Often when many of us think of herbs, we think of those pouches or containers stashed away in the spice cupboard. Or maybe you think about those organic tea sachets in that canister on the counter. But when it comes to the health of our canine companions, Mother Nature gives us a huge leg up with herbs.

Pain-relieving, cancer-fighting, breath-freshening, stomach-soothing… these herbs for dogs can easily be found in many backyard or balcony gardens, and they have many healing properties for our canine companions! So raid that spice rack and back garden – your dog will thank you for it!

Top 10 Herbs for Dogs

These are our top faves when it comes to herbs for dogs.

1. Chamomile

It may be celebrated for it’s relaxing qualities (that’s why we drink a cup of chamomile tea for sleep), but that’s not all it’s useful for. Chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties, anti-anxiety,/_ and anti-microbial and is considered a soothing herb.

Use it:

  • Topically to help soothe inflamed skin and help heal wounds. It’s even good for reducing swelling and inflammation of the skin around the eyes, as well as treat infections in the eye.
  • Internally for gastrointestinal issues. It can help relax the muscles in the stomach and bowel which decreases gas and pain, and can soothe an upset tummy.

You can give chamomile to your dog as a tea, powder, or fresh ground herb added to dog food, or even as a capsule.

Cats may be particularly sensitive to chamomile, so it’s best to skip it for the kitties.

2. Slippery Elm

The slippery elm is a large, deciduous tree native to North America, the inner bark of which has been used for herbal and nutritional healing for centuries. It’s celebrated for everything from skin conditions to respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders. 

It contains fiber, bioflavonoids, calcium, magnesium, sodium, vitamins A, E, C, K and B-complex, and it’s also a prebiotic, so it helps feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut. It has anti-inflammatory properties, and it can work wonders for things like diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive issues. Slippery elm can also help protect and soothe the upper respiratory tract, and it coats the throat to ease the pain associated with things like kennel cough.

3. Parsley

This may seem like a subtle herb perfect for the top of beef stroganoff, but it’s actually a great source of flavonoids, antioxidants, Vitamins C, K, B and iron. It’s a gentle soothing herb which is good for settling an upset stomach. And, our dogs can benefit from the breath freshening properties of parsley as well. Its diuretic properties make it helpful for preventing urinary tract infections and it can also flush toxins from the body, supporting kidney health!

Be careful, though, because Spring Parsley looks almost identical to Flat-leaf parsley (or Italian parsley), but it’s toxic for dogs and cats. It is also important to note that you should not be giving any parsley to a dog that is prone to developing calcium oxalate stones. That’s because parsley contains high amounts of oxalates.

4. Turmeric

It may be best known for its bright yellow color and pungent aroma, but perhaps less known for its many health benefits. But turmeric is a powerhouse supplement when it comes to herbs for dogs.

What’s it good for? Check this out:

  • Fight inflammation
  • Powerful antioxidant
  • Fight cancer
  • Relieve pain
  • Fight infection

These benefits come mainly from compounds called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin – the main active ingredient in turmeric.

The thing about turmeric is, on its own, it isn’t super bioavailable – meaning it isn’t absorbed very well by the body. But, when you mix it with some coconut oil and black pepper, you crank that absorption rate up big time – by as much as 2,000%!

READ THIS NEXT: Want to start adding turmeric? Whip up a simple batch of golden paste! Here’s the recipe.

**Note: Since turmeric can act as a blood thinner, it might increase your dog’s risk of bleeding, especially if your pup is taking other supplements or medications – it might be best to chat with your vet if this is the case.

5. Basil

Basil has anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties which promote gut, joint, and cardiovascular health in dogs. It’s anti-inflammatory oils, including eugenol, linalool, and citronellol, are good for fighting inflammation in the body, and its high concentration of beta-carophyllene makes it good for arthritis pain. Other benefits of basil include its ability to lift the mood, decrease stress, and even reduce anxiety. See, better for more than just spaghetti sauce.

herbs for dogs

6. Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is a flowering plant that contains the flavonoid compound silymarin in the seeds – silymarin is where all the benefits are found. Silymarin has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

If your dog struggles with liver problems, milk thistle may be a big help. In fact, it has been used since the time of the Roman emperors as a liver tonic. Even the National Institute of Health notes milk thistle as a treatment for liver disorders like hepatitis and cirrhosis, as well as gallbladder problems. Other conditions milk thistle might be useful for include Cushing’s disease, pancreatitis, and even diabetes.

**Note: some herbalists believe milk thistle is best reserved as a treatment for existing disease, rather than being used by itself in a healthy dog. Consider chatting with your vet before adding it to your dog’s health regimen.

7. Dandelion

Often considered a pesky weed, dandelion is actually a powerful plant that should be celebrated rather than criticized.

Dandelions, particularly the greens, are a great natural source of vitamins A, C, K, D, and B, as well as protein, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and manganese. Compared to broccoli, dandelion greens have 3 times more calcium, 3 times more iron, 15 times more vitamin A, and 3 times more vitamin E. But that’s not all. They’re not just nutrient rich. One of the best things about dandelions is that they are a mild liver and digestive stimulant which supports optimal digestion and waste elimination.

Stop weeding and start welcoming this herb into your heart.

8. Ginger

Ginger has a number of health benefits for our canine pals. Thanks to its natural anti-inflammatory benefits it can help to soothe an upset stomach and relieve arthritis pain, making it especially great for senior dogs. It contains many antioxidants that can support dogs with motion sickness, blood circulation, nausea, gastrointestinal problems, and bloat. Additionally, ginger might even help improve cognitive function, which is so important for our seniors.

It also has some impressive anti-cancer benefits! Bonus!

9. Marshmallow Root

No, we’re talking about those fluffy squares (cylinders??) you use to make rice crispy squares. We’re talking about the marshmallow plant.

Marshmallow root has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial, and it’s a demulcent that’s rich in mucilage. Mucilage is a gel-like substance that research shows soothes and protects irritated and inflamed tissue. This makes it useful for things like leaky gut syndrome, gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel, and diarrhea and constipation. It’s also used for the treatment of inflamed bronchial tubes and urinary tract infections.

In addition to being used internally, it can also be applied topically. Remember that mucilage we mentioned earlier? Well, it helps to speed healing by reducing swelling and killing harmful bacteria. 

10. Calendula

When it comes to herbs for dogs, calendula is a master for natural healing. It’s also one of the most commonly used for pets.

Also known as the pot marigold, calendula is well celebrated in herbal medicine, and is used as a topical anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. A broad array of medicinal compounds in the flowers of the plant, including essential oils, flavonoids, saponins, triterpene alcohols, and carotenes, combine to help speed cell reproduction and inhibit bacteria and fungi at the site of injury. Its soothing effect helps prevent free radicals from causing inflammation, and you can use it to rinse your dog’s skin and coat to soothe and help heal skin irritations or infections. It’s even helpful for insect bites or stings.

How to use Herbs for Dogs

There are many different ways to use herbs for dogs. How you use them will depend on what you’re using them for.

  • If you buy a supplement (powder, capsule), try to find one made specifically for dogs and follow the directions on the packaging.
  • With herbs like basil or parsley, use fresh and sprinkle a pinch on your dog’s food. Or, use them to make your favourite dog treat recipe a bit healthier and more flavourful.
  • With things like calendula or chamomile, make a tea rinse by bringing a quart of fresh water to a boil and add 1/2 cup of the fresh dried herb or 2-3 tea bags remove from heat and cover. Allow to steep until cool. Strain through a sieve and apply it liberally to skin irritations.
  • Tinctures and oils for many herbs are available at your local health or natural foods store. These are usually a more concentrated source, so if you wish to use tinctures, oils or higher levels of fresh or dried herbs it is best to work in conjunction with your dog’s health care professional.