Valerian can help your pets relax, but some cats experience a burst of euphoria before mellowing out.
Photo by Martin Fowler
Many of the most powerful healing herbs are easy to grow in almost every part of the country, and in the space of a small backyard you can grow nearly all of the herbs your pet needs to stay healthy. Here is a list of good pet medicine herbs to grow. It’s important to use organic gardening techniques—avoid using pesticides and herbicides. Also, select only the herbs that are easy to grow in your area. Look around your neighborhood for herbs growing wild and those flourishing in local gardens to get ideas about what to plant.
The Best Herbs for Pets
Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) is a beautiful, stately plant that no garden should be without. In most parts of the United States, it’s easy to grow from seeds or root divisions. In my practice, I used echinacea to support and enhance the immune system. While most sources say echinacea’s roots contain the most potent medicine, I had good success using aerial parts (leaves and flowers), mixed with some root when I wanted a more potent dosage.
Aloe (Aloe vera) is another plant I think every garden should have, even though you will most likely need to bring it indoors during the winter. There is simply no better topical healing agent than fresh aloe juice for cuts, abrasions and especially burns. To use, just break off a leaf and squeeze the juice on the affected area of the skin.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) looks and acts like an invasive weed—it’s very easy to grow, but you’ll need to keep it under control. Motherwort is a powerful medicinal for heart conditions, especially those associated with anxiety and tension. I use either the fresh or dried aerial parts.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is another beautiful, easy-to-grow addition to any garden. The herb can help your pet relax, and also can help treat inflammation and gastric upset. Harvest the aerial parts and use them as a tea for your pet, or chop up the flowers and sprinkle over your pet’s food.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) and valerian (Valeriana officinalis) are relaxing and sedating to all critters, but cats are especially susceptible to their effects. (For cats, the calming and sedative actions come after the intense initial euphoria.) These plants are easy to grow, unless your neighborhood happens to have one or two voracious plant-eating cats roaming the area. In that case, you may either position chicken wire screens over the plants for protection or grow these herbs indoors in pots to keep them safe.
Oat (Avena sativa) is one of my favorite nervous system tonics. It’s palatable for almost all animals, it’s beneficial to the nervous system and it’s easy to grow. When we plant oats, we harvest the still-green oat heads (when the seeds are “milky”) for herbal use, and then we till the rest of the plant under as mulch.
Randy Kidd holds doctorates in veterinary medicine and veterinary and clinical pathology. He has retired from his holistic veterinary practice and now lives in eastern Kansas.
“Pet Corner” is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified veterinarian.