Some animal experts have asserted that pets intuitively eat plants according to their specific medicinal value -- that is, as long as they have several plants to choose from. The problem, however, is that we choose our plants for beauty rather than edibility. So when a pet has only household plants or landscaping to choose from, it can lead to something more serious than a bellyache, especially if the plants are toxic or sprayed with chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Even if you don’t have a green thumb, herbs tend to be easy to grow and are worth the minimal effort. Herbs grow easily, are delicious, and certain herbal remedies are not only adored by your pet, but can also be very good for their health and useful for treating certain ailments they might have. Even better, many double as home remedies for you and your family.
Plant these 10 herbs for your kitties…
Catnip: Catnip is the king of cat herbs. Catnip is beloved by felines the world over, and for good reason, it makes them very happy. It’s sort of like an after work cocktail for cats, relieving them of stress and nervousness. Also, if your cat is always scratching, and seems to have itchy skin, a catnip “tea bath” can soothe kitty’s skin.
Cat Thyme: If your cat doesn’t react to catnip, then cat thyme may just be you and your cat’s best friend. That is, if you can withstand its awful odor. Cat thyme has the same soothing effects as catnip, with the attendant feelings of contentment. And everyone loves a content cat. If you do go for cat thyme, however, you may want to pot a few plants, as they are very slow growing.
Valerian: This pungent herb is best known for helping people to relax and get a good night’s sleep. Not so for Mr. Whiskers. Valerian works as a stimulant on cats; good for transforming lazy, fat cats into exercise machines. Pair this with the fact that cats actually like eating the plant and you’ve got the perfect formula for a healthy, furry feline.
Chamomile, Calendula and Echinacea: These three herbs have many purported medicinal properties, including the alleviation of certain skin issues such as itching. Discuss with your veterinarian how they best serve your cat and in what form. Many veterinary herbalists prepare chamomile, calendula and Echinacea as tinctures.
Licorice Root: Not only does it taste good to your cat, licorice root is good for you, too. As it is natural cortisone, licorice root can be used to soothe itchy kitties with allergies, endocrine (the endocrine gland affects metabolism, growth and mood) and digestive issues, as well as respiratory problems like colds, since it soothes mucus membranes. Other benefits of the licorice root include blood cleansing and anti-inflammatory properties, so it can be very useful for cats with arthritis.
Cat’s Claw and Dandelion Root: Both of these herbs are good for you and your cat. A tincture made out of dandelion root and cat’s claw can help with itching for cats, especially those with allergies, as it contains natural cortisone. If kitty is trying to watch their figure, try making them a salad with dandelion leaves.
Goldenseal: Goldenseal can be used as a natural disinfectant on wounds and, in conjunction with saline, may help shrink swollen eyes due to infections and allergies.
Plant these eight herbs for your dog…
Aloe Vera: This spiky leafed herb is pretty amazing. Its medicinal value has been appreciated since ancient times, helping to heal wounds and even stomach ulcers in people, amongst other things. You’ll be glad to know it’s also good for your dog. Aloe Vera can be either applied topically, using the natural gel in the leaves as a treatment for burns, scrapes, and minor irritations or given internally to help with conditions such as gas, constipation and infections.
Calendula Flowers: The bright and sunny flowers of this easy-growing herb may be used to treat cuts, scrapes and wounds, both on you and your dog. While it has many different applications (including anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and the cooking pot), it’s mostly used to heal wounds. The flower petals, meanwhile, can be applied directly as a wound dressing, or made into a tea to be used as an antiseptic wash. The antiseptic quality of the herb helps prevent bacterial growth, which is good news for your dog and bad news for the bacteria.
Ginger: Not only is the root of the ginger herb delicious, but it’s been highly prized for centuries as a medicinal herb. It can be made into a tea or tincture, and is excellent at settling a doggy’s upset tummy.
Goldenseal: This herb is a powerful antibiotic that prevents the bacteria from latching onto the cell walls. It can be used as a tincture, tea, or wash for dogs with eye infections or weepy eyes. It’s also useful in treating stomach and bowel ailments.
Milk Thistle: Milk thistle protects the liver against damage and also improves liver function. In fact, it’s an important extract to use if your dog has been on any medicine that may affect the liver.
Valerian, Chamomile and California Poppy: This trio of herbs can be used to treat a hyper dog. They are natural relaxants for dogs, and also have added health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, asthma, and even working against pesky parasites. Tinctures, teas, and extracts all work well, although with Valerian, only a few drops are needed.
Of course, with any treatment, herbal or otherwise, make sure to consult your vet prior to using herbs. Like you, your pet should benefit from these natural wellness boosters, but only under professional supervision. Happy herb growing!