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Ethnoveterinary Botanical Medicine: Herbal Medicines for Animal Health


Ethnoveterinary Botanical Medicine: Herbal Medicines for Animal Health by David Katerere and Dibungi Luseba (eds). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2010. Hardcover; 434 pages. ISBN 9781420045604. $139.95.

Veterinary botanical medicine has the potential to help one cause of world poverty. Nearly 70% of the world’s rural poor depend on livestock as a critical part of their livelihood. Most of the poor cannot afford conventional veterinary care, which is often unavailable in remote areas. However, the use of botanical medicine is increasing due to the availability of local knowledge, because it is less costly, and because medicinal plants can be grown locally. It is also relatively easy to educate livestock owners in the uses of botanical medicine.

Most chapters in this book address this situation. The first 4 chapters cover economical protocols for the general testing of herbs. Testing for safety and efficacy is covered (including use of brine shrimp rather than mice for cytotoxicity studies). Herbal research methodology is included. Faster, less expensive (than currently used) methods of extraction, isolation of active compounds, and analysis of some are presented. Withdrawal periods for meat, milk, and egg products, as well as considerations for reactions or other problems of companion animals (pets) versus food species (livestock) are also discussed.

The rest of the book consists mostly of tables of herbs from various worldwide regions with conditions and diseases for which they are used as treatment, and discussions of the herbs incorporating hundreds of references. The tables—which include camels, cattle, and/or rabbits in the species—are especially helpful, since it is difficult to find this information elsewhere, and it is of importance for the purpose of this book. Unlike Wynn and Fougere’s Veterinary Herbal Medicine (Elsevier, 2007), most tables in this book do not have doses or preparation methods.

One of the most useful chapters is the one on herbal medicine for dairy cattle in India, which has a detailed table of Indian herbs used for 21 conditions in dairy cattle (with preparation method and dose). It also includes a method for rapid assessment of local ethnoveterinary health traditions, and how to disseminate the information to rural areas. This method uses no concurrent lab or clinical studies, and relies instead on databases and materia medica to assess treatments. As a result, this method is faster and more affordable. India already has a wider use of herbal medicine than any other country except China, and so the country is more accepting of this approach than the United States would be.

The chapter on Southeast Asia has a list of 15 herbs and also includes their preparation methods and doses. In addition, it indicates there is support for their use by many governments in this area, especially for anthelminthics (agents which help expel and/or kill intestinal worms). The chapter on West African herbs has preparation methods and doses for a number of the herbs listed. (These are mostly herbs used to treat protozoan diseases, and, like their conventional counterparts, are usually more toxic than treatments for other problems.) Finally, the chapter on Chinese medicine also lists 22 Chinese herbs, with doses for domestic animals—including camels, rabbits, and birds. This chapter notes that many valuable texts and papers are written in Chinese but not translated, so they are not available to most of the rest of the world. (Three books by veterinarians, published in the US, help fill that gap somewhat: Clinical Handbook of Chinese Veterinary Medicine (Herbal Medicine Press, 2006), Veterinary Applications of Chinese Herbal Formulas (Herbal Medicine Press, 2011 [in press]), and Xie’s Chinese Veterinary Herbology (Blackwell, 2010).

In contrast, the chapter on herbal use in the European Union (EU), using the Netherlands as a case study, is a good illustration of attitudes found in the EU and the US. It includes a table of herbs used by farmers there, without doses. The study of herbal medicine in general is not popular within big universities, including the sole veterinary school in the Netherlands. Instead, studies are performed mainly by the Institute for Ethnobotany and Zoopharmacognosy. In 2006, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality began a project to develop phytotherapy as a tool to reduce or prevent disease in food animals. Their conclusion: Some herbs are useful but need more study. One sees this statement in most review articles in PubMed.

The 2 chapters on North American herbs are disappointing. One discusses 8 herbs and mentions 6 others, but only with respect to humans, rats, and mice. It gives the LD50 (lethal dose in which 50% of the tested population dies) of 5 herbs in rats and/or mice, and the rat dose for one, common mullein (Verbascum thapsus, Scrophulariaceae). The reader is referred to an online discussion of American Indian healing philosophy, which is a description of the spiritual side and not useful for animals. The other chapter emphasizes the use of various echinacea (Echinacea spp., Asteraceae) species in swine, cattle, poultry, horses, and dogs, with doses for some. It also gives a summary of research conducted on 5 other herbs, 2 of which are toxic to horses. There are over 250 herbs used by Native Americans, and one would expect more to be discussed. The large number of references somewhat makes up for this.

The last chapter is confusing. It has a number of factual errors which are not referenced. It states that veterinary medicine seems more accepting of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) than human medicine, and claims the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) spearheaded the founding of the Veterinary Botanical Medical Association (VBMA). The AVMA has nothing to do with the VBMA, and veterinary CAM in general is under attack in the United States, with veterinarians being denied credit by RACE (a sub-committee of the American Association of State Veterinary Boards) for continuing-education sessions in botanical medicine which were previously acceptable.

There is also a misjudgment between the uses of non-poisonous homeopathic preparations, such as arnica (Arnica montana, Asteraceae), with their poisonous herbal origin. The popular Bach flower remedy, Rescue® Remedy* (Bach Flower Remedies Ltd.), is termed homeopathic, but classical homeopaths would disagree. A discussion of canine cognitive syndrome analyzed Rescue Remedy and a long list of nutritional supplements, rather than concentrating on phytomedicine. Animals are reported to be particularly prone to acute (rather than chronic) mycotoxicosis. The chapter also labels Ayurveda and homeopathy as “mysticism.” This makes the discussion of potential problems with phytotherapy suspect.

In general, this book is a good source for lists of herbs used in third-world countries all over the globe. It would be improved by a listing of North American Native American herbs, and the herbs in the German Commission E monographs. It can be used to help set up botanical-based programs in animal health for impoverished countries. However, to do so, one also needs a veterinary herbal manual with preparation methods and doses.

—Nancy Scanlan, DVM, MSFP
Executive Director, American Holistic
Veterinary Medical Association
Abingdon, MD

*Rescue® Remedy is a combination of 5 “flower essences”: dilutions of star of Bethlehem (Orithogalum umbellatum, Liliaceae), rock rose (Helianthemum nummularium, Cistaceae), cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera, Rosaceae), impatiens (Impatiens gladulifera, Balsaminaceae), and clematis (Clematis vitalba, Ranunculaceae).