Is There a Difference between Herbs Used for Humans and for Animals?
Answered by: Kerry Hackett
Question from: Adriana
Posted on: June 19, 2007

Is there a difference between herbs used for humans and herbs used for animals? There is this series (about cats, by Erin Hunter) and they write the treatments they use: poppy seeds (dull pain), yarrow (makes cats throw up), juniper berries (bring down fever, give strength), catmint (for coughs), borage (stops infection , gives strength, gives milk), marigold (stops infection), cobwebs (stops bleeding), watermint (for stomachache). Is this true? Does it work?

Many of the herbs used to help humans can be used in animal health but that is not a straightforward rule. One, because even though animals have been eating plants for milennia, the practice of modern veterinary herbal medicine is relatively new and many plants have not been tested in animals and two, a number of animals do not metabolise herbs in the same fashion as humans. It has been believed that cats, for instance have livers that function differently than us and cannot easily process plants containing salicylates. However, there seems to be some recent debate on this topic so we’ll have to wait and see what the experts decide.

As for the herbs you list, a number of them are not in general use as far as I know.

Poppy seeds (Papaver somniferum) were employed traditionally in human medicine as opium and thus, yes reduced pain. I have not heard of anyone doing this with cats nor in recent years, humans for that matter.

Yarrow (Achillea millifolium): I have not seen that this herb "makes cats throw up" rather it has been used to stop bleeding and inhibit bacteria, strengthen peripheral blood vessels, reduce inflammation and fevers. Some animals (and humans) can be allergic to Yarrow (dermatitis) and it should not be consumed by pregnant or nursing animals.

Juniper berries (Juniperus communis): often used in bladder infections, gas and bloating, it can also be used topically to help with arthritic pain. Do not use if there are kidney-based issues.

Catmint (Nepeta cataria): relaxes nervous, flatulent digestive systems and to relax a high-strung animal; use sparingly in pregnancy and lactation.

Borage (Borago officinalis): this herb has mild adrenal stimulatory properties and can increase the breat milk in nursing mothers. It can also increase the mucous secretions in the bronchial areas and act as a mild anti-inflammatory.

Marigold (Calendula officinalis): helps clear and heal all kinds of skin related issues: dermatitis, ulcers, skin inflammation, excema, itchiness and wounds. It also can be used as an eyewash, a mouthwash for various gum and mucous membrane-based conditions as well as infections of the digestive and genitourinary tracts.

Cobwebs: not a herb but yes, cobwebs have been used for centuries as wound dressings.

Watermint: (possibly Mentha aquatica?): I have not used this particular mint so cannot comment on its uses or efficacy. However, peppermint (Mentha piperita) has been used for intestinal colic and flatulence, nausea and gastroenteritis.

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