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Herbs II

Herbs for Dogs and Cats II

By Estelle Hummel • July 2003 Newsletter
This month we conclude the two-part article on herbs and the benefits they bring to our canine and feline friends, written by Estelle Hummel, Founder of the Coyote Springs, Inc, and manufacturer of Tasha's Herbs for Dogs and Cats.

In the June 2003 issue of B-Natural’s Newsletter, we featured the section of the article that explained what herbs are and can they aid in the health of dogs and cats. This section explains how herbs differ from pharmaceuticals, standardization and regulation, the different forms herbs can be given, and what the appropriate dosages are.

Again we would like to give special thanks to Tasha's Herbs for writing this article and giving us permission to reprint it and present it to the B-Natural’s audience.
Q. How do herbs differ from pharmaceuticals?
Herbal remedies are not pharmaceutical drugs. Pharmaceuticals isolate only one property of the plant or are often chemically derived, and thus can cause undesirable side effects. Pharmaceutical drugs can yield favorable short term results, which are certainly necessary and can be life-saving in a crisis situation. As compared to their pharmaceutical counterparts, herbs exhibit a slower and deeper action. Whole herb remedies rarely cause side effects due to the fact that herbs contain all of the properties of that particular plant or plant part, synergism. If one property would cause side effects, the other properties present counteract the undesirable quality.
1) Pharmaceutical drugs often treat the symptoms and not the source of the disease or imbalance. Treating only the symptoms can drive the true cause deeper into the body, subsequently causing a more serious illness. The underlying cause of the malady must be addressed before healing can begin. The longer only the symptoms are treated and suppressed, the more difficult will be the healing process of the underlying cause.
Again, it is important to note that pharmaceutical drugs are of critical importance in life threatening situations, and are sometimes extremely necessary. Herbs take time to work and may or may not be indicated for use along with or following the use of the drug. Sometimes herbs and drugs (and some foods) should not be used in conjunction, such as in the case of a circulatory/blood thinning support herb and a pharmaceutical blood thinner.
2) Pharmaceutical drugs often cause undesirable side effects, since they isolate chemical properties. Isolation of one property will often yield favorable short term results but this isolation of the active chemical property can and does often produce negative side effects (possibly to liver and kidney function).
Whole herbal remedies contain all of the properties of that particular plant or plant part. One benefit of this is: if one property should cause side effects, then there are other properties in that plant which will counteract that undesirable quality. Less possibility of side effects. Another benefit of using the entire plant in an herbal remedy is that the properties of the plant work synergistically in the body. This means that the properties of the plant that interact together can accomplish healing that each property alone could not.
As compared to their pharmaceutical counterparts, herbs exhibit a slower and deeper action. They treat sources, not just symptoms. They help the body accumulate strength that is needed to stay healthy and usually without undesirable side effects.
To quote David Hoffman, a respected herbalist writer, lecturer and teacher, “The biosphere was not waiting for the evolution of multinational drug companies before there could be healthy animals.”
Q. What about standardization?
Standardization of herbs is popular right now. It often helps people who are used to using and prescribing pharmaceuticals to feel more comfortable.
Standardization is of 2 main types: active constituent extracts and marker extracts.
– The active constituent isolates an active ingredient and concentrates it to a level not naturally found in the plant. The isolate is manipulated at the expense of the whole herb constituents, other healing properties are lost, along with buffering compounds that may reduce adverse reactions.
– In a marker extract, the active biochemical principle is unknown, so a component characteristic is used as a marker. The entire extract is treated as active, and all plant constituents are present.
Standardization does not necessarily make an herb more potent or effective. The quality of the original botanical material, when the plant was picked, the part of the plant used, processing and so on – these are the most important factors as to the effectiveness of the product. A few herbs work well with standardization, like Ginko Biloba where the effective constituents are minimally present in the plant.
There is no universally accepted standard for standardization and the product may not contain the herb at all but just the marker compound. In fact, the marker compounds may not even be the constituent that works.
Traditional herb forms of high quality contain a wider range of plant constituents and have been proven to work therapeutically for centuries.
Q. In what forms can herbs be given?
Herbs can be ingested fresh or dried; in capsules, tablets, alcohol tinctures, extracts or glycerites. Herbs eaten fresh, will supply the most nutrients and enzymes of that plant. Whereas glycerites and tinctures, for example, will be more concentrated, more quickly assimilated, and, when used in formula, will accomplish a more complete healing. When you use herbal remedies, be prepared to be patient to see the benefits, because normal bodily healing processes take time.
1) Tablets are the most available form. However they contain fillers and take time to dissolve, sometimes don’t dissolve, sometimes are not assimilated and can be difficult to administer to a dog or cat. They take time to work, if they work.
2) Capsules usually contain the dried and ground up plant – sometimes they contain dried extracts. The dried plant loses potency over time, so more capsules are needed to obtain the desired effect. The capsules containing extracts are preferable. Capsules can also be difficult to administer.
3) Tinctures, or extracts, are made up of plants extracted in ethyl alcohol and water or in the case of fresh plants, just ethyl alcohol. This is the most effective method for extracting all of the plant properties including resins and oils. Also it is the best preservative; it can preserve an extract or tincture for many, many years. Many plants are best processed fresh, but some only can be processed dried. Usually there is a choice. Although alcohol tinctures are concentrated, they are not very palatable and are difficult to administer to cats and dogs.
4) Glycerites are very similar to tinctures. The plant properties are extracted in vegetable glycerin and water instead of alcohol. Vegetable glycerin does not extract oily or resinous plant properties, so plants to be processed must be chosen carefully, with this in mind. Glycerites are very palatable to dogs and (often) to cats. They have a somewhat shorter shelf life (fewer years in most cases) than alcohol extracts, but much longer than using just the dried plant. Some plants can be extracted in a concentration of vegetable glycerin, alcohol and water for a good balance of property extraction, preservation and palatability.
Glycerites are concentrated and readily assimilated, so only a dropper full for a dog or a few drops for a cat is needed.
Remember that when you are using herbal remedies, no matter what the form, you need to be prepared to be patient to see the benefits since normal bodily healing processes take time.
Q. What’s an appropriate dosage?
Herbs work with the body. Every individual is different from one another, including dogs and cats, as well as humans. Some will sensitively respond to a small dose, some will need larger doses to elicit a healing response.
Use herbs in a range of dosages from just a few drops to a half dropper full for cats and from a quarter dropper full to two or three droppers full for dogs, one to several times per day.
Observation of the animal is most helpful. Begin with the recommended dosage and increase it if needed. Dosages also depend on the severity of the illness…
For most healing formulas give dosage for 6 days on and 1 day off. Take a week or two break from the formula every two to three months. This is helpful because the body can get used to the herb and can cease the proper action. For nutritional formulas there is no need to take a break.
Q. Regulation?
Herbs are regulated as supplements for humans (only) by the U.S. Food and Drug administration. They have full power to take dangerous herbs or herb fakery off the market. Since there is no separate regulation for supplements for animals, companies which follow the regulations for humans will be safest for your dog or cat,
So, herbs and herbal formulas indeed are very appropriate options to aid in the health of dogs and cats. To build and maintain ongoing health, to address problems effectively and safely.

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