In this day and age, health is at the forefront of a lot of our minds. Lately, more and more of us are not only striving to eat well, exercise and get adequate sleep, but there is also more emphasis on the quality of each. We are more informed than ever about the power of our choices and the benefits of living in balance with nature. It’s one of the many reasons that holistic medicine is becoming increasingly common in the West.
As we take an increasingly holistic approach to health, paying more attention to everything we put in our bodies, medication can become a concern. Conventional medicines and prescriptions certainly have their place, but our bodies often register them as foreign entities. This can result in toxic side effects that include suppression of the immune system, as well as decreased function of the kidneys, liver and many other organs. One initial prescription can quickly multiply into many, in an effort to combat the side effects of the first.
Increasingly, Westerners are looking to natural remedies in the hopes of returning to or maintaining homeostasis (balance). It’s a solution that works, as evidenced in how it has taken root and grown – in the same way it was planted in the East many years before. Plant medicine in particular is gaining popularity as we discover how well our bodies accept it. Plants are created in and by nature, much like us, so it’s a natural pairing.
What many of us haven’t realized though, is that the same natural supplements are great for our pets, too!
If you are on this journey, an invaluable traveling companion is the ancient healing wisdom of Ayurveda: a great fit for both humans and dogs. For starters, it is perhaps the oldest healing system in existence (dating back to 6,000 BC), and its herbs and modalities have been used for thousands of years with safety and efficiency. Ayurveda is Sanskrit for “science of life” (veda meaning “science” and ayur meaning “life”), and it is indeed aptly named. Although this ancient wisdom has been around for centuries, it is now being validated by modern science. While most Ayurvedic products are made with the aim of balancing the energies in the body, the effectiveness of the majority of Ayurvedic herbs has now been backed up by clinical research.
As this ancient Indian science continues to gain popularity amongst humans everywhere, there are few who apply it to their pups. A great starting point to put this healing system to work for your canine companion is to find out their dosha, or mind/body constitution – and we’ve made it easy to learn with this short quiz. Whether you know their dosha or not, here are a few plants that heal, with an Ayurvedic spin.
Regardless of species, the scent of lavender has a powerful calming effect on the mind and nervous system. Essential oil can be used in a diffuser or misted over your furry friend to invoke a more grounded environment (for both of you). Feel free to add to one drop only to your pup’s sleeping space to encourage a deeper rest. This scent is particularly balancing for Vata dosha and is soothing to Pitta. A note of caution though: remember how sensitive your dog’s nose is and err on the side of not enough. The wrong essential oils can be toxic to dogs, cats and other animals.
Coconut is technically a nut, but since it grows on a tree, we’re considering it part of the plant family. It has a natural cooling effect, so coconut oil is great used topically for pups with dry skin or rashes.
It’s also great for allergies. Since coconut is a natural antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, tends to improve digestion, and tastes good, it is an ideal edible. Not all dogs will have a positive digestive reaction though, so to be safe, start by allowing them to self-select. Put a small bit on a plate by itself and if they choose to eat it, you can give them more the next day. If not, they simply don’t need it.
Ayurvedic medicine uses ginger often because it has a wide variety of benefits. It is energizing for dogs who might be feeling lethargic, heavy or withdrawn (aka Kapha dosha imbalanced). It is the go-to for digestion, stomach aches and nausea and a mainstay for purifying and detoxification. Dried or fresh ginger is great for most pets but because of this spice’s strong flavor, it is highly recommended to let your pup self-select.
If your dog is on a weight loss journey, this is the herb. Excellent at boosting metabolism, turmeric also fights cancer, reduces inflammation and eases pain. It is easiest to use a turmeric supplement, but the powdered version can also work well if given in proper quantities. As always, take care not to overdo it. Here’s an informative article that includes how to make a turmeric paste and provides dosage amounts.
It may not be the easiest to pronounce, but this natural herb is a miracle worker for hyperactive dogs. Ashwagandha neutralizes the effects of stress, reduces anxiety and depression and can even improve learning and memory. It’s essentially an overall health tonic as it also stabilizes blood sugar, lowers cholesterol and among other things, inhibits the growth of cancer cells.
In essence, dogs react in much the same way we do to natural healing. A daily multi-vitamin will not counteract a human’s fast food addiction, and the same is true for dogs and Ayurveda. Plant medicine can certainly be effective, but if our pets aren’t living a healthy lifestyle overall, then the benefit will be negated. However, if plants are being used along with other healing modalities and lifestyle changes – which is the Sama Dog approach to healing – the impact of herbs can be exponential.
Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or behavioral advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified animal health care provider with any questions you may have regarding your pet's medical or behavioral condition/s.