(FAQ) Herbs and Spices
How boring would your pasta sauce be without herbs or spices? Herbs have long been used to treat and prevent ailments in pet parents (huumans), and apart from smelling good and adding an extra something to your cooking, certain herbs provide both medicinal and nutritional value to your fur kids. Many pet parents are aware of the value of using echinacea for something like a cold, slippery elm for an upset stomach and calendula to soothe scratches or skin irritations. However, few pet parents have further researched the use of herbs for nutritional value as part of their dietary framework(s). The reality is that herbs can pack a big nutritional punch and can be also used to supplement your fur kid's diet.
The great thing about deriving vitamins from herbs is that the body is better able to digest and use vitamins and minerals that come from plant sources as opposed to those that come from synthetic and processed sources! What about the science supporting this notion? Here is some good news;- there is increasing evidence from behavioural and chemical ecology that non-nutritional resources (example, herbs), have a significant effect on the health of wild animal populations, both through deliberate self-medication, (a new area of study called [zoopharmacognosy]) and dietary preventive medicine (or prophylaxis).
- Zoopharmacognosy: The Use of Medicinal Plants by Animals by Eloy Rodriguez & Richard Wrangham (SpringerLink)
- Zoopharmacognosy, Self-Medication in Wild Animals, Rajasekar Raman and Sripathi Kandula (SpingerLink)
Indigenous healers often claim to have learned by observing that sick animals change their food preferences to nibble at bitter herbs they would normally reject. Field biologists have provided corroborating evidence based on observation of diverse species, such as chickens, sheep, butterflies, and chimpanzee. The habit has been shown to be a physical means of purging intestinal parasites. Lowland gorillas take 90% of their diet from the fruits of Guinea pepper (Aframomum melegueta [WikiPedia]), a relative of the ginger plant, that is a potent antimicrobial and apparently keeps shigellosis and similar infections at bay. Current research focuses on the possibility that this plant also protects gorillas from fibrosing [cardiomyopathy] which has a devastating effect on captive animals.
Sick animals tend to forage plants rich in secondary metabolites, such as tannins and alkaloids. Since these phytochemicals often have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-helminthic properties, a plausible case can be made for self-medication by animals in the wild.
There are many books & blogs on the use of herbs available online. We often refer to the book titled "Herbs for Pets", by Gregory L. Tilford and Mary L. Wulff. Self-medication is a rapidly growing topic of interest in pharmacists, physicians, ethnobotanists, parasitologist, conservationists, and ecologists for research and development, and one would be able to assume that the research initiatives will start vindicating herbal solutions as alternatives to chemical. We have therefore only listed those sources, resources and research papers that we used to research the topic of herbs and spices for cats and dogs. There are many more available online and through resources such as Google Scholar.
We should never forget that the ancestors of our domesticated fur kids were wild and capable of looking after themselves very successfully using what nature had provided. It is also important to remember that with herbs (and spices), there are no absolutes, but rather, ranges of active components in a plant. Nature does not create every plant equally. Our list is therefore not definitive, nor exhaustive, but growing and "work in progress", focused on a small subset of herbs and spices that are safe for cats and dogs, so check back on a regular basis.
Articles, References, Research and Online Resources
- The Naturopathic Herbalist [Website]
- Herbal Remedies Info [Ref]
- A Modern Herbal, first published in 1931, by Mrs. M. Grieve, contains Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-Lore [Online Reference]
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List [Index]
- 12 herbs to grow for your pets by Blarowski, Z. (2017) [Online Article].
- How to grow a pet-friendly vegetable garden by Coulter, C. (2014) [Online Article].
- Best and worst flowers to plant for a pet-friendly garden by Darrisaw, M. and Southern Living [Online Article].
- The Best Low-Maintenance, Pet-Friendly Houseplants by Wong, K. (2016) [Online Article]
- The encyclopedia of natural pet care by Puotinen, C.J. (1998). New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing. [Amazon]
- New choices in natural healing for dogs and cats by Shojai, A. (2016). Furry Muse Publishing with Rodale Inc. [Amazon]
- The International School of Herbal Arts and Sciences (TheHerbalAcademy)
- Do recent research studies validate the medicinal plants used in British Columbia, Canada for pet diseases and wild animals taken into temporary care? [PubMED]
- Herbs for pets: The natural way to enhance your pet’s life (2nd ed.) by Tilford, G. & Wulff, M. (2009) Irvine, CA: Lumina Media. [Amazon]
- Dr. Kidd's Guide to Herbal Cat Care [Amazon]
- Dr. Kidd's Guide to Herbal Dog Care [Amazon]
- Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging & Resistant Viral Infections [Amazon]
- Herbal Antibiotics, 2nd Edition: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-resistant Bacteria [Amazon]
- The Nature of Animal Healing : The Definitive Holistic Medicine Guide to Caring for Your Dog and Cat [Amazon]
- The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat [Amazon]
- Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: 550 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments [Amazon]
- Beyond Cortisone: Herbal Alternatives to Ease Painful Inflammation Gently and Naturally [Amazon]