Veterinary Western Herbal Medicine

Traditional Western herbal medicine links can be traced back to Graeco-Roman, Arabic, European and Native-American cultures and has developed itself over the centuries. 

For thousands of years people from all corners of the globe have used herbs and plants to cure or prevent disease.           

V J Smith

Western herbal medicine uses European and Native American plants, and herbs and plants from other areas, e.g. East-Asia, India, Australia, are often used as well.

western herbal medicine - pharmacy
Western Herbal Medicine – Pharmacy

The primary basis for education of herbalists in the UK in the 20th century was the physiomedicalism, that has its origin in the USA in the 19th century.

The theory behind it is to restore the vitality and normal function of the body as a whole, by resolving the underlying cause of a condition and relieving symptoms without compromising the integrity of the body’s Vital Force. 

Western herbal medicine is based on thousands of years of traditional use and is backed up by modern scientific research, clinical trials and evidence.

Herbs of Western herbal medicinal tradition are increasing in interest in the medical community and pharmaceutical industry. During the last two decades, scientific research has been increasingly conducted in the use of medicinal herbs for various medical conditions.

The Concept of Holism and Vitality 

In veterinary medicine, herbal medicine refers to the treatment of your pet as a whole rather than treating a diseased organ system or present symptoms alone and support the body’s innate healing ability by improving vitality. 

vaccinium mytillus - blueberry is a valuable herb in western herbal medicine
Vaccinium myrtillus – European blueberry

Usually this means that we look not only for clinical signs and symptoms, lab test results and imaging of a presented problem, but we also aim to treat possible underlying causes, your pet’s emotional wellbeing, diet and lifestyle.

How does Veterinary Western herbal medicine fit within and alongside conventional veterinary practice? 

There are important differences and some similarities between herbal medicines and allopathic, pharmaceutical-based medicines. 

Allopathic drugs are often still extracted from plant material and these compounds are then isolated, synthesized and refined, concentrated and manufactured into different forms. A well-known pain killer, Aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid, was first discovered and extracted from Willow bark.

Herbal medicines on the other side contain a vast amount of compounds found in the whole plant or parts of it.

Plants include an array of nutrients, minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids, beneficial compounds, e.g., antioxidants.

They have many other anti inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties and also tonifying or detoxifying actions for which conventional medicinal products have no equivalent.

Herbal medicine can be used combined and alongside conventional treatment, as long as it is prescribed by a vet with training in herbal medicine.

Taraxacum officinale - Dandelion used in western herbal medicine prescriptions
Taraxacum officinale – Dandelion

A referral from your pet’s first line veterinarian is necessary to get a full medical history and permission to treat.

How Does it Work?

Herbal prescriptions are not designed simply to alleviate symptoms, but also to restore the body’s natural state of balance so that it can deal with the underlying cause of the symptoms.

Herbal remedies are used for many purposes, such as improvement or general support of processes of the digestive, respiratory, circulatory, immune, endocrine, dermatological, musculoskeletal and nervous system.

Herbs are also used to remove waste and toxins from bodily cells and tissues, or topically to promote healing of the skin.

This effect is achieved by careful selection of the appropriate remedies, bearing in mind not only the important active ingredients but also the plant’s secondary components, which play an important role in the healing process.

An example is the combination of Marshmallow and Echinacea for kennel cough in canines, which may help strengthening the immune-system and protecting mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. The herb Asian Ginseng contains saponin components that may help with hair-growth, as a study on mice suggests (Matsuda, 2003).

A western herbal vet will look at all areas of your pet’s life, including their physical, mental and emotional health to ensure they are treating the root cause.

This can be particularly helpful if you’ve found conventional approaches deal with symptoms, but not necessarily with underlying causes.

veterinary western herbal medicine for dogs
Veterinary Western Herbal Medicine for Dogs

Each patient will get a full physical examination, their individual traits, diet and lifestyle will be discussed. This information is needed to tailor a unique herbal preparation for your pet. The herbal medicines (tincture, teas, tablets or externally used ointments, creams or lotions) will need to be administered on the prescribed basis.

Consulting a herbal vet also gives space and time to assess your pet’s general wellbeing. Even if they’re not struggling with a particular ailment, seeing a herbal vet could help improve energy levels, boost their immune system and keep them to feel their best.

Potential herb drug interactions for animals already receiving care, and how they can be mitigated
Are herbal remedies as effective as allopathic treatments?

Treatment with herbs can be very effective when used appropriately. Chronic conditions especially can hugely benefit from treatment with herbal remedies. They can be used in addition to or combination of conventional medicine and may help to decrease their side effects in some cases.

Is Western Herbal Medicine for Animals Safe?

Most herbs are safe for chronic use but it is very important to seek advice from a veterinary surgeon who is trained in the use of herbs prior to their use.

Only a vet trained in Veterinary Western Herbal medicine will understand the diagnosis along with any contra-indications and potential side effects. They will be able to evaluate chemical drug – herb drug interactions in different animal species and their use for different diseases.


veterinary western herbal medicine for cats
Western herbal medicine for Cats

This is also the reason why we always get in contact first with your primary care vet to get permission for treatment and obtain your pet’s clinical history.

You will find a lot of sources online giving advice; just be aware and check if these authors are legally allowed to prescribe herbs for animal use at all.

We use medical grade herbs from certified, reputable manufacturers and suppliers who guarantee their quality and potency.

Are there any side-effects?

Using the correct knowledge of herbal medicine, the potential side-effects are minimised. Usually the dosages of herbs initially used are very low and can carefully be corrected upwards and be tailored to an individual’s needs. Again, obtaining herbs only from a veterinary surgeon will ensure safe useage.

Tips for taking herbal medicine safely: