“The art of healing comes from nature and not from the physician. Therefore, the physician must start from nature with an open mind.” Paracelsus
Because natural products cannot be patented, drug companies prefer to develop synthetic substances as medicines. About 25 percent of all prescription drugs in the United States have contained active ingredients obtained from plants. It has also been demonstrated with many plants that the whole plant or crude extract is much more effective than its isolated constituents or their synthetic counterparts.
“Every Home Should Have an Herbalist.” Dr. John Christopher
During the last ten to twenty years there has been an explosion of scientific information concerning plants, crude plant extracts, and nutritional substances from plants as medicinal agents. It is a fact, that Americans visit complimentary and alternative medicine practitioners more often than physicians at a cost of more than $14 billion per year. In addition, Americans spend an additional $4 billion annually on alternative products such as vitamins and herbs.
This same trend is occurring in veterinary health care. In the past 5 years veterinarians have come to realize their clients' growing demand for herbal treatments that offer a more effective and safer alternative to the growing side effects of veterinary prescription drugs. Herbs will certainly play a major role in veterinary medicine in the future, as there is an increasing amount of scientific evidence documenting their effectiveness. There is also a growing appreciation of the harmonious healing properties herbs possess.
“Those who take prescription medicines must recover twice. Once from the disease and once from the medicine” William Oster, MD
Are there any side effects or conditions where herbal medicine should be avoided? Yes. When an animal is receiving prescription medication, you should investigate possible interactions with an herbal remedy you may be considering. Be careful about mixing herbs and veterinary drugs that have similar actions. For example, it is not a good idea to mix anticoagulant drugs with ginkgo or garlic, both are natural blood thinners; the herb valerian, a sedative, probably shouldn’t be mixed with similar prescription drugs. Similarly, avoid mixing herbs and drugs that have opposite actions. Other agents may alter the way a medication is handled by the body. For example, St. John’s wort, a natural remedy for nerves, may reduce the effectiveness of some drugs by causing them to be metabolized too quickly. When in doubt, check with your veterinarian about herb/drug interactions. In addition, herbs that can thin blood, such as dong quai, feverfew, supplemental garlic, and ginger could cause problems if taken before surgery as could herbs such as ginseng and licorice root that affect heart rate and blood pressure. Sedative herbs like kava and valerian may increase the effects of anesthesia. It is best to stop giving any of these herbs at least 10-14 days before surgery, and be sure to tell your veterinarian that you’ve been giving them to your pet.
“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will protect and never fail you.” Frank Loyd Wright
QUALITY CONTROL: Herbal remedies are sold commercially in various forms such as bulk herbs (usually dried), oils, tinctures (hydroalcohol, glycerin), capsules, tablets, ointments, and creams. The value of these herbal products is variable and is determined by many factors. The best way to ensure consistent performance is to buy high-quality products from a large, established, reputable supplier. Such suppliers attempt to mitigate the many circumstances that can affect the quality of herbal medicines, including the following:
1. Environment in which the plant grows.
2. Part of the plant used. For example, only the ligulate florets of the calendula plant, have any medicinal use.
3. Age of the plant at harvest is important for some herbs such as ginseng, goldenseal.
4. Handling after harvest. Each plant must be prepared appropriately (dried at proper temperatures, kept out of sunlight, tinctured in a medium in which the ingredients are soluble.
Some herbs must be stored in amber glass bottles. Some products such as glycerine-based tinctures must be refrigerated after the container is opened. High-quality manufacturers also label their products well. Product labels should also include an expiration or harvest date. Herbal products typically have a short shelf life. For example, a finely chopped or powered herb bought in bulk or in capsule form will likely have lost a significant amount of its potency after a year. Herbs preserved as tinctures or extracts typically remain viable for 2 or 3 years.
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