flow of urine and help in the removal of toxins from the system. Great for water retention, arthritis, lymph swellings, infections and stones in the urinary system, and help clear skin conditions.
All herbs have numerous actions. For example, peppermint whose actions include carminative (reduces bloating and indigestion), nervine (nourishes the nervous system), analgesic (reduces and relieves pain), antispasmodic (reduces spasm and cramping), antiseptic (kills germs), aromatic and digestive (stimulates digestion)-amazing what only one plant can do!
The above mentioned list of actions are also just actions that herbs have on the internal functions of the body. Herbs also can be used topically (i.e. for wounds, skin infection) and inhaling their essential oils (aromatherapy) have powerful effects on the dogs physiology. In addition, plants can positively affect a dog’s emotional state rapidly when used as flower essences which work on an energetic level and are fantastic for dogs who have physical problems that appear to involve emotional stress. Homeopathic remedies are sourced from plants too and work very rapidly acting as catalysts for the body to heal itself (i.e. arnica, the first aid remedy for fractures, sprains, muscle soreness, prevention of bruising). We can see why plants have always been regarded with great respect for thousands of years in cultures older and wiser than our own.
Pharmaceutical industries recognize the power of plants. They try to isolate one active constituent to synthetically synthesize and potentiate just one action. This leads to many detrimental side effects. By looking at this brief list we can now perhaps begin to question whether it’s perhaps the mysterious synergy between these constituents that give plants their gentle yet powerful potential for healing. With each new horror story of tragedies that have been induced by drugs thought to be harmless for years, more people are now seeking safer alternatives for their dogs. When we respect and turn to nature we empower ourselves, and return to a wholeness that’s connected to the earth, and not the laboratory.