Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies
Many people grow a few fresh herbs in their kitchen or in a specially designated herb garden in the yard and enjoy how their fresh flavor enhances food. Well, these everyday herbs can also be added to your dog’s food bowl to improve his overall health and well being. And they can have many other canine benefits around the home too.
Holistic veterinarians have been touting the benefits of herbal medicines for dogs since the Seventies. However, with the current trend towards an eco-friendly and “green” lifestyle for pets, the use of many everyday herbs for dogs become more mainstream.
Keeping it Fresh
Herbs and other plants with medicinal uses are widely available, inexpensive to grow. However, if you don’t have a green thumb or the time to nurture small plants, many are readily available in ready-to-use sizes from farmer’s markets and nurseries and even grocery stores. Many grocery stores also stock a good selection of fresh cut herbs.
Everyday Herbs and their Most Common Uses
A variety of common herbs are known to aid dogs by helping to build a healthy immune system, aid respiratory problems, detoxify the body, have a calming effect, and are a sources of vitamins to boost overall good health and well being, which in canine terms, also means having fresh breathe, and great skin and fur.
“If you are planning to grow a herb garden that can benefit your dog, it’s important to read up on the various herbs from a canine perspective as many herbs can be poisonous,” explains veterinarian Deva Khalsa VMD author of a new book called Dr. Khalsa’s Natural Dog: A Holistic Guide for Healthier Dogs. “Also giving your pet too many herbs at once can cause diarrhea.” warns Khalsa.
Parsley is rich in minerals and when added to a dog’s meal aids digestions and helps to maintain a good pH level needed for disease prevention. It’s also excellent to freshen “doggie breath”. It’s a multi-purpose herb because its also works to detoxify the body, is excellent for the urinary system and is a natural diuretic to remove water retention. Add a finely chopped teaspoon to the food bowl once a day.
Sage has astringent and antiseptic properties. Add ½-teaspoon to a meal. It can also be used to make a mouth rinse to help treat gingivitis. To do so, make a tea by pouring two cups of water over two teaspoons of chopped sage and let it stand for 15 minutes and refrigerate. Add small amounts to the water bowl and gradually increase the amounts. You can also use dried sage leaves to make a tea.
Fennel is also a digestive aid and best used when made into a tea by pouring two cups of water over two teaspoons and once again allowing it to stand and draw before using.
Thyme has antibacterial uses and is also known as an antispasmodic. Khalsa also suggests purchasing Thyme oil and burning it, as the vapor has been known to inhibit airborne fungus and bacteria.
Chamomile has astringent and soothing properties and also supports digestive problems such as flatulence and irritable bowel issues. Once again when made into a tea and added to the water bowl it can help elderly dogs that tend to pace at night, to sleep comfortably.
Garlic is excellent for general good health as it is a natural antibiotic and also has antifungal, antioxidant properties.
“However, if used incorrectly, it can be toxic to pets and can cause Heinz body anemia in dogs (and cats) if over-dosed warns Shawn Messionier, DVM, author of Unexpected Miracles: Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets “It’s best to use it under advisement of a veterinarian. Use one clove daily, grate raw, for every 20 lb-30 lb weight of the dog.”
Medicinal Plants and their Uses
Calendula, also know by their common name marigolds are a popular garden flower known for its bright yellow and orange petals. It has antifungal and antibacterial properties and excellent for hot spots and soothing skin itches insect bites and healing wounds. You can make your own lotion by infusing a lot of the leaves in water and daubing onto topically. Calendula is also widely available in salve and ointment form from health food stores.
Aloe Vera is a cactus plant and the gel-substances in the leaves is excellent for treating burns and healing wounds. Split them and apply the gel directly to the affected area.
Rosemary also has antifungal antibacterial and antiseptic properties. Make a spritz by soaking leaving in boiling water and allowing cooling. Use the leaves to make a spritz and spray your dog’s fur as well as his bedding to keep it fresh and smelling clean.
Lavender has a relaxing and soothing effect on dogs. It is helps reduce excessive oily skin and thus is excellent to rinse your dog at bath time or even add to your dog’s shampoo. Also keeping lavender plants around your home will help repel flies and mosquitoes.
To make a lavender rinse, Dr. Khalsa suggests adding a ½ cup of chopped lavender to four cups of boiling water. Let is stand for 30 minutes and then place in a spray bottle. If kept in the refrigerator, a batch will be effective for five days. It can also be used to spritz the coat in between baths and to keep dog bedding fresh.
Fresh is best: How to grow your own herbs
According to Nancy Matsuoka, a certified California nursery professional and landscape consultant from Mission Viejo, California, most common herbs such as parsley, sage, fennel and thyme can be grown from seeds. The alternative is to buy them in small 4-inch or 6-inch tubs. Some herbs are even sold in six-packs.
“They all do well on a sunny windowsill wherever you live,” says Matsuoka. “They need light more than direct sun.”
Plants such as rosemary and lavender are popular garden plants, but in colder climates can also be grown indoors as long as they get plenty of light.
“If they are near an open window all the better,” says Matsuoka “because without good air circulation they can develop aphids, spider mites or mealiebugs. Such insects can be treated with an organic inspect repellent such as Neem oil or a product called Spirosaid.
Calendulas are considered cool season annuals meaning that when planted in the fall, they will flower through winter and spring and die off in summer. Thus they only do well in warmer climates.
Aloe Vera also grows well both indoors and outdoors.
Matsuoka suggests using a good quality potting soil for both indoor and outdoor plantings.
“Make sure it contains ingredients such as perlite, pumice, peet moss and sand.”
If you are unable to grow your own plants or purchase fresh herbs, many are also sold in dry form in grocery stores or as specially manufactured herbal preparations at health food stores, or can even be bought on-line.
“Try to find extracts that have the alcohol solvent removed, because most dogs do not like the taste of alcohol,” suggests Khalsa. “Herbs and herbal combinations in tablet form, which can easily be hidden in a treat of cheese or a spoonful of peanut butter.”
Growing herbs can be a lot of fun. Some dogs will even snack on them right out of your hand. Don’t forget that you can benefit from them too!