A few herbs for radiation exposure…

…and wonderful for multiple other purposes as well.

I mentioned in the last entry that along with foods and supplements, some herbs can assist the body in coping with an upswing in radiation exposure, or simply deal with the everyday levels we and our dogs receive through Xrays, computers, microwave ovens and  energy-saving lightbulbs. In the last entry I covered a bit about the importance of fiber and green foods such as spirulina and chlorella, along with COQ10, Vitamin E, selenium and mushrooms.

Herbal support is important, too.  My core suggestions for dogs are

  • Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica)
  • Milk Thistle ( Silybum Marianum)
  • Burdock (Arctium Lappa)
  • Cleaver‘s (Galium Aparine)

I chose these four because they are safe, effective and also offer a range of other health benefits.

Let’s go through these one at a time.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica)

The uses of Stinging Nettle for dogs are many.One of the conditions I use it most frequently and effectively is for allergy; the seed is important with renal disease and the leaf, for osteoarthritis. Clinical actions include :anti-inflammatory, diuretic, nutritive, hemostatic and anti-diarrheal, and kidney trophorestorative .  The high mineral content and gentle diuresis of nettle makes it a helpful support for dogs exposed to radiation; my preference is to use infusion, ladled into a home made food, several times a day (as opposed to tincture, for example, or commercial capsules of the dried  herb/extract).

Although stinging nettle does indeed STING when fresh, drying (thoroughly) or cooking removes the problem. In Veterinary Herbal Medicine, Susan Wynn notes that ” handled with gloves, stinging nettle can be sauteed in butter and is tastier than spinach” (I agree!)  For dogs, make an infusion, and ladle an appropriate amount onto their food three times a day. You may only be feeding twice; if so,  either use it all up in the two or add a small mini-meal (tripe?) mid day and spoon the nettle infusion over that.

To make a nettle infusion;

  • Put one ounce of dried herb into a quart jar; fill jar to the top with boiling water and cap tightly.
  • Strain after 4-8 hours and drink hot or cold
    .
  • Refrigerate what you don’t drink right away; drink that within a day

(from Susun Weed’s article on radiation here)

This is my method with dogs,  I have a lot of nettle around my house. Because infusion is used over a longer period of time than a tincture you might take for an acute condition, I advise mentioning it’s use to your vet. If your dog is on a diuretic such as Lasix, nettle’s diuretic actions may potentiate  the drug. Again, Susan Wynn says” Cautious authors have suggested that diabetes, heart failure, kidney disease, edema, pregnancy and lactation are contraindications for this herb. The authors do not agree and believe this to be a very safe herb in practise”

VHM, page 609

Dose for infusion: 1/4 to 1/2 cup per 20 lbs Body Weight, divided TID.(optimally) So, for example, your 80 pound dog could get between one and two cups of infusion per day, in three doses. I tend to work with the lower end. But if my dog had just had a lot of exposure to radiation, I might well use the higher end of the range as well. I have found nettle to be a very safe and useful herb in practise and in my own life (and I’m sensitive to everything!)

That said, I always start dogs on very small doses of any herb, or supplement for that matter –  give a lower amount (say one third of this total) for two to three days, then build up to the level you want to be using.

Dose for Tincture: 1-2 drops per pound bodyweight, TID (three times daily)

Milk Thistle (Silybum Marianum)

Well, I wrote a whole lot on this one in the monograph, but it’s worthwhile to revisit in light of the topic at hand. Milk thistle strengthens and protects the liver,and in cases of ANY toxin exposure I like to add a round to my dog’s  supplement regimen.

For this herb I use either a standardized powder extract, (80% silymarin) or an alcohol tincture (which they hate, so  it’s second choice).

If using tincture, the standard dose is 1/4 teaspoon per 20 pounds body weight, diluted in water and added to food. With the capsules,  I do about 15 mgs per kg BW, again divided daily, not all at once.

I feel milk thistle is one of THE most important herbs we can use for our dogs, with all the stress their livers are placed under (vaccinations, lawn and household chemicals, various other environmental hazards, and let’s not forget garbage eating). It only makes sense to include it in any protocol for surviving radiation exposure. Practitioners are divided on length of usage, with some claiming that longterm use can actually weaken liver function. For this reason, I use it preventively twice a year, and in all cases of liver disease, often 6 weeks on and two off.

Burdock (Arctium Lappa)


Even if you have never used burdock medicinally, if you have dogs and every go walking outside in the summer, chances are you are well acquainted with them; especially you folks with longer haired dogs. BURRS are one of the banes of existence on a grooming level – but from such a marvelous and potent healing plant.

Not to mention those of us who have horses…

but, the plant is pure magic. In Herbs for Pets, the Tilfords write ” We cannot emphasize enough the value of this herb in the longterm care of companion animals”..

With affinities for the skin – particularly inflammatory issues related to toxin exposure which may include poor diet, burdock is an essential for me in dealing with itching dogs  and especially for hotspots.  (There will be full monographs on all of these herbs coming up in future here). For our purposes, let me again quote the Tiflord’s simple summation; ” Burdock helps clean the body from the inside out”. Long used as a “blood purifier” or alterative herb, burdock is useful for  the removal of “pesticides and airborne pollutants from the bloodstream before they cause harm to the body”.

So, again, we can use a gentle and powerful alterative herb to assist the body’s detoxification process and self-healing throughout and after stress. I cherish all the local burdocks near my house, and lift the roots in the fall of the first year. I like to use them fresh for myself and partner, and tincture  a good portion for the dogs.

Dosage for Tincture: 0.2 – 2.0 ml per 20 lbs, diluted and divided, preferably TID

Dosage for Decocted Root: 1/4 – 1/2 cup per 20 lbs, divided TID

Cleaver’s (Galium Aparine)


Ahh, Cleaver’s. This herb is special friend of mine, as I have had issues from not one but two infected roots over the past year – one a failed root canal; and the second one, apparently related to grinding my teeth at night. Cleaver’s is a herb I’ve used as part of my own healing journey – and it has a role to play in your dog’s health as well.

Cleaver’s is one specific type of plant from a  genus that includes many other, similar species. Around here we have a lot of bedstraw; many farmers douse these plants with RoundUp annually to try and remove them (they do this with burdock and milkweed and Queen Anne’s Lace, it is almost physically painful to watch at times). Cleaver’s is one of the most important alteratives with affinity for the lymphatic system; applications include any condition in which swollen lymph nodes present, or where lymphatic circulation has been impaired. Cleaver’s helps  move fluid through the lymphatic system and clear blockages, infections, drain off accumulated toxins.  I generally prefer tincture, and dose at 1- 2 ml per 20 pounds, starting with the usual few drops to test reactivity. Cleaver’s is a safe herb with no adverse effects recorded, and a powerful aid to restoring balance during or after infection, cancer, radiation exposure.

In Summation…

So, these would be the Big Four for me, herbally, for use in canine radiation recovery. I might add infusion of nettle daily for, say, 8 weeks; combine the tinctures of cleaver’s and burdock,  and give the powdered standardized extract of milk thistle. I like to start any herbal therapy with ONE at a time, watch for a week, add another. Often this is not *really* necessary, but I’ve also seen dogs react to calendula and alfalfa, and I prefer caution in these cases. If you are adding chlorella and some assorted fiber, plus CoQ10, say, you have a strong foundation for helping your dog . On Susun Weed’s page linked to above, there are a lot of dietary ideas, such as adding orange and dark leafy green vegetables for beta-carotene, that I specifically did not recommend for dogs, as too much can create loose stool (and haven’t we all been there). My suggestion is, if you’re concerned about radiation exposure, start by optimizing the diet – upgrade to premium kibble if you’ve been using an economy brand; move to a home made diet if you’ve been using kibble. If the diet is already good, try a few of these suggestions, according to which ones  appeal to you and how much risk your dog is at. Don’t stress, but do be aware of the tools you can use.

And while you’re at it –  add a few to your own diet – some Miso soup, chlorella, a nettle infusion…. let us never forget – we need to be healthy and well,  after all- who else is going to cook for the dog?


Resources

Veterinary Herbal Medicine, Susan Wynn and Barbara Fougeres

Herbs for Pets, Gregory and Mary Wulff-Tilford

Manual of Natural Veterinary Medicine. Susan Wynn and Steve Marsden

Susun Weed’s website

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