Herbal Medicine

catnipWhy herbs?

Herbs can be used as a compliment to western medicine.

Many pharmaceuticals are derived from herbs. One compound is isolated and concentrated to make the medication. We use herbal medicine because the whole herb has beneficial aspects that get stripped out in traditional pharmaceuticals. Nature put a lot of other healing substances in herbs that Western medicine ignores. These other substances can:

  • prevent or buffer side-effects
  • add other therapeutic effects (e.g. – some herbs act on two systems: heart and lungs)

How do you give herbs to your pet?

Herbs come in many different forms:

  • tincture (an alcohol extract): Dr. Swanson generally use herbs in the tincture form. We find it is the easiest way to give the herbs to cats and some dogs, because it can be used trans-dermally (on the skin).
  • pills and capsules: Pills and capsules are also easy to give because they are pre-measured and can be mixed in food.
  • powder: Powders are generally the form for Chinese herbs and can be added directly to food. They can also be made into a homeopathic remedy for cats and that is administered to the skin.
  • tea (infusion: leaves and stems are steeped in hot water for a short period of time) and decoction (roots and woody stems are boiled in hot water for a longer period of time): Teas, infusions, or decoctions are only used externally as a wash. They can be used internally, but are harder to give, because you need to give a larger volume.
  • loose herbs (dried or fresh leaves/roots/stems/flowers): Dr. Swanson generally does not recommend loose herbs because the quality and amount of active ingredient varies with:
    • where they are from
    • when they were picked
    • what part of the herb was harvested
    • how the herb was prepared


  • Some animal species are sensitive to certain herbs. For example, cats do not tolerate herbs containing salicylates, such as:
    • Willow bark (aspirin)
    • Feverfew
    • Birch
  • Some herbs can have harmful interactions with drugs. I can advise you about avoiding such problems when using herbs with your pet.