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Pet Corner: Warming Herbs For Seasonal Blahs

Chase winter blahs with warming herbs

| January/February 1999

Call it what you will: cabin fever, seasonal affective disorder, or just plain-old wintertime blahs. As winter nights linger, all of us—our pets included—can use herbs to remind our bodies and spirits that spring is truly just around the corner.

At this time of year, humans commonly complain about low back pain, frequent or nighttime urination, weak knees, and hearing problems. While pets may not be able to say exactly where or how they hurt, I often see pets in winter who could best be described as sluggish—critters who are reluctant to walk up the stairs, who dribble urine all over the house and want to go outside all hours of the night, or who ignore you whenever you call.

What we need, pets and humans both, is a little help warming our innards, boosting our mineral intake, and brightening our moods. The herbs below can help us get ready for the upcoming seasonal cycle of springtime regrowth and regeneration.

Winter Warm-Up For Seasonal Blahs

Herbs that can help a sluggish pet are those that are internally warming and strengthening, such as fenugreek, ginger, cinnamon, and dong quai. Not all spicy herbs necessarily fit this category, however; herbs found in hot foods such as curries and salsas may seem warming because they create heat when ingested. But these herbs actually are cooling—they promote internal heat that is then released externally through panting, sweating, and so on.

Determining how much fenugreek, ginger, cinnamon, or dong quai to give your pet requires you to recognize that, in the case of wintertime blahs, you’re offering your pet a tonic, not a therapeutic dose. As tonics, herbs are used in small amounts (a little pinch daily) all winter. In small doses, most pets tolerate even the bitter taste of dried ginger and ground fenugreek seeds, especially when you add cinnamon. Just sprinkle the herbs on your pet’s food. For the finicky pet, you may need to hide these herbs in food or temper their flavor by brewing them into a tea with an added pinch of anise or licorice root.

Unless a specific caution is noted, these herbs are safe. But the strength of an herb can vary from batch to batch and different pets will respond differently. Start with a small amount sprinkled on food.

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