I became interested in herbal medicine as I became increasingly frustrated with the limitations of veterinary medicine in treating the symptoms and our lack of supporting of the immune function to improve healing and prevent further disease.
Our job as Veterinarians is to relieve the discomfort of your animals as quickly as possible and we do this exceptionally well!
My aim is to help you understand that supporting and nourishing your animals body systems is also a very important part of treatment. It is integral in healing the underlying problems and in preventing further complications/flare ups and disease. Diet also becomes a very important factor in your animals healing but we will discuss that at another date.
Herbal medicine or phytotherapy is the science of using plants, plant parts and preparations made from plants to treat and prevent diseases. Until the 1930’s the British pharmacopoeas (still used in Australia) composed mostly of plant substances, simple compounds from nature and some animal products. Pharmacopoeas of the world today still contain a number of plant drugs. Interestingly the word ‘drug’ traditionally means ‘dried plant material’! Synthetic new preparations have become more popular as the multinational pharmaceutical industries have boomed and plant substances have been elbowed out as unscientific and non- standardisable.
It is important to recognise plants have been utilised in many cultures for thousands of years with miraculous healings i.e. Chinese (western & traditional medicine used alongside each other), Tibetan, Egyption, Indian, native African, Nth American and Oceanic tribes.
About 3000 years ago, Ascepios of Thessaly, one of the great men of ancient medicine, gave the following sequence for the use of therapeutic agents: ‘First the word- then the plant – Lastly the knife.’ Modified by Rudolf Fritz Weiss to ‘First the word, - then the herbal drug – then the great synthetic drug – and last the knife’. The important factor here is least invasive to most invasive.
The types of plants used range from those with powerful actions such as Digitalis to those with very gentle yet effective actions such as chamomile and mint. Many of the medications used in western medicine today were derived from plants, but generally an active principle of the plant has been utilised. The disadvantage of a synthetically produced drugs with technically the same active ingredient as a plant, is that the many protective properties of utilizing a whole plant have been disregarded this therefore leads to many of the side effects we experience with western medicines.
Herbs are not all ‘safe’, there are some very powerful herbs that have side effects that can be highly dangerous, therefore is important to know and understand the individual plants, their potential actions and indications. This is why it is important to consult with a herbalist.
Herbs are very complimentary to our treatments in veterinary medicine and can improve the outcome of your animal’s illness significantly. The aim of herbal medicine is to support the animals body systems and promote healing rather than just treating and masking the symptoms. The benefit of including herbs in your animals treatment regime is to minimize the chance of recurrence and to improve recovery time.