Some herbs for cats, excerpted from the article "Top Ten Herbs For Cats", by Gregory L. Tilford and Mary Wulff-Tilford. From Natural Cat, Fancy Publications, 1999. )
Bugleweed (Lycopus americana/L. virginicum)
"....Although relatively little research has been done to validate bugleweed's usefulness in animal subjects, it may prove very useful in cats with an over-active thyroid. While bugleweed cannot physically correct a diseased thyroid gland and will not work as quickly as synthetic drugs, human studies have confirmed that bugleweed slows the release of the hormone thyroxine in the thyroid, making it very useful in the treatment of mild forms of hyperthyroidism1.
Cautions & Comments: Like all members of the mint family, this is a very safe herb, with no known toxicity relative to its sensible use. However, since bugleweed is a vasoconstrictor and may have hormonal properties, common sense dictates that it should not be used in pregnant or nursing animals. For obvious reasons, bugleweed should not be used in animals with depressed thyroid function. Another point to consider before using bugleweed in your pet is that very little research has been done into the attributes and side effects of bugleweed in animals. Although it can be safely used in most dogs, cats, and equines, its effects in birds, rodents, and other animals are largely unknown. If in doubt, contact a professional who is familiar with the specific applications of this herb.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
[Shawn's Calisto enjoying his grass snack]
Catnip is a gentle carminative and antispasmodic for easing flatulence and stomach upsets. It will also act as a mild sedative to help calm the nerves and promote restful sleep in most cats. Due to a constituent called nepeta lactone, cats become intoxicated when they sniff this plant. However, the effect of the herb when ingested is relaxing in a different way--- calming to the stomach and relaxing to the nerves, but without feline-erotic visions of candy-coated mice.
Couchgrass (Quackgrass) (Agropyron repens)
Couchgrass serves as an excellent tonic and disinfectant for the urinary tract. It is a soothing, anti-inflammatory demulcent and saponin-based diuretic with mild antimicrobial activity, and is considered a specific remedy for chronic or acute cases of cystitis and urethritis, where the root tea or tincture will help reduce inflammation, inhibit bacterial reproduction, and lessen pain during urination.
Dozens of human and animal studies have shown that these two groups of constituents act to improve blood circulation in small capillaries, a trait which makes it especially useful in the treatment of various forms of vascular deficiency--- including the effects of old age.
Hawthorn (Crataegus species)
It stands to reason that this cardiovascular tonic is useful in the daily care of older animals, especially in older dogs, cats, horses, birds or other critters who suffer from chronic heart problems such as congestive heart failure, post-surgical dysfunction, or cardiac anomalies that have resulted from heartworm, bacterial or viral infections, or protracted chemotherapy. Hawthorn, when combined with herbs that strengthen kidney function, may also serve as a good adjunct therapy in the early treatment of kidney failure---as its vasodilator and hypotensive actions may help to improve blood circulation through the renal arteries and smaller vessels of the kidneys without the added stress of increased blood pressure.
Nettle (Urtica species)
100 grams of dried, pre-flowering nettle plant contains up to 30.4 g (30% by weight) of crude protein, 2970 mg. of calcium, 680 mg. of phosphorus, 32.2 mg. of iron, 650 mg. magnesium, 20.2 mg. beta-carotene, and 3450 mg. of potassium17; along with vitamins, A, C, D, and B-complex... all contained in a highly palatable form which can be effectively assimilated into the body without adding excess stress upon the liver, kidneys, or digestive tract. This makes nettle an excellent addition to food for cats who need extra trace minerals and vitamins in their diet, but not necessarily in huge, multi-vitamin doses...."
1. Samec, V.: Weiner med. Wschr. 31 (1961) 513; cited in Weiss, R.F., "Herbal Medicine", Beaconsfield Publishers, 1988.