Thursday, January 27, 2011

4 Wonderful Herbs to Keep on Hand

     I discovered Slippery Elm Bark a number of years ago when working with a raw feeders group and always have a bottle on hand now.  There are many wonderful herbal remedies out there.  Here are my top four  "must-haves" when it comes to remedies to have on hand not just for hospice care, but for all animal care.

     1.  Slippery Elm Bark.  No, don't go out and scrape bark from a tree.  This is harvested from the inner bark of a specific tree.  Using the wrong tree, or wrong part of the tree can cause big problems.  You can find it at most natural food stores and sometimes even your local pharmacy or grocery store.  It is an ancient Native American remedy that coats the digestive tract - making it perfect for treating diarrhea and digestive upset without causing constipation or other side effects.  It is also an astringent and anti-inflammatory.  Some report good luck using it for painful coughs such as kennel cough.  I have good luck simply giving the capsules to animals, but you can also make a tea from it using one teaspoon to 8 ounces of hot water.  Once sufficiently cool give to your animal.  A poultice can be made for skin irritations (mix with water to form paste). 

      2.  Aloe Vera.  Works beautifully as a soothing wound dressing for rashes, burns and scrapes (but not deep or open wounds).  It also reduces itching from fleas, poison ivy and healing incisions and wounds.  If you can, the best thing to do is keep a living plant in your home.  Then all you need to do is break off a leaf and apply.  Otherwise, there are a number of varieties available in health food stores.  Look for one that is pure with no additives (especially colorings) and preferably organic.  While some give aloe internally for vomiting or diarrhea, others have reported problems, so use caution.

     3.  Chamomile.  This herb is commonly used for several purposes.  It can be calming both internally and externally.  For digestive upset, particularly from nervousness, gas, discomfort - and also for trouble sleeping - Chamomile tea can be helpful.  Brew tea at half the strength you would make for human consumption.  It can also be used for itching and irritation.  For this purpose, brew a cup of tea, add a pinch of sea salt and then let cool.  Apply up to 3 times a day.  One of the great uses for Chamomile is for eye irritation.  Brew tea, cool, dip a clean cloth in the tea, then hold over the CLOSED eye for a few minutes several times a day.

     4.  Alfalfa.  Alfalfa is very helpful for animals with arthritis, helping with joint stiffness and pain.  It contains natural plant steroids.  Make a tea from one to three teaspoons of dried alfalfa and serve to your animal either alone or mixed with food.  The dosing amount varies depending on the size of your animal.  Note: Alfalfa contains a high level of Vitamin K and can interfere with anticoagulant medications.  Make sure you speak with your vet if this could be an issue for your animal.

Remember: Always, always, always check with your own veterinarian to make sure there is no reason your animal could not or should not receive these herbal supplements.  Your veterinarian is the best source for information about dosing, uses, interactions, and contraindications. 

Do you have herbal remedies you like?  Please share them with us!


  1. Alfalfa is also good for digestion! But not as great as slippery elm bark, which should be the first line of defence for digestive problems - vomitting, diarrhoea.

    For flu' we use mullein, licorice, echinecea and elderberry.

    For liver disorders, burdock root and milkthistle.

    For kidney failure: nettle, alfalfa, spirulina, chlorella, burdock root, dandelion root, kelp

    For nerve disorders and anxiety, skullcap and St John's wort. Valerian also helps for anxiety.

    For all herbs - 3 hours before or after regular pharmaceutical medications.

  2. Thank you for the suggestions! I would be interested to hear others' experiences with them.