“You know, I bet we could treat just about everything in the human body if we used herbs that grow within a fifty mile radius.” This offhand remark by a friend of Dr. Kelso made her wonder.. “What if we could treat animals with herbs found in the natural world nearby?”  The idea took hold and sparked a now-thriving interest in herbal veterinary medicine.

Dr. Kelso converted her college-age daughter’s vacant room into a brand new “herb room,” where drying stinging nettles and creeping charlie hung from the ceiling and dandelion leaves soaked in jars. She began using the homemade tinctures as natural remedies for treating pets.

Today Dr. Kelso uses a variety of herbs, mostly locally grown, to treat a variety of body systems and conditions in dogs and cats, such as:

  • Dandelion- liver ailments Herbs3.jpg
  • Prickly Ash - musculoskeletal pain
  • Calendula - skin irritation
  • Turmeric - cancer
  • Mushroom blends - cancer
  • St. John’s Wort - arthritis
  • Calendula - skin irritation
  • Prickly Ash - musculoskeletal pain
  • Gymnema - diabetes
  • Rehmannia - diabetes

Different herbs can be administered in different forms: as powders, capsules, liquid tinctures, or a topical rinse for the skin. The herbs that don’t grow locally Dr. Kelso orders online from reputable, medicinal herbal companies such as New Jersey-based company Herbalist and Alchemist or Mountain Rose Herbs.

While herbs can be a replacement for conventional treatment, we often use them in tandem with conventional medicines for a better, more holistic approach. Herbs like Gymnema and Rehmannia have the same effect as insulin, for example, and can be used to decrease the number of insulin injections for a diabetic patient. Herbal treatments are especially important when there is no conventional alternative; Dr. Kelso often uses milk thistle and dandelion as treatment for animals whose liver levels are slightly high, but not high enough to warrant a biopsy.

Because there are limited research on herbal treatments in veterinary medicine, Dr. Kelso has had to get creative when it comes to educating herself on this subject. She studies the effects of herbs on the human body through master classes at the Midwest School of Herbal Studies, and then cross-references the material with a veterinary textbook. She encourages pet owners to experiment with herbal remedies themselves, but to obtain a diagnosis first. In general, herbs are safer for animals with fewer side-effects than conventional approaches but there can be contraindications if used improperly.

Dr. Kelso believes that use of herbs is becoming part of mainstream medicine, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to the future of herbal treatment in veterinary medicine.