So, you’ve decided to incorporate herbal therapy into your horsey or doggies’ life. Great! Herbs are wonderfully beneficial and have many healing, nourishing and cleansing properties which cannot be duplicated by conventional pharmaceuticals.
For greatest success, there are a few rules of thumb everyone should be aware of when using herbal supplements.
1. Early, Often and After
Herbs work best when taken as early as possible in the course of a disease process. Waiting until the patient is seriously sick hampers the body’s ability to work with the herbs to restore health. When taken at the first signs of illness, herbs can often turn a situation around quickly.
Frequency of dosing is another key to successful herb therapy. One dose of herbs daily is great for maintenance issues. But, in the face of illness, frequent smaller doses are much more effective than a single large dose.
Most importantly, don’t discontinue the herbs the minute the problem resolves. Continue using the herbs for several days (or weeks/months for chronic conditions) after everything seems to have improved. The body will continue to benefit from the herbs as it works to re-enforce its healthy state.
2. Easy Does It
Herbs are exciting and can do a lot of wonderful things. However, it’s important to resist the urge to fix everything at once. If a patient has multiple problems, it may be best to introduce one herbal remedy or formula at a time over a period of days or weeks.
This accomplishes two things. First, it allows the body to incorporate each formula in turn. Second, it allows us to evaluate the patient’s response to each remedy as it is applied. If we start with several formulas at once we will never know if the patient might have gotten better with only one of them. Also, were the patient to have an adverse reaction, there would be no way to know which formula was responsible. Adding one formula at a time over a period of days or weeks allows us to gauge patient response.
3. Patience With The Patients
As a culture, we are fairly impatient. In this world of drive-through restaurants and high-speed internet we’re accustomed to getting what we want…right now. Modern medicine often falls into the trap of trying to fix medical conditions immediately. If the pills don’t work fast enough, we get more pills, radiation or surgery. Herbs, by their very nature lend themselves to a more natural and gradual healing process. Be patient and allow the body time to restore its self. Healing is a careful and gradual process. Most of us would rather drive over a bridge that was carefully planned and constructed over a period of months than one that was thrown together in one night.
As a rule of thumb, herbalists figure on about a month of therapy and recovery for every year the problem has existed. Be patient with the patient. Healing takes time.
4. Healing Crisis: The Journey Home
One of the most misunderstood aspects of natural therapy is the “Healing Crisis”. Occasionally, when using herbal or other natural therapies, the patient may actually seem to get worse before he gets better. As the body descends deeper and deeper into a state of illness, it passes through several stages. It may start with one set of symptoms and progress through several other different sets of symptoms as the illness progresses.
Sometimes, as the body begins to heal and restore itself to good health, the patient will experience symptoms that he had earlier in the disease process. Think of it as a journey. If I walk to the bank from my home, I walk first past the grocery store, then the gas station, then the barber shop before reaching the bank. To return home, I must make the same journey in reverse, passing each building in turn in reverse order. Healing sometimes occurs in a similar way. As the body recuperates, it may pass through older symptoms, often in reverse order. Carry on. The body will work through its journey.
5. Mixing and Matching
Herbs contain chemicals that have pharmaceutical actions on the body. Some of these chemicals may interact, positively or negatively, with medications. When we created the Canine formulas for Silver Lining Herbs, careful consideration was given to the problems that each formula might be used for and what medications a dog with any of those problems might be taking. The formulas are designed to be safe when used with common pharmaceuticals. Still, it’s always a good idea to visit with a veterinarian before combining herb therapy with medications.
6. Shooting Straight
It’s hard to hit a bulls eye if you aren’t aiming at the target. The first step in any therapy is to have a good diagnosis. Buying a jar of Kidney herbs for a dog that seems to be urinating a lot may seem like a good idea. After all, aren’t all urinary problems kidney related? Nope. They aren’t. A dog with “urinary problems” may have kidney or bladder issues but she may also have an estrogen imbalance, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, Cushing’s disease, or any number of other conditions.
We don’t do our pets any favors when we guess what the problem might be. Worse yet, we may waste valuable time and money barking up the wrong tree. Before starting any therapy for a medical condition, do your dog a favor and get an accurate diagnosis from a good veterinarian.
So, those are the “nuts n’ bolts” of herbal therapy. Follow these principles and your likelihood of success will be much greater. Your dog will thank you.
By Patrick P. Jones, DVM,
Dr. Patrick Jones is a practicing veterinarian, traditional naturopath and clinical herbalist.