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Amazing Nonconventional Medicines - Useful Plants For Animal Therapy

The use of nonconventional medicines could be considered in veterinary practice. There are useful plants for animal therapy. What could be their effects on different animals?

Author:Suleman Shah
Reviewer:Han Ju
Dec 06, 2023228 Shares75.8K Views
There are several medicinal plantsto treat different illnesses, including useful plants for animal therapy.
The worldwide interest in herbal products has grown significantly.
As described in the study published in Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2003, the animals listed below represent about 70% of the animals treated with herbal remedies:
  • cattle
  • goats
  • horses
  • pigs
  • sheep
They are followed by:
  • poultry (9.1%)
  • dogs (5.3%)
  • rabbits (4.3%)
This is not only due to a general trend towards the usage of natural products for curing illnesses but also due to the availability of considerable evidence regarding the efficacy of herbal remedies.
Furthermore, deeper knowledge of their composition has been acquired through the introduction of new analytical techniques.
At present, the use of natural products is a useful tool in domestic animal therapytoo.
It is well known that animals can resort to natural therapy by themselves.


The term “zoopharmacognosy” refers to the process by which animals self-medicate, by searching for herbs to treat or prevent diseases.
This process has revealed that in many cases, instinct provides animals with therapeutic information, allowing them to choose the plant best capable of treating their disease.
The development of intensive farming in industrialized countries has led to a progressive neglect of veterinary phytotherapy due to the compatibility of synthetic drugs with the modern concept of efficient animal breeding.
The ever-growing use of synthetic drugs can be attributed to the growing ease of their preparation and administration, making them suitable for the pressing pace of modern development.
With respect to pet animals, for whom humans tend to care for as well as or better than they do for themselves, the use of natural products is becoming more and more important.
In fact, there is a growing preference for natural rather than synthetic products because people think, rightly or wrongly, that natural products produce less side effects and undesirable consequences.

Cardiovascular System

Cardiovascular system therapy is primarily used in treating pet animals and horses because it is not cost-effective for farm animals.
Hawthorn (Crataegus) contains procyanidins and flavonoids, which have a slight inotropic action and act as peripheral and coronary vasodilators.
It is used in pets for arrhythmia and cardiac failure, and is not very toxic.
Some herbalists suggest that Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis), which contains convallotoxin and convalloside glycosides, can be used as an alternative to digitalis for the treatment of cardiac failure.
It has also been found that syrup from the wild pansy (Viola tricolor) is helpful for restoring strength to racing pigeons returning from long racing flights.
Although little is known about its mode of action, coriander (Coriandrum sativum), in either whole herb or seed form, is recommended as a heart tonic for horses.


Synthetic products, for example, the pyrethroid insecticides that are related to the natural pyrethrins derived from Dalmatian pellitory, aka pyrethrum daisy (Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium), are widely used in treating skin diseases, especially for ectoparasites in farm animals.
Herbs are more commonly used against ectoparasites in pet animals.
Many different plants are used for this purpose, generally those containing large amounts of terpenes, such as:
  • caraway (Carum curvi)
  • celery (Anethum graveolens)
  • chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
  • coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
  • laurel (Laurus nobilis)
  • parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
  • peppermint (Mentha piperita)
  • quassia wood (Quassia amara)
  • virgin-tree (Sassafras albidum)
Eucalyptus (Eucaliptus globus) can also be used against parasites.
In fact, koalas which feed exclusively on eucalyptus leaves seem to be free of cutaneous parasites.
Pyrethrum powder and a lotion made from lemon juice are used against flea infestations that are frequently found in dogs.
These infestations can be particularly dreadful because they give rise to allergic reactions that often become chronic.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is also an active flea repellent and can be used for preventative purposes. Its oral administration is also recommended for all types of parasitosis.
Tobacco and derris powder are natural insecticides for external use that are well known in veterinary medicine.
Animal kennels are often fumigated with cayenne pepper to protect them against fleas.
A lotion prepared from the plants enumerated below is used against mange, a common cutaneous parasitosis seen in domestic animals:
  • clover (Trifolium pratens)
  • elder (Sambucus niga) leaves
  • garlic
  • lemon (Citrus limon/C. limon)
  • violet (Viola odorata) leaves
  • wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
A dressing prepared from tobacco powder and fresh lime can be applied to the backs of cows for treatment of warble fly.
This dressing is applied with a stiff brush and the treatment is repeated frequently throughout the spring and summer.
A speedy cure for ringworm, a common fungal disease seen in domestic animals, is provided by a dressing of pure, freshly-squeezed lemon juice, which forms a glaze over the skin surface.
Thus, making oxygen unavailable to aid fungus growth.
The Burdock plant (Arctium lappa), which contains fungicide and bacteriostatic substances, can be used for a number of cutaneous ailments.
In fact, a brew of Burdock leaves can be administered orally for depurative cleansing, and the fresh leaves themselves can be applied for cicatrization.
The leaves from these plants also have healing effects on animal skin:
  • comfrey (Simphyturn officinale)
  • nasturtium (Nasturtium officinale)
  • nettle (Urtica dioica)
  • violet (Viola odorata)
They not only revitalize the skin and make animals’ coats shine but also have these effects:
  • anti-itching
  • disinfectant
  • scar-healing
Used for the healing of wounds:
  • cabbage leaves
  • geranium
  • grape vine
  • mallow
They are applied on the wound with a light bandage, which must be changed every three hours.
A brew of comfrey (Consolida maggiore), elder, or rosemary flowers and leaves can be used to disinfect wounds.
Plantain leaves yield very soothing mucilage which treats the inflamed areas surrounding wounds very well.
In addition, the jelly from most cacti leaves is helpful in the healing of old wounds.
A brew of flowers and leaves of meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) is helpful in stanching wound bleeding.


Worms are very common in domestic animals, especially in grazing animals, and they cause large economic losses for zootechny.
A number of traditional natural products are still used in developing countries, and they are often far more toxic than modern manufactured anthelmintics.
However, this need not be a serious drawback because based on their long experience, traditional herbalists are usually aware of these dangers.
Animal owners are also likely to know the correct use of these preparations. However, animal owners may be confused by the numerous new formulations that are seen with the use of manufactured anthelmintics.
They are well known for their vermifuge effects:
  • eucalyptus
  • garlic
  • rue (Ruta graveolens)
Brews obtained from the flowers/leaves/seeds of the following plants are also effective vermifuges and are recommended for dogs:
  • green leaves of the walnut tree
  • seeds of nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
  • flowers and leaves of white mustard (Sinapis alba)
A number of plants with a sharp taste and/or pungent smell are indicated for the prevention of verminosis in pet animals, for example:
  • cayenne pepper
  • celery
  • coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
  • ginger (Zingiber officinale)
In Europe, nicotine sulphate from cultivated tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) has been used against gastrointestinal nematodes found in large animals, such as:
  • common roundworms (Ascaridia galli)
  • sheep tapeworms or double-pored ruminant tapeworms (Moniezia expansa)
Before the discovery of phenothiazine and piperazine, wormseed oil was used against:
  • dog roundworms (Toxocara canis)
  • blood worm (Strongylus vulgaris) in horses
  • parasitic or small intestinal roundworms called ascaris (Ascaris) in horses and pigs
Arecoline and a number of other alkaloids obtained from the dried seeds of betel nut palm (Areca catecu) were used for the treatment of cestode infestations in dogs and poultry.
The extract of male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) has been used against the flatworms:
  • lancet liver fluke (Dicrocoelium dendriticum)
  • common liver fluke or sheep liver fluke (Fasciola gigantica)
It has also been used in combination with carbon tetrachloride for the treatment of distomatosis (liver disease) in sheep.
The male fern’s active component is the chemical compound filicin, which acts as a vermifuge, causing the detachment of the scolex (the parasitic worm’s head) from the intestinal mucosa (the intestinal tract’s inner lining).
The drug santonin, which is derived from Levant wormwood or santonica (Artemisia cina) and other species of mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), is used against ovine nematodes (sheep roundworms).
Kamala, a type of laxative derived from the fruit of the kamala tree (Mallotus philippinensis), has been used against flatworms.
A brew prepared from the dried wood of Canary Islands olive (Picconia excelsa) has been used for the treatment of oxyuriasis/enterobiasis (pinworm infection) in horses.
A well-known bolus prepared using the juice of aloe (Aloe ferox) has been used against horse worms.
In developing countries where synthetic products are rarely used, other natural products are still being utilized.
In Tanzania, herbalists are usually consulted before veterinary help, which is sought only if herbal treatment is unsuccessful.
Herbalists classify the following as powerful anthelmintics:
  • lyrate senecio (Senecio lyratipartus)
  • broad-leaved croton (Croton macrostachyus)
  • hairy heartleaf or heart-leaved vine (Cissampelos mucronata)
Other plants used in Africa as anthelmintics are the:
  • roots of African peach (Nauclea latifolia)
  • bark of the African birch (Anogeissus leiocarpus)
  • leaves and stems of snowberry tree (Securinega virosa)
  • bark and branches of African mahogany (Khaya senegalensis)
They all provide the most effective anthelmintic preparations in traditional veterinary medicine.
An infusion of the bark of Khaya or African mahogany (Khaya senegalensis) is also used as a treatment for fasciolosis.
In the analysis of 18 plants traditionally used in Nigeria for the treatment of animal and human helminthoses, only the following showed significant anthelmintic activity:
  • aloe vera (Aloe barteri)
  • African birch (Anogeissus leiocarpus)
  • African custard-apple (Annona senegalensis)
  • African ebony or jackalberry (Diospyros mespiliformis)
  • coffeesenna or septicweed (Cassia occidentalis)
  • terminalia plant (Terminalia avicennioides)
Papaya (Carica papaya) latex (8 mg./kg.) has been effective in the treatment of ascariasis in pigs; however, mild, transient, adverse effects have occurred in pigs receiving very high doses.
Sarcoidosis in cattle and buffalo is common in Pakistan, and it has a considerably adverse economic impact.
The efficacy of santonin against large roundworms (Toxocara vitulorum) in buffalo calves that were naturally infected, has also been evaluated.
There is evidence that some pasture plants have anthelmintic properties.
In Tajikistan, a decrease in sheep gastrointestinal infections has been noted during the springtime when the plant Ferula foetidissima(known as “asafoetida” and as “hing” in India) is abundant in the pastures.
The powder made from Sosnowsky’s hogweed (Heracleum sosnowskyi), a common pasture plant, cured 60% of the sheep in the pastures, suffering from natural nematode infections.
While other studies did not show such properties, several studies show that other forages exhibit anti-parasitic properties, such as:
  • alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
  • chicory (Cichorium intybus)
  • French honeysuckle or sulla (Hedysarum coronarium)
  • greater bird's-foot-trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus)
In the book Medical and Veterinary Entomology (2004), the authors showed acaricidal activity of aqueous extracts of chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) flowers against the mite Psoroptes cuniculi.

Digestive Apparatus

Natural products are used in veterinary medicine, especially in the treatment of digestive apparatus dysfunctions.
Even in industrialized countries, there are cases where products with active ingredients derived from vegetable matter are used, although this is seen less frequently now than in the past.
Cats and dogs spontaneously eat couch grass (Elymus repens) in order to vomit which performs a mechanical cleaning action in the stomach.
In contrary cases of incoercible vomiting in pets, the administration of gentian root powder is advised.
In order to prevent travel sickness in dogs, the powder obtained from the rhizome of ginger (Zingiber officinale) can be used.
Ginger (100 mg./kg. and 200 mg./kg.) also reduces cisplatin-induced emesis in dogs and nausea and vomiting in pregnant dogs.
An infusion of peppermint (Mentha piperita) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) given orally to dogs for 2 days is useful to treat stomach and intestinal illnesses.
For the treatment of enteric disturbances in pigs bred under intensive farming conditions, cholagogues such as the plant boldo (Peumus boldus), which contains the boldin alkaloid and artichokes which have cynarin as the active ingredient, have been proposed.
In monogastric animals, castor oil is still largely used as a purgative, whereas in ruminants, irritant oily purgatives are generally not used due to the saponifying activity in the rumen.
Indirect irritant purgatives such as aloe (Aloe ferox) and buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) are used sometimes; however, drastic resinous purgatives are never used due to their excessive irritating action, capable of inducing colic pain in animals.
Tannic vegetables such as common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), Peruvian rhatany (Krameria triandra) and cutch tree (Acacia catechu) that are used for their astringent activity, have been substituted by tannin synthetic derivatives, which release the tannic acid more slowly.
The former, however, are still widely used when the latter are unavailable.
The brews of these plants have a lenitive action on the gastroenteric tube:
  • balm mint/lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
  • mint (Mentha)
  • rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)
  • thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
For the treatment of diarrhea in pets, these are recommended:
  • juice of bilberry or European blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)
  • powdered bark of the slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) or parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)
  • brew of black currant (Ribes nignan) leaves and chamomile, in association with carrot juice and rice decoction
In small animals, all the plants that come from the garlic and onion families can be used against diarrhea.
Lemon juice is also recommended due to its disinfectant, astringent, and lenitive properties.
For rumination ailments in bovines, these are used:
  • gentian or bitterwort/bitterroot (Gentiana lutea L.)
  • green aniseed (Pimpinella anisum)
  • liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
  • red pepper (Capsicum annuum)
For ruminal meteorism, a brew of parsley (Petroselinum crispum) and lemon verbena (Lippia citriodora) can be administered together with vegetable charcoal.
For ruminal meteorism, a brew of parsley (Petroselinum crispum) and lemon verbena (Lippia citriodora) can be administered together with vegetable charcoal.
The feeding of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) seems to be useful in the prevention of colic conditions in horses. These plants can relieve painful attacks:
  • gentian root
  • liquorice juice
  • oil of peppermint
Externally, warm clothes soaked in a strong brew of the heads or flowers of the common hop (Humulus lupulus). Thyme and mustard (Brassica nigra) can also be used in the same way.
For intestinal flogosis in horses, an oatmeal mash with gentian powder is recommended; a brew of field horsetail or common horsetail (Equisetum arvense) also seems to be effective.
For bovine colic conditions, the powder of arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea) is used sometimes.
For domestic animals that manifest jaundice, pomegranate (Punica granatum) juice and brews obtained from rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) roots and leaves are administered.
For ruminants, the use of these plants are also recommended:
  • cleavers (Galium aparine)
  • cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)
  • fumitory (Fumaria officinalis)
In dogs with perianal gland inflammation, the dandelion brew can be administered orally, and a strong brew obtained from flax or linseed (Linum usitatissimum) can be applied topically.

Respiratory Apparatus

For the control of cough in dogs and cats, brews of sage (Salvia officinalis) and liquorice roots with the addition of honey seem to be effective.
In addition, syrups or essential oilsobtained from these plants have a lenitive effect on coughs:
  • thyme
  • borage (Borago officinalis)
  • elderberry (Sambucus nigra) flowers
  • bramble or blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) leaves
Massages can be given using eucalyptus oil dissolved in warm olive oil.
In horses, brews of pine needles (Pinus) and the twigs, blossoms, or leaves of coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) are recommended for coughs.
The most effective plant against asthmais elecampane (Enula campana), and chrysanthemum flowers are an alternative.
For their antibacterial activity, garlic and eucalyptus are indicated for:
  • bronchitis
  • pleurisy
  • pneumonia
A brew obtained from the combination of these four ingredients seems to be very effective against respiratory ailments in dogs:
  • lemon peel
  • liquorice
  • pine needles
  • honey (to sweeten it)
For throat inflammation, the fruit of black currant is advised.
For catarrhal syndrome in large animals, the administration of a brew of sage, and the placing of pine and rosemary branches on their bedding are indicated.
To promote sweating in cases of fever, brews prepared using these plants should be administered:
  • common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
  • meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
  • sorrel or sour dock (Rumex acetosa)
  • leaves and flowers of red currant (Ribes rubrum)
Hay tea with parsley also seems to be effective.
Finally, echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) powder is shown to reduce respiratory tract infections in canines.

Reproductive Apparatus

For the prevention of abortion in cattle, the following can be used:
  • fruit of the dog-rose (Rosa canina)
  • strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) leaves
  • powder of the dried root of hollyhocks (Alcea rosea)
  • fruit of the hawthorn (called “haws”)
Garlic can be administered due to its antibacterial activity.
In order to facilitate delivery, the brew of raspberry (Rubus idaeus) is advised.
In addition, these plants have a tonic effect on the uterus of ruminants:
  • English ivy (Hedera helix)
  • feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium)
  • pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
All these plants are also useful for the retention of the afterbirths.
Ivy leaves are always advised after parturition because cattle instinctively search for them on their own at that time.
For postpartum bleeding, vaginal douches of salt water with witch hazel and tonics such as ginger powder are administered.
For the treatment of parturient paresis (milk fever), the administration of seaweed with molasses and milk is indicated, with the possible addition of camphor powder.

Additional Uses

Herbal treatments seem to be particularly efficacious against mastitis.
These plants are useful to treat or prevent mastitis in cattle because of their anti-inflammatory and emollient properties:
  • boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)
  • cabbage (Brassica oleracea)
  • dog figwort (Scrophularia canina)
  • flax/linseed (Linum usitatissimum)
  • herb-Robert (Geranium robertianum)
  • oat (Avena sativa)
  • raspberry leaves
  • scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis)
  • southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum)
Externally, cold poultices of Western dock (Rumex aquaticus) or elderberry leaves can be applied.
When ulcers are present, poultices soaked in a brew of elderberry leaves can also be administered. Antiseptics such as garlic and sage are also advised.
Aromatic herbs such as the following can add a pleasant taste to milk:
  • lavender (Lavandula)
  • marjoram (Origanum majorana)
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • thyme
These can lend milk a pungent taste:
  • cress (Lepidium sativum)
  • fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
  • mustard
  • nettle (Urtica)
To sweeten milk, use:
  • molasses
  • sedge (Acorus calamus) leaves
Use these to increase milk’s fat content and darken its color:
  • carrots (Daucus carota)
  • elderberries
  • flax/linseed
  • Mexican marigold (Tagetes erecta L.)
  • oats
  • pineberries
  • sunflower (Helianthus annuus) seeds
These can increase the milk production in ruminants:
  • aniseed
  • balm mint
  • borage (Borrago officinale)
  • common milkwort (Polygala vulgaris)
  • fennel seeds and leaves
  • marshmallow (Althea officinalis)
  • sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis)
In order to stop the secretion of milk in cows before parturition, the frequency of milking must be progressively reduced and the diet modified.
On the contrary, milk thistle (Silybum marianum) increases lactation in cows by probably increasing the levels of circulating prolactin.
Some plants can aid in reducing the milk yield, for example:
  • asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)
  • herb-Robert
  • mint
  • periwinkle (Vinca minor)
The powder from the ripe fruit of cayenne pepper (Capsicum annuum) can be used as a heat and rut inducer in cattle and other species.
The same is true for the rhizome extract of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), whose link with estrogen receptors has been demonstrated in the uterus of a rat.
For the prevention and therapy of pseudo-pregnancies in bitches, use these plants, which promote estrogen secretion and inhibit progesterone secretion:
  • groundsel
  • mugwort
  • pot marigold (Calendula officinalis)
Dogs and cats with spontaneous tumors treated with acemannan, an immuno-stimulating polysaccharide derived from aloe by intraperitoneal and intralesional routes, showed improvement when assessed for:
  • tumor necrosis
  • tumor shrinkage
  • prolonged survival
The extract of the aloe gel has also been used in veterinary sciencefor external treatment in animals, including:
  • allergies
  • fungal infections
  • inflammations
  • itching
  • pains
These plants have been useful to prevent or alleviate psychological problemsin domestic animals:
  • garden valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
  • hawthorn
  • lemon balm
Garden valerian together with apricot vine or passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) can reduce anxietyand irritability in pigs during transport vibration.
These plants have been used for nervousness and restlessness:
  • blue skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
  • common hop
  • lavender
  • cucumber tree, cucumber magnolia, or blue magnolia (Magnolia acuminata)


Herbal drugs contain active compounds that may find their application in veterinary medicine.
They are used to medicate or prevent disturbances and diseases that involve not only large animals but also dogs, poultry and rabbits.
Natural products are often used as:
  • antibacterial
  • antimycotic
  • antiparasitic
  • disinfectant
  • immunostimulant
In this paper, we have discussed the useful plants for animal therapy as well as herbal drugs most commonly utilized in domestic animals.
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Suleman Shah

Suleman Shah

Suleman Shah is a researcher and freelance writer. As a researcher, he has worked with MNS University of Agriculture, Multan (Pakistan) and Texas A & M University (USA). He regularly writes science articles and blogs for science news website and open access publishers OA Publishing London and Scientific Times. He loves to keep himself updated on scientific developments and convert these developments into everyday language to update the readers about the developments in the scientific era. His primary research focus is Plant sciences, and he contributed to this field by publishing his research in scientific journals and presenting his work at many Conferences. Shah graduated from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (Pakistan) and started his professional carrier with Jaffer Agro Services and later with the Agriculture Department of the Government of Pakistan. His research interest compelled and attracted him to proceed with his carrier in Plant sciences research. So, he started his Ph.D. in Soil Science at MNS University of Agriculture Multan (Pakistan). Later, he started working as a visiting scholar with Texas A&M University (USA). Shah’s experience with big Open Excess publishers like Springers, Frontiers, MDPI, etc., testified to his belief in Open Access as a barrier-removing mechanism between researchers and the readers of their research. Shah believes that Open Access is revolutionizing the publication process and benefitting research in all fields.
Han Ju

Han Ju

Hello! I'm Han Ju, the heart behind World Wide Journals. My life is a unique tapestry woven from the threads of news, spirituality, and science, enriched by melodies from my guitar. Raised amidst tales of the ancient and the arcane, I developed a keen eye for the stories that truly matter. Through my work, I seek to bridge the seen with the unseen, marrying the rigor of science with the depth of spirituality. Each article at World Wide Journals is a piece of this ongoing quest, blending analysis with personal reflection. Whether exploring quantum frontiers or strumming chords under the stars, my aim is to inspire and provoke thought, inviting you into a world where every discovery is a note in the grand symphony of existence. Welcome aboard this journey of insight and exploration, where curiosity leads and music guides.
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