In summer you will see Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmara) growing wild. It tends to grow near ditches and watercourses, throwing up spires of frothy white flowers, but it’s appearance is not the only reason it’s rather marvellous… Meadowsweet was the plant from which aspirin was first developed, and the difference between Meadowsweet and aspiring tells us a lot about how herbal medicine and pharmaceutical medicine differ. ASPIRIN CAME FROM WILLOW BARK! RIGHT? It’s true that willow bark (or rather the pithy cortex below the bark) is a source of salicylates- the natural form of aspirin. But salicylic acid was first extracted from Meadowsweet. At the time the latin name for the plant was Spirea ulmaria so the man made version (acetylsalicylic acid) was named in its honour; ‘aspirin’ meaning ‘of spirea’! Knowing that Meadowsweet is a potent source of salicylic acids it won’t surprise you that a traditional and modern use of the herb is to treat arthritis. Herbalists in the past didn’t know about the chemical properties of plants though…so how did they know to use Meadowsweet for arthritic pain? Historical herbalists often looked at the form of a plant, or where it grew to determine how it could be used. Meadowsweet, bog bean, and willow are all herbs with anti-inflammatory properties native to the UK, and all are found near water. Growing in the damp conditions that seemed to aggravate osteoarthritis and rheumatism meant these plants were selected as treatments. We now know why they were effective! The other traditional and modern use for Meadowsweet is somewhat more surprising; we most commonly use it where stomach ulceration is suspected. ASPIRIN CAUSES STOMACH ULCERS SO WHY USE ‘PLANT ASPIRIN’ TO TREAT THEM? In developing acetylsalicylic acid scientists enhanced the anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately this new compound also inhibited pathways which protect the stomach so stomach ulceration is a well known side effect of taking aspirin. Taking an extract of Meadowsweet flowers is rather different; as well as the milder plant salicylates there are tannins, flavenoids, and a whole host of other chemicals which give the herb antacid and antiulcerogenic properties. It also has anticoagulant properties. So, we have a native British ‘weed’ which has a long history of being used to treat arthritis and now we know the chemicals in the plant that give it that property. It has given rise to one of the most widely used pharmaceuticals in the world (and new uses for aspirin are reported regularly) and can be used to treat one of the biggest side effects of the pharmaceutical! Marvellous. (And it smells pretty nice too!) Image Credit Integrate CPD

Common conditions that could be treated with herbal supplements. Conventional medicine does not exclude use of herbs on the contrary. Your herbal vet can work alongside your normal vet. This list is by no means complete and not every problem will be responsive to just herbal medication. Please discuss your pets individual case with a herbal vet. Osteoarthritis Back pain due to slipped discs Discospondylitis Panosteitis Tendon and muscle injuries Most cancer cases/ support chemo and radiation therapy or palliative care/ reduce chance reoccurrence Colitis Inflammatory Bowel Disease Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth SIBO Diarrhoea Constipation Liver issues Pancreatitis Skin infections/ some allergies/ yeast infections Ear problems Rhinitis Cat Flu Kennel cough COPD in horses Low immunity resulting in recurrent infections Antibiotic Resistant infections Bladder problems like incontinence and cystitis Bladder stones and crystals Kidney Support of heart problems and conventional heart medication Hyperthyroidism Hypothyroidism Addison disease Epilepsy Fear issues Some forms aggression

Abstract: Curcumin, a compound derived from Curcuma Longa, commonly known as turmeric, is widely used as an anti-inflammatory. It targets a number of pathways that are central to osteoarthritis pathogenesis. The bioavailability of curcumin is low, but new formulations are being developed. Curcumin has an excellent safety profile but consideration should be given to the possible interactions and side effects when assessing patients who are supplemented with curcumin. There is a pressing need for large-scale clinical trials in dogs and horses, along with clinical veterinary studies to identify ways to increase the bioavailability and the clinical efficacy of supplementary curcumin in the management of osteoarthritis.

The first use of medicinal herbs dates back to prehistoric times, with herbs found in graves older than 60,000 years. There is a rich history of plant medicine in many cultures with some of the best preserved traditions being Traditional Chinese Medicine. The world health organisation estimate that 70% of the world’s population use botanical medicine (Einsberg, 1998). It is no surprise that people have used the same plant medicine for animals under their care as long as human animal relationships have existed. In the late eighteenth century advances in science led to purification and isolation of many plant constituents with around a quarter of today’s pharmaceutical drugs having originally been derived from plants. Medical researchers believe it is safer and more effective to deliver doses of pure active chemicals. However, advocates of herbal medicine believe in a holistic approach and that the whole herb or its extract is more effective with fewer side effects. HOLISTIC APPROACH Holistic medicine means treating the patient as a whole; mind body and spirit. By taking a truly holistic approach we must look both inwards and outwards. Looking outwards your holistic veterinarian may consider many things such as diet, exercise, environment, and life history as well as your interactions with your animal. When looking inwards a holistic vet may consider the body as a whole with interactions and connections between all body systems. This is a different approach to modern medicine which is moving in a direction of specialisation such as cardiologists- this is a reductionist approach. Reductionism simply means looking at a piece of a system rather than the whole. Holistic vets believe that the patient functions as a whole and each part is interrelated and inseparable from the rest. Looking at the bigger picture will help your holistic vet to understand the root of the problem or disease rather than just the presenting symptoms. What happens during a consultation with a Herbal Vet? During your pets first consultation with a herbal vet, the vet will build up a picture of you and your pets health by: Taking your pet’s full case history Discussing your pet’s diet and lifestyle Finding out about any medication or supplements you already use This allows your vet to assess the underlying causes of your pet’s illness and formulate a mixture of herbs tailored to your individual needs. It may also be necessary to arrange for other tests to be done. Your pets individual treatment plan will include herbal remedies and, where appropriate, dietary changes or nutritional supplements. Most herbal medicines are given in the form of a liquid tincture that is taken in doses of two or three times daily. Your Pet may also be prescribed a herbal tea, tablets, ointment, cream or lotion.