FAQ Herbal Medicine

Frequently Asked Questions

Herbs – Herbal Medicine – Phytotherapy

See also: Herbs

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Q. What is herbal medicine?

A. Herbal medicine uses plants or plant-based preparations for the treatment of disease. Herbal veterinary medicine (veterinary herbal medicine) applies to the treatment of animals with plants or plant-based medicines. Another name is phytotherapy (veterinary phytotherapy). At the AVMC, we recommend using whole plant material, rather than the more modern trend of using extracted active ingredients.

Q. Will my horse (or pony, dog, cat, donkey, goat etc.) accept the treatment?

A. Herbal medicine is the use of plants or parts of plants for medicinal purposes. For herbivores, this is a very natural system of medicine and, indeed, there is evidence for a phenomenon dubbed ‘zoopharmacognosy‘, in which animal self-select healing herbs. Animals appear to have an instinctive ability to perceive what may be helpful to them. We have witnessed this at work in horses and dogs. Cats will not accept herbal medicines in alcoholic tinctures. This phenomenon is not universally recognised, even by some herb vets.

Q. What conditions/diseases can be helped by herbal medicine?

A. A wide spectrum of disease can be treated using herbal medicine. The medicines are powerful and have direct pharmacological effects. Herbal medicine is the natural forerunner of modern conventional drug medicine. The scope of herbal medicine is explained in more detail on the Herbs page of this site.

Q. What sort of cost can I expect?

A. It is always difficult to compare costs across different treatments but, in general, successful treatments are very cost-effective. The AVMC’s charges are usually time-based; detailed estimates of cost can be requested from our office (contact details). We are, of course, unable to give details of charges made by any other herbal vet.

Q. Will my insurance pay?

A. Most insurance policies allow for herbal medicine to be used on your animal. However, some will try to marginalise it under ‘complimentary or alternative treatments’. This can result in reduced benefit. This appears to the AVMC to be a travesty, since the treatment is performed by a fully-qualified vet and should be handled under general veterinary cover. Herbal treatment by a non-vet is illegal in the UK and should not be covered anyway.

Q. What is the legal position regarding herbal medicine for animals?

A. The relevant legislation is the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. Herbal medicine can only be performed on animals by a qualified veterinary surgeon (preferably a herbal vet/herb vet).

Q. Can herbal medicine be integrated with other therapies?

A. Herbal medicine can be used by a herbal vet alongside acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, osteopathy, physiotherapy and massage etc. However, it is capable of potentially dangerous summation with aromatherapy or modern drug therapy and must only be used in a carefully integrated fashion with those treatments. Herbal medicines may also clash with homeopathic input, under some circumstances. Careful integration is required if using homeopathy and herbal medicine together. The herbal vet should oversee this aspect very carefully.

Q. Is it safe?

A. The medicines available to a herbal vet can be extremely potent and should always be used with care. Some agents are potentially toxic, if used incorrectly. Herbal medicine is capable of potentially dangerous summation or interaction with aromatherapy or modern drug therapy and must only be used in a carefully integrated fashion with those treatments. The use of herbal medicine in pregnant animals or when someone in the household is pregnant should be accompanied by caution, owing to potential risks that are difficult to evaluate. An experienced herb vet will know this. The AVMC advises not to buy over-the-counter commercial herbal supplements but to consult a herbal vet.

Q. Are there side effects?

A. This phenomenon is theoretically possible with herbal medicines but is less likely than with synthesised drugs and, in practice, is not a problem when the medicines are used appropriately. Ask your herb vet, if you have specific queries.

Q. What is phytotherapy?

A. Phytotherapy is a word derived from ancient Greek, meaning plant medicine. It is a synonym of herbal medicine.

See also: Herbs

If you have questions not answered here, please let us know (contact details)

Back to main FAQ