SHOPPING FOR HERBS

WHERE SHOULD I BUY HERBS?

Herbs are EVERYWHERE! Herbal supplements, teas, creams, single and blended products are for sale everywhere; health food shops and supermarkets as well as more specialised Herbal Pharmacies and of course…the Internet.

We are often asked if this or that formula will be effective for a dog diagnosed with a medical problem, or if it’s OK to buy herbs from this or that supplier and we have to answer….”we don’t know”!

Herbal supplements, especially those marketed for humans, are not well regulated. As long as no specific medical claims are made then anyone can sell anything. A flash website or scientific looking packaging are no guarantee that the herbs you are buying are safe or effective.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS WHEN BUYING HERBS?

SUBSITUTION: This is where the product does not contain the herb it claims to contain. Many medicinal herbs have close relations which look similar but which lack the active compounds to affect health.

QUALITY: Herbs are affected by growing conditions; a hot dry growing season may produce leaves with a higher concentration of active compound than a cold wet one for instance.

CONTAMINATION: One of the most worrying aspects when sourcing herbs is contamination. This can either be with another herb which is less active or even toxic, or from heavy metals and pesticides when herbs are grown close to industrial areas. There have even been cases where Traditional Chinese Medicines have been adulterated with steroids!

DOSE: Many herbal supplements either contain very low amounts of a large range of herbs or have very low suggested dose rates. This approach does reduce safety concerns, especially where people may take them without a medical diagnosis but it also limits the effectiveness of the products.

SOURCE: Many of the most powerful herbs are difficult to cultivate and must be taken from the wild. Many grow in poor or war  torn parts of the world. It can be hard to know whether the product you are buying is being harvested in a sustainable way and if the harvesters are fairly paid.

SO HOW CAN I BUY HERBS WITH A CLEAR CONSCIENCE?

The herbs we dispense all come from suppliers who conform to Good Manufacturing Practice. They assess the quality and composition of their raw products and guarantee levels of key compound in the finished tinctures, tablets or dried herbs.

A few herbal supplements are made specifically for pets, and have been licenced (meaning they are subject to certain quality controls and data is available on their use and any side effects or contraindications). We still recommend using these supplements in conjunction with your vets advice.

Some commonly used herbs are common culinary herbs as well as medicinal ones and these can be bought from the market! Ginger, turmeric, garlic and fennel are culinary herbs we often suggest for our patients. Asian markets can be an excellent source of cheap, fresh herbs but you must still take care that you are getting what you want; cinnamon bark is often not from Cinnamomun verum or zeylancium but from Cinamomum cassia, a related plant.

The safest and most effective way to use herbs for your pet is to get a proper diagnosis from your vet and then to speak to a trained Veterinary Herbalist to obtain the right herbs of the best quality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *