Herb & Supplement Use For Successful Health Care
Providing the best care you can for your animal is just what you do. Unfortunately, the retail market, the internet and your animal aren’t making it easy to know for you to know what will be the best care.  I mean, the availability of information is phenomenal (my guilty pleasure, online journal databases!) and I just love working with my animals to get better at understanding their lessons for me.


… isn’t there a moment late at night while you’re searching Google for some more clues where you wonder how everyone has become a subject matter expert on animal health and why your animal has to have that product, and the next one, and the next one?  I’m here to call ‘Whoa!’ and hold out a hand to give you a breather!

Firstly, there are four pertinent facts about herbal and nutritional medicine in Australia to consider when you review your health care plan for your animal. Oooops! Don’t have a plan?!  Follow the steps outlined this article I’ve written on how to create one and putting it work for managing the health care of your animal, click >>here.


Traditional Western herbal medicine (WHM) has an inherently different philosophy to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ayurvedic or conventional medicine. Living traditional WHM is the use of thriving knowledge, skill, and practices, drawn from western traditional cultural theories, beliefs, experiences and current scientific development, in the maintenance of health and the prevention, assessment and treatment of illness.

The principle philosophy is that a normal functioning body is free from disease and capable of resisting disease.

This is the absolutely awesome foundation of living traditional WHM!

Instead of looking at a living, breathing entity as being in a negative state of incompleteness, it opens your eyes and heart to appreciating the choices made by the individual in order to continue their journey.  You’ve heard the saying “None of us are perfect”, well,  from a living traditional WHM view point, we all are perfect, we have just selected different physiological pathways to undertake our journey.

In this light, I believe, we are much better placed to choose whether our strategy to assist is actually the best option, rather than being pushed along by an agenda other than your animal’s and your own.

To me this is the energetic meaning entwined in one of Hippocrates guiding principles,

‘Primum non nocere’, first do no harm.


Living traditional WHM employs a whole of body focus to determine what therapeutic strategies will be use to return the body to homoeostasis. Kerry Bones and Simon Mills in their Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy say, ‘Physiological compensation often requires the constant presence of the medicine to achieve the desired effect, whereas physiological support can, in time, lead to a permanent correction of an abnormal body chemistry’.

What is a ‘normal’ quality of life for them in which they are happy and all body systems are functioning optimally?

Your therapeutic tools, i.e. the products and services you use to achieve your goals, may be a direct, corrective approach, an indirect physiological support or a combination of both.  For example: anxiety:

  1. Direct control – using an anti-anxiety (also known as anxiolytic) herb;
  2. Indirect approach for a contributing body system imbalance, e.g. optimising the intestinal mucosa with a prebiotic herb to assist with normalising intestinal microbiota noting the relationship between the brain, central nervous system, gut and enteric microbiome communication (Collins & Bercik, 2009)
  3. Combining products may be appropriate for treating anxiety, but this also introduces possible interactions between the selected products to be considered that may be potentiate or negate the desired actions.


Product quality control – HUGELY variable

Human herbal and nutritional medicines are regulated in Australia, whereas animal herbal and nutritional medicine, for the most part, are not.  This essentially means animal owner beware.  This comes about because products that are not specifically defined as veterinary medicine and can be considered as helping or maintaining natural or normal health, production, or performance are not subject to product or health claim validation or manufacturing monitoring (see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Chemicals Authority [APVMA] explanation >>here).

GMP gives you peace of mind on that the product is fit for the intended use and will not place the animal at risk due to inadequate safety, quality or efficacy during the preparation of the product.

Human medicinal and veterinary herbalists are required abide by GMP in the compounding and prescribing of herbal, homoeopathic and nutritional products and under the national marketing and advertising regulations cannot make specific health claims.


Practitioner quality control – HUGELY variable

Human herbal and nutritional medicine training are regulated in Australia, whereas animal herbal and nutritional medicines are not.  This again, means animal owner beware.  There is only one animal herbal and nutritional medicine qualification that has been nationally accredited as a part of the Australian Qualifications Framework, Graduate Diploma of Veterinary Western Herbal Medicine, offered by one training organisation, the College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies.

You want the best for your animal’s health.  Expect the best.

Expect extensive knowledge that is current with an extensive evidence base appropriate to animals and abides by a code of ethics common to practitioner peers.

To put this all together for you here is a quick check list to use when you next review your animal’s health care plan:

  1. Have a health care plan for your animal! This means you have a direction and a compass to succeed in providing the best care for your animal.  A plan has goals by which you can coordinate the therapeutic tools you choose and monitor the success of meeting the goals.
  2. Know what is normal for your animal. Knowing this puts you in good stead for making a call on when your animal may need some assistance. Grab a copy of my Healthy Dog Lifestyles Through Healthy Dog Ownership ebook to help you with some ways of finding and reviewing ‘normal’ for your dog.
  3. Ask informed questions when you have identified an area where you need to assist your animal; make the provider work for your money!
  • Will the provider explain how their product or service will meet your goals for your animal
  • How will you be able to monitor progress and over what time frame?
  • Are the products and / or services recommended as a part of a therapeutic philosophy?
  • What guarantees does the provider make regarding the product being fit for the intended use and will not place the animal at risk due to inadequate safety, quality or efficacy during the preparation of the product?
  • What are the ingredients in this product and how were they identified, sourced and manufactured? E.g. a label on a nutritional product container states the ultimate feed for naturally healthy horses and ponies but does not provide an ingredient listing only stating that the nutrients are ‘from a raw food sources’.
  • Are any of the ingredients listed on the Poisons Standard, which is the legal title of the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons (common for both human and veterinary) E.g. Azadirachta indica, Neem and Symphytum officinale, Comfrey, are schedule 5 – for topical use onlyArnica montana, Arnica can be used for internal use if the recommended daily dose does not exceed the equivalent of 1 mg of the dry herbal materia,.
  • Is it something you would normally see your animal eat? If not, how is has the product registered with the APVMA?
  • What animal evidence is there to support the product or service?  Scientific – clinical research of various levels and/or Traditional – evidence of a history of widespread medicinal use of the ingredient/s or medicine that well exceeds three generations of use (75 years); and the traditional use is extensively recorded in internationally recognised evidence sources for traditional medicine use.
  • Is the evidence based on equivalence, i.e. borrowed evidence from ‘equivalent’ products, or is there specific animal evidence for the product or service?
  • Is the product the same preparation as the evidence or equivalent product? Different herbal preparations provide different active constituents.  For example, a dry herb in a feed is reliant on the animal’s own mechanisms to access the actives from the plant material, with some mechanisms being better suited to some constituents than others.  An infusion (the classic hot herb tea) of rose hips will extract tannins and release the volatile oils, but not the the flavonoids associated with treating inflammation, which are extracted with alcohol.


Now, take a deep breath! This view of herbal medicine at first glance may seem far too complicated for you traverse and be successful.  Stick with it, you can do it and you don’t have to do it alone.

Get more play time, more trust in each other, and reduce your time and angst in making the right healthcare decisions for your animal.

You can be confident in your ability to describe your animal’s health concerns and monitor for change. Our veterinary herbalist can guide you to clarity in the management of your animal’s health with a 60 minute Wayfinding Consultation.




Collins, S. M. & Bercik, P., 2009. The Relationship Between Intestinal Microbiota and the Central Nervous System in Normal Gastrointestinal Function and Disease. Gastroenterology, 136(6), pp. 2003-2014.

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