Chinese Herbal Therapy for Cats
Herbal therapy in China originates as early as the third century B.C. Historically, they have been used to treat various ailments and maladies in humans and, in recent years, our beloved pets.
Chinese herbal therapy for cats aims to treat the underlying illness and support the body’s natural healing abilities. Chinese herbs have many benefits if they are used correctly and with caution. Herbs can help with everything from digestion to decreasing stress and anxiety.
Valerian root, ginseng, and of course, catnip are at the top of the listing of Chinese herbs that have the potential to benefit your feline companion. Read on if you want to discover more about Chinese herbal therapy for cats!
What is Chinese Herbal Healing?
Chinese herbal therapy involves using applications such as herbal medicine to help treat an illness. These therapies were designed to support the natural healing of the body. Chinese herbal therapy is a practice that considers the body as an energetic system in which the qi or “chi” can get out of balance, and the herbal formulas can benefit the healing process.
The purpose is to get to the root of the problem and restore balance, as opposed to the traditional Western approach that tends to focus more on controlling the symptoms. Chinese herbs can help improve your cat’s natural healing ability. The idea is that these herbs will effectively treat the underlying illness rather than put a band-aid on it with conventional medications.
Some benefits of herbs over Western medicine are that they:
- Strengthen the immune system
- Improve blood and fluid balance
- Identify disease patterns
- Help to achieve fluid balance
- Act as preventative and antiviral medicine
- Promote better quality of energy
- Are an alternative to drug-sensitive individuals
Chinese herbal therapy also assists the body’s natural healing processes. When it comes to medicine and treatment, the intention of healing is vital to success. The main difference between Western and traditional Chinese medicine is that Chinese medicine is based on the Yin and Yang energy and the five elements of the body, while Western medicine is more evidence-based.
What Does Chinese Medicine Entail?
Chinese medicine uses the five-element theory.
The five elements consist of the following:
- Earth is linked to digestion
- Fire is linked to blood circulation
- Metal is linked to respiration and elimination
- Water is linked to the kidneys and bladder
- Wood is linked to the gallbladder and the liver
Each element is assigned to an organ system. The relationships between these elements help to determine a diagnosis and treatment. When any of these elements become compromised or out of balance, a practitioner will prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Yin and yang represent two opposing energies that are of equal importance. It is like the sun and the moon; we all need yin and yang to achieve balance and optimum health.
Western and Chinese medicine would align and work together in a perfect world. Numerous naturopathic doctors combine the two to help prevent and treat different health conditions. An excellent example is prescribing acupuncture or acupressure to help relieve chronic pain. Chinese and Western medicine both have their strong points and limitations.
Chinese Herbs for Your Cats
Cat parents are well aware that their feline fur babies are sensitive and often stubborn little creatures. Medicines do not always agree with certain individuals, which is where herbs can be beneficial. Herbs are a gentler treatment for many pets who do not tolerate traditional drug therapies.
With the exception of surgical procedures, herbs can be advantageous for many health conditions. If they are used responsibly, herbs can be helpful. Some of the Chinese herbs that are known to be safe and effective for cats include:
Probably the most infamous and beloved herb to cats is catnip! When your cat licks and rubs themselves all over their catnip, it releases an oil called nepetalactone, which triggers feel-good pheromones in their bodies. Watching them sniffing on or pawing at a catnip-filled toy and becoming increasingly aroused or chilling out on its mood-enhancing properties can be hilarious.
Catnip’s effects usually last for about five to thirty minutes, depending on the individual cat. Catnip can be beneficial to your cat’s enrichment and play habits. However, be mindful of its effects if you have a multi-cat household, as it can make some cats aggressive or combative.
A Little known fact: catnip affects domestic felines and wild cats like leopards, tigers, and lynxes.
If your cat is a sneezer or has allergies, licorice root could be the solution. Licorice root is like natural cortisone and has anti-inflammatory properties. It can alleviate your cat’s allergies and help with respiratory issues like colds.
Licorice root may also be used for:
- Liver disease
- Skin Health
- Hair growth
- Digestive issues
Licorice root is an herb you need to be careful of, as it could raise blood pressure in cats who already have high blood pressure, and it should not be administered in high doses, as it can cause blood sugar problems. Older cats and cats with diabetes should not have it.
Tang Kuei is a blood tonic that cleans the liver and nourishes and detoxifies the blood. It can be used to treat anemia, dry skin, and dizziness. It also helps alleviate the symptoms of certain conditions, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Heat intolerance
- Chronic diarrhea
- Weight loss
Blood deficiency syndrome often arises from an inability to process nutrients in the body. Tang Kuei can help with this. Tang Kuei has also been incorporated into blended herbal formulas for calming down and soothing aches. It promotes smooth muscle relaxation and is warming to the body system.
Ginseng is a warming qi tonic that helps the spleen and stomach. It also enhances the immune system and may help stimulate appetite in kitties experiencing a decreased appetite and weight loss. Some of the other functions of ginseng are that it:
- Supports blood flow to the heart muscle
- Reduces resting blood sugar levels
- Improves memory
- Boosts energy
There is some anecdotal evidence that animal ginseng can improve physical performance and cognitive function. It has also been related to assisting with adrenal gland function. Practice caution when using ginseng on cats with hypertension or hyperactivity.
Individuals use valerian roots to help with drifting off into dreamland. However, when a cat sniffs or rubs against valerian root, it helps them get energized and motivates them to move around and exercise. It is the perfect remedy for the pampered, lazy house cat. Valerian root can put your cat into a playful mood, which can help you and your feline companion bond with each other.
Valerian root can even help cats with separation anxiety. Some cats who become frightened or startled by loud noises like fireworks or thunder will often chill out when they get a whiff of some valerian root. It helps to decrease stress and anxiety.
Bai Zhu supports digestive health beautifully. It can help treat everything from diarrhea and constipation to abdominal distention. Bai Zhu has many impressive qualities and assists the spleen and stomach. Some of the benefits are that it:
- Improves immune system
- Has anti-inflammatory qualities
- Protects the liver
- Combats stress
Bai Zhu is also commonly used to treat chronic diarrhea and edema. It is considered a white atractylodes, which is ideal for treating a wide array of stomach ailments. It regulates and balances fluids in the body.
If your cat is not responding to Western medicine, you may have wondered if your cat may benefit from a more natural approach. Chinese herbal therapy aims to get to the root of the problem and facilitate healing in the body.
Not many general veterinarians have the resources, certifications, or expertise to offer Chinese herbal therapy for cats. However, at Pawsitive Integrative Veterinary Care in Mishawaka, Indiana, our board-certified specialty veterinarians administer care to pets all over the country. To learn more, give us a call at (574) 256-1871 or visit us online today.