Ayurveda and the use of Indian Herbs

Ayurvedic Herbs and your animals

With thanks to Stephen Ashdown MRCVS for guidance with much of the following information.

Ayurveda is perhaps the oldest system of health care in the world and originates from the Indian subcontinent. Ayurvedic texts were first written down around 3500 years ago, predating even Traditional Chinese Medicine, and described how the body worked and which herbs and herbal combinations were most effective for health care.

Dosha types

  • Vata - lean and delicate, intolerant of cold, windy and dry weather. Intelligent and artistic but can be anxious fearful of confrontation.
  • Pitta - medium build, with a dislike of heat and sun. Approachable and intelligent but can be a little aggressive and easily irritated.
  • Kapha - large-framed and prone to weight gain. Patient and loving but can become greedy and possessive if out of balance.

One of the basic concepts in Ayurveda is that people and animals are composed of a mixture of three different energy types - known as "Doshas" - which describe their physical and psychological make-up. For any individual, the important thing is to maintain their own particular balance of these three Doshas.

Vets (and doctors) are increasingly looking looking towards nutritional and alternative ways of supporting the body so it can heal itself. The key to this process is the immune system and the body's natural ability to maintain its own balance and health - Homeostasis. When the Doshas become out of balance, the immune system can be weakened, leaving the body more prone to illness.

What can cause this imbalance in the body's energy?

The immune system can be unbalanced in three main ways: -

  1. Stress - this can be psychological or environmental. Examples: Dogs can be affected by separation anxiety when their owners leave them at home alone. Horses can be affected by bullying in the field or adverse weather.
  2. Indigestion. Can be caused by poorly balanced nutrition. Examples: In the wild, dogs rarely eat meat every day, yet most of us feed relatively high protein tinned meat every day. We don't want to be too controversial but, as a result, most domestic dogs are overweight! In horses this can be due to poor mineral levels in the grass or hay, or the overuse of antibiotics or wormers.
  3. Bacteria, viruses and parasites. Obvious, although this is much less likely to be a problem if stress and nutrition are under control.

The Ayurvedic System

True Ayurvedic practitioners will take into account the mix of Dosha types in an individual, and not just the condition, when using herbs. This is because the herbs that are used to keep us healthy also have personality or energy types and these patterns must be matched to the dosha of the animal or person eating them for maximum effect. For more details read books on Ayurveda such as the excellent "Herbal Defense" by Robin Landis.

This is not an exclusively Eastern concept: Homoeopathy, developed in the West, also requires the remedy to be matched to the "personality" of the patient.

How Ayurveda is "used" in the West

It takes years of training and experience for a practitioner to correctly identify the Dosha type of a human, let alone that of an animal! As a result, in the same way that Homoeopathy is typically practiced, the tendency is to identify the herbal supplements to be used simply by going on the symptoms presented, rather than bringing in the personality or energy types of the individual. This is especially true in the Veterinary field where the merits of the herbs are applied in a purely scientific way. In doing so, maybe we are losing something of the "Eastern" approach to health but can we in the West (especially vets and doctors!) ever hope to fully understand and take advantage of the Eastern insight into the Spiritual or "energy" aspects of the body/health?

Many vets in the West use acupuncture. Few of them would explain its effect in terms of "altering the flow of Yin and Yang energy in the body", which is how and why acupuncture was conceived and developed. Instead, it is explained in scientific terms - causing the body to produce endorphins etc. The same can be said of the use of herbs that were developed following Ayurvedic principles: the science behind these excellent products is sufficient to merit and explain their use, whether you agree with (or understand!) Ayruveda or the principle of the three Doshas.

Ayurvedic principles are used to formulate the products so alowing us to bypass much of the complicated philosophy which is difficult to use effectively unless you have years of training.

"This approach has led to the development of perhaps some of the most effective herbal products used around the world" - Stephen Ashdown MRCVS

Indian Herbs

Why Indian herbs - as in... herbs from India?

Whilst there is no doubt that Europe produces many quality herbs, it is the richness and variety of the Indian subcontinent which provides the range of herbs which can be harvested.

Professor Greenish of the London School of Pharmacy rightly stated: "India owing to the remarkable variation she possesses of climate, altitude and soil, is in a position to produce successfully every variety of medicinal herb needed by Europe."

In India today there are a large number of herbal stores and herbal products and companies manufacturing them. The largest in the veterinary field is a company called Indian Herbs and pharmacies all over the continent are full with Indian Herb products for pets, horses, cattle and other animals. Commonly, half of all the products sold in pharmacies are herbal in origin. The key to the success of Indian Herbs is the quality of the ingredients they use, the way in which formulae are based on ancient Ayurvedic traditions, a careful manufacturing process and an ongoing research program for testing and evaluating new and old products.

Ayurvedic formulae are suitable for nutritional support for a wide range of problems in people and animals.

With over 100 herbal formulae for all species Ayurveda is now available in the UK for the health and well being of all your animal friends and family too.

Herbal Remedies

European Herbs - the herbs we are all familiar with, but did you know that some of them are Licenced as Veterinary Medicines?

Also - see the article about Polypharmacy which explains why herbal remedies are often described as being more balanced than modern medicines.