HOLISTIC DIRECTIONS HERBS
By Jeff Grognet, D.V.M.
DOGS IN CANADA September 2010 Page 50
Although many herbs are used based on anecdotal evidence, some have been tested and scientific proof exists to recommend them in dogs.
For example, valerian root, marketed either alone or with other herbs, is' used to combat nervousness. Nicknamed "herbal Valium," it reduces stress and anxiety by altering brain GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) levels.
Valerian appears safe - a six-month trial of valerian, passion flower and hawthorn berry showed no toxicity in dogs. However, it should be used carefully with other sedatives and in dogs undergoing anaesthesia, in case it augments effects of the drugs.
Ginger has a long history of use as an anti-emetic in people. In dogs, it is proven to reduce vomiting in patients on chemotherapy.
Boswellia is found in several canine products designed to treat arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Its anti-inflammatory effects can offer significant clinical improvement; however, although it has no reported interactions with other medications, it can cause nausea and diarrhea.
Ginseng is a fascinating plant with several species having their own chemicals and specific effects.
Panax ginseng, combined with brewers' yeast, has demonstrated significant positive effects both mentally and physically in geriatric dogs.
Korean red ginseng improved liver function and accelerated regeneration of the liver in dogs that had under gone partial hepatectomy (removal of part of the liver).
A medication called Yunnan Paiyao is sometimes used by veterinarians to lower the incidence of catastrophic hemorrhage in dogs with blood-based tumours on their spleens. Pseudoginseng root is the main ingredient, used for its high concentration of hemostatic (blood-clotting) constituents, Though used extensively for this purpose, the only study performed in dogs was one designed to show its benefit in pyometra.
Though it helped, this did not substantiate its ability to promote blood clotting. Echinacea has received immense media attention for its immune-stimulating properties.
In a study of dogs with upper-respiratory infections receiving powdered echinacea root, recipients of the herb had fewer clinical symptoms, including less nasal secretion, less coughing, easier breathing and reduced lymph node size.
Asian mushrooms have been touted as immune boosters that help dogs fight off cancer.
Added to chemotherapy, medicinal mushrooms reportedly helped improve quality of life.
The study did not determine if the immune-enhancing properties of the mushrooms had any effect on the chemotherapy. Along with a lack of data for many herbs, there is always a concern about toxicity.
For example, comfrey and pennyroyal can both be poisonous.
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA), which has been promoted for use in an array of ailments, including neuropathy and diabetes, has caused dogs and cats to appear at emergency centres due to its toxicity.
Natural does not always mean safe.