Herbs can be useful in supporting an animal’s natural mobility in a number of ways. On the food-end of the spectrum, there are nutritious herbs that provide valuable nutrients to the tissues and organ-systems involved. Then there are the first-aid herbs that can help with minor problems like a strain, or stiffness. Some herbs are useful after trauma or surgery, and can support convalescence or rehabilitation. Herbs are also useful to promote mobility in older animals. Where optimal mobility is essential, like working animals and animal athletes, herbs can also play a useful role.
- Supplying nutrients (e.g. Parsley)
- Relaxing tension and muscle spasms (e.g. Valerian)
- Improving circulation to tissues (e.g. Ginger)
- Supporting tissue healing (e.g. Pennywort)
- Easing inflammation (e.g. Turmeric)
- Promoting resilience and vitality (e.g. Withania)
Common Causes of Mobility Problems
Here is a short list of the most common causes of mobility problems in our companion animals:
- Trauma from everyday knocks and falls, and other accidents.
- Sharp objects like glass, thorns or grass seeds getting imbedded in feet.
- Lifestyle excesses or inappropriate activity can lead to problems.
- Nutritional imbalances, and too much food can be a big problem.
- Psychological stress can manifest via the nervous system as a mobility issue.
- Aging may bring stiffness, frailty and, for some, a loss of confidence.
Herbs to Support Mobility
- Celery seed(Apium graveolens) – Celery leaves are nutrient-rich and cleansing, and the seeds can help ease joint pain and stiffness with their anti-inflammatory qualities.
- Comfrey leaf (Symphytum officinale) – Also known as knitbone, Comfrey has a reputation for helping to heal tendon and ligament strains, and bone fractures. Because of a potential risk of toxicity, only use the leaves topically in creams, ointments, or as a poultice.
- Devil’s claw root (Harpagophytum procumbens) – Devil’s Claw has a useful anti-inflammatory quality as well as bitter digestive effects. Although, not a plant many of us will have in the garden.
- Ginger root (Zingiber officinalis) – Ginger is used topically and internally for its warming, circulatory stimulant and anti-inflammatory qualities. Avoid ginger when bleeding is evident or surgery planned.
- Lemon balm leaf (Melissa officinale) – If mobility issues cause an animal to become a bit depressed, lemon balm can help lift the spirits.
- Meadowsweet herb (Filipendula ulmaria) – The original source aspirin, Meadowsweet provides gentle anti-inflammatory action and pain relief.
- Parsley leaf (Petroselinum crispum) – Parsley is a highly nutritious kitchen herb that can help support healthy tissues, and her cleansing qualities are also useful in joint stiffness and inflammation.
- Pennywort leaf (Centella asiatica) – Pennywort leaves support tissue healing, ease anxiety or tension, as well as providing support in old age, especially cognitive support.
- Turmeric root (Curcuma longa) – Similar to Ginger, Turmeric’s warming, dry, stimulating qualities are useful to ease stiffness and reduce inflammation.
- Withania root (Withania somnifera) – Withania can help promote strength and vitality, while also helping to ease tension and anxiety.
First-aid from your Herb Garden
Creating a herb garden for animals will enrich their environment, provide opportunities for self-medication, and promote an active lifestyle. The regular supplementation of nutritious, culinary herbs from your herb garden can play a beneficial role in promoting strong, healthy tissues. Sprinkle a little of a variety of freshly-chopped, kitchen herbs, like Parsley, Celery, or Rocket, into the meal. For animals showing a little stiffness, especially when cold and damp, or after they have been sleeping, consider adding a pinch of warming herbs to the food, like Ginger or Turmeric. For older animals, Pennywort leaves and Withania root can be a mobility tonic, promoting confidence, vitality and longevity.
Words of Wisdom
Minor knocks and strains should be self healing in a day or two. Lameness lasting more than a day or two, recurring lameness, and any significant pain, heat or swelling, are good reasons to see a vet. Remember that health is natural and mobility is optimal in animals that are happy. Don’t forget to pay attention to your animal companion’s nutrition, lifestyle, environment and relationships to ensure they move well. Most minor mobility problems are self-limiting and should clear with simple support. Animals with sudden, on-going, or unexplained lameness should be assessed by your veterinarian. Always consult your veterinarian if your animal is on medication, pregnant, lactating or undergoing surgery before using herbs.