Treating Pets with Herbal Broths
Many, though not all, of the plant-based herbal remedies that we use for humans can also be safely used to treat dogs and cats. The tricky part is getting them to take them!
To encourage compliance, I make my pets an herbal tea of sorts, using broth instead of water.
Before I detail how and offer some suggested herbs, I want to be clear that I am not advocating that you replace your vet completely with home remedies. Always do your own research before following the advice on any web site, even mine. If in doubt or if you suspect serious illness, check with your vet.
Above is a photo of my rescue kitty, Rascal.
Last year, he became very sick. He lost visible weight, started moving stiffly, and refused to eat. It was one of those weeks where we weren’t even sure where grocery money would come from and had no way to afford a vet.
I made a big pot of chicken broth infused with a generous amount of dried astragalus root and brought him little servings every couple of hours over the next two days. It was the only thing he would consider eating.
Over the course of the first day, we didn’t see much difference in his overall demeanor. By the end of day two however, he was grooming himself again and by the morning of day three, we could tell he was returning to his rascally little self!
I know when I sip on chicken broth laced with astragalus root, I detect a noticeable sense of improvement in energy levels and feelings of well being. I have no doubt that Rascal’s treatment helped perk him up and possibly even saved his life.
To make this herbal remedy, you’ll need to create a nourishing broth base to work from. Don’t use canned broths from the store, because they usually have added ingredients that might not be good for your pet plus far too much sodium. This needs to be homemade.
I typically wake up in the morning, place a few thawed chicken parts in a pot, cover with water, add a splash of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of Himalayan salt or Redmond’s Real Salt. Don’t use ordinary table salt.
I almost always add a few pieces of astragalus root. It’s a funny looking herb with a funny sounding name, but it’s one of my can’t-live-without herbs. There’s a bit more about it, in the list below.
Do not add onions or garlic. Onions are especially harmful to both dogs and cats and garlic is sketchy, depending on who you ask. (So I avoid it to be safe.) You can however, throw in a handful of carrots.
Let this simmer all day, or even up to 24 hours, then remove from heat and allow to cool for about 20 minutes before straining and storing in your refrigerator for up to two or three days. Alternatively, you can freeze small portions for up to six months.
When you’re ready to make your herbal broth, reheat about five or six ounces of stored broth in a small saucepan until simmering.
- Place a small pinch each of the desired herbs in a small, heat proof jar or container.
- Pour the broth over the herbs and let steep for about ten minutes.
- Strain and let cool to a safe temperature. Serve in a small bowl and watch your pet eagerly lap up their “medicine!”
I use the Herbs for Pets book by Gregory Tilford & Mary Wulff to help me determine which herbs are safe to use. I highly recommend having this book in your home library if you plan to treat your pets naturally. I love my copy!
If you’re not sure a particular herb will be safe for your pet’s condition or they have signs of serious illness, call your vet and double check. Note that I am using very small amounts of dried herbs. Do NOT use extracts and do NOT use essential oils.
Here are some herbs that I like to use; the book will have many more suggestions:
- Astragalus Root: boosts energy levels and gives resistance to disease
- Chamomile: helps digestive upset, nerves and reduces inflammation; it’s a very gentle anti-parasitic, especially against roundworms and whipworm
- Dandelion Leaf: improves digestion, adds nutrients, tonic kidney support
- Hawthorn: strengthens heart; an effective anti-oxidant; extremely safe
- Marshmallow Root: soothes urinary tract and digestive disorders like colitis; helps cats expel furballs. (caution: can lower blood sugar)
- Nettle, dried leaves: nutritious – adds extra trace minerals and vitamins to diet; might help some animals deal with seasonal allergies (others may be sensitive, so test a small amount first)
I grow some of these herbs or purchase from Mountain Rose Herbs.