By Mary Boughton of Dorwest Herbs

Member of the British Herbal Medicine Association’s Veterinary Committee ; Member of NOAH’s Companion Animal Sub-Group

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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

There has recently been a resurgence of interest by the public and from the medical profession  regarding the healing properties of plants.  Using herbs grown in the garden or from the wild can be beneficial to health but can also be fraught with difficulties.  Firstly the correct plant and species must be identified, any risk of pollution eliminated, together with correct preparation and storage.  So, it is not surprising that many people prefer to buy herbs in a manufactured form, as these should provide guarantees of quality and efficacy.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case and together with misleading advertising jargon, can lead to disappointment for the consumer.

There are different qualities of herbs, depending on the origin of the plant, how it is dried and the conditions it is kept in before being used in the product. This quality is extremely important because it is this that makes the herb effective. To ensure quality and provide a standard specification for all herbs, the British Herbal Medicine Association publishes the British Herbal Pharmacopœia (BHP). The current 1996 edition is used by the medical and scientific professions as the authoritative work on herb quality and specifications. It gives definitions and purity standards  as well as macroscopical and microscopical descriptions. It defines how each herb should be identified using laboratory techniques such as thin layer chromatology, which is also used to confirm the continued presence of the ingredients throughout its shelf life.   Regrettably there is no requirement for manufacturers to apply these quality standards to the ingredients they use, nor the manufacturing controls that are necessary for botanical ingredients, because natural variation in the plant is normal and will depend on the country of origin, environmental conditions and seasonal changes.

Today’s consumer is increasingly discerning about the ‘natural’ products they use, and because of concerns about the side and long term effects of some medications, increasingly also ask their vets to provide credible alternative treatments.  Many drugs prescribed today are still plant based but there are instances where scientists have not succeeded in synthesising certain active plant principles and  so using the raw plant material offers a safe, effective treatment for many common and chronic canine  complaints.  This is where the consumer and their veterinary surgeon need a genuine guarantee that the herbal products they use are safe and effective.

This can be given if the product is licensed for medicinal use, where a Vm number on the label indicates that it is controlled under the Medicines Act 1968.  It must comply with specific controls regarding its ingredients, its manufacturing process and most importantly be effective to use.  Manufacture must be in a licensed factory where equipment, methods and controls are checked by Ministry inspectors to ensure they conform to the Good Manufacturing Practice Code.  Of most interest to the consumer however, is the efficacy of the medicine and for veterinary herbal medicines this will have been proved and approved by practising veterinary surgeons to confirm it’s effectiveness in treating the conditions for which it is recommended.

Dorwest Herbs’ Scullcap and Valerian tablets, which many readers will be familiar with, is an example of a licensed veterinary herbal medicine.  The label shows  the Vm Number and details of its licensed use as “A traditional herbal remedy for  the symptomatic relief of anxiety, nervousness, excitability and travel sickness and an adjunct in the treatment of epilepsy.”  Further label information shows the ingredients and dosage.  

So - buying a licensed product is the best safeguard you can have! 

There are many other herbal products that cannot make such remedial claims, but are useful dietary supplements. Providing the manufacturing company gives assurances that the ingredients comply with BHP standards and the product is professionally manufactured, these herbal supplements can be very beneficial for overall health.

 Article Copyright Dorwest Herbs