Welcome to Herbs From The Garden and Beyond!
I’m Julie James, and I’m so pleased to be asked to share some herbal wisdom with you all via the Green Man blog—this is a great medium for those of you who can’t get to classes, or who want a peek into what classes might be like, or just want some herbal education. I’ll be sharing information with you in much the same style as when I teach at the store—so it may jump around a bit, we might see something shiny off the path and go investigate, I’ll likely get all opinionated and huffy about a few things, and hopefully you’ll be stimulated and begin thinking of plants and herbal medicines in a different light.
I’ve been teaching about herbal medicines for over 25 years, and while I was very well trained in school, and by my mentors and teachers, I must say that it has been in teaching that I’ve gained the most knowledge, and much of that has been through discussion, feedback, debate and sharing that goes on during classes, from all of you. And while I’ll try to give you a broad view of the plant world in this column, nothing compares with getting your hands dirty, for learning. So you’re welcome to read and ask questions, but after it’s all said and done, you need to go DO the work!
Don’t be an armchair herbalist who knows stuff because they read it somewhere. Be a real herbalist who knows stuff because you’ve tried it and listened to your body, because you grew the plant, or found it growing in the wild, and listened to what it had to say, and because you’re willing to drink the nasty stuff, smear it on your skin, plant the seeds, snort it, bathe in it, love it.
And above all: Show some common sense. If you have allergies, then be mindful and cautious. Don’t believe everything you read (not even from me). Do your due diligence, especially if you have health problems or are giving plant medicines to another person. I’m not a doctor (thank the gods, because I’m just no good with blood and guts), I’m not diagnosing or prescribing, and anything you do, YOU are responsible for. That goes as much for herbalism as it does for magic.
So, with that out of the way, make a cup of tea, pull up a chair, and let’s talk about plants.
In this first article, I’ll introduce you to using herbs for care of companion animals. My focus is mainly on cats and dogs, as that’s the majority of most people’s furry friends, but much of this can be translated for rabbits, lizards, birds, horses and the like. Not all of it, though, so again, use common sense and do your research.
If you have questions, leave them here on the blog and I’ll get back to you. Eventually.
The best use of herbal medicines, in animals and humans, is as tonics and nutritives, nourishing and supporting organ systems and allowing healing to occur as a result of regaining balance. That being said, there are many powerful herbal medicines available to us, which work often far better than drugs and other harmful interventions.
Because we have evolved together on the planet, animals and plants have an affinity and recognition that animals and drugs do not. And since a large part of the healing mechanism of plant is to boost nutrition and enhance detoxification, the whole body benefits.
When using herbs for animals, we need to remember that dogs and cats have a shorter digestive tract, which isn’t used to breaking down large amounts of plant matter. Capsules and tablets are much less effective than herbs cooked into your animals’ food, infusions (teas), or glycerin extracts.
Herbs may be infused into salt-free beef or chicken broth instead of water to make them more palatable to animals, and provided as an alternative to water or added to water.
These are some of my favorite herbs to use for companion animals. And human animals, too:
Chronic and acute skin disorders are the bane of dog owners. Hot spots, allergies, mange and the like all cause inflammation and secondary infection, and constant licking and chewing doesn’t help. This blend is a great all-around wash for treatment of most skin disorders. During the hot weather, make this as a strong tea, then freeze into ice cubes. Use the herbal ice cube directly on hot, irritated, inflamed skin to relieve itching and cool heat.
It tastes pretty nasty, too, especially if you infuse it into vinegar (see below), and the strong flavor reduces the chewing somewhat. Rather like the “bitter apple” that my mom painted my nails with when I was a kid. It worked. I don’t chew my nails. And hopefully, Dog Boy will stop chewing his butt.
Place 4 tablespoons and 2 cups cool water in pan. Heat to just below boiling, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain. You may add 1/2 to 1 cup of aloe vera juice to this blend for more soothing and healing qualities, or add 1/4 to 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar for fungal or yeast infections, and to encourage new hair growth. Pour cooled or slightly warm rinse over irritated skin, massaging in well. Let dry without rinsing. Repeat as needed. For serious skin problems, apply as fomentation using cotton cloth, and re-apply as needed to keep moist. Leave in place for at least 10 minutes, and repeat 2-3 times a day. You may make this blend as a tincture, as well. Add 1 teaspoon to 2 cups warm water. Proceed as above.
I’ve used this eyewash for my old dog with crusty, drippy eyes, as well as for newborn feral kittens with very badly infected eyes (lost one of the eyes, but saved the kitten, and I call that a major victory!). I’ve also used it on myself and my sons. It’s good stuff.
Add 1/4 teaspoon salt to 1 cup hot barberry root decoction. Let cool to room temp. Use as wash, applying with a dropper held against the nose and letting the fluid run outward to the cheek area. Alternately, you can soak a cotton pad with the tea blend, hold to the eye for a moment, then wipe once outward and discard. Repeat as needed.
This herbal ear oil was also used on my old crusty dog, Ricky (RIP), who had very floppy ears that got fungal infections relatively easily (one of the problems of rescue dogs: you just never know what happened to them the years before you adopted them. A minor problem, far outweighed by the sheer beauty and joy of the love they give. But still. Pain in the arse.). Again, also good for human animals.
Place in sterilized, dry jar. Cover with olive oil. Let stand in a warm dark place for 1 month, shaking regularly. Strain well. Fill dropper bottle with oil (keep remainder in refrigerator to store for up to one year) Place 2-3 drops oil in ear 2 times a day, massaging well to move oil throughout ear canal.
You may also use apple cider vinegar or witch hazel to extract the herbs. This is a particularly good treatment for dogs with floppy ears who get chronic fungal infections.
*Please note each Blog is the unique expression of the Blogger and does not speak for The Green Man as an entity…but rather is one of the many diverse colours that make up our Green Man Tribe.