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Medicinal Plants for Livestock


Introduction to Medicinal Plants for Livestock

The idea of using medicinal plants to treat livestock is not new. Many of the active ingredients in chemically manufactured drugs were originally derived from plant compounds (e.g., the pyrethroids). Also, in many developing countries, medicinal plants are still being used on a regular basis. (The use of plants and traditional methods for treating animals is called ethnoveterinary medicine .) There is a renewed interest, especially in developed countries, in using plants to treat livestock, pets, and humans. Why?

  • Many people believe that plants are less toxic and safer than manufactured drugs.
  • Many people believe that plants are more natural than manufactured drugs.
  • Medicinal plants can be made at home and are less expensive than manufactured drugs.
  • In developing countries, medicinal plants often are more accessible than manufactured drugs.

The big questions are: Are medicinal plants effective for livestock? Are they really safe? Of the hundreds of plants used in ethnopharmacology, very few have been researched for their efficacy and toxicity. In the U.S., medicinal plants for humans are registered with the Food and Drug Administration. Medicinal plants for livestock currently are not sold on a wide scale in the U.S. Based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations, medicinal plants for livestock must meet the same stringent requirements as other animal drugs if they are to be registered and approved for use in food producing animals.

Just because medicinal plants for livestock have not been registered, does not mean they are not accessible. How can you know or decide if a medicinal plant is safe or toxic for your livestock? Click on the plants list to learn about what is known and not known about a few plants used in ethnoveterinary medicine.

When reading about the plants please remember that:

  • There is incomplete toxicity information on most of these plants;
  • There is incomplete efficacy information on most of these plants; and
  • The toxic dose and potentially effective dose could be very close.