Chamomile has been used for centuries in herbal medicine to ease stress, soothe a troubled tummy and even heal wounds. While herbs used to be just for people, many vets are now taking advantage of the healing power of nature to treat our dogs as well.
Here are some examples of how chamomile can help your dog:
Soothe Irritated Eyes
Chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties and it’s considered a soothing herb, which means it can be used to ease your dog’s eye troubles.
“Chamomile will take down swelling and inflammation of the skin around the eye, as well as treat infection in the eye,” says Dr. Judy Morgan, a holistic veterinarian, certified and accredited veterinary acupuncturist, and herbal and food therapist.
To use it, Morgan suggests brewing a cup of tea with a chamomile teabag. “Allow to cool, then use the teabag as a compress on the eye,” says Morgan. “Repeat two to three times daily.”
Relieve Itchiness or Skin Inflammation
Chamomile reduces swelling and has anti-microbial properties to help heal skin infections, Morgan says. You can use a pot of cooled chamomile tea as a rinse after bathing to ease irritated or itchy skin, allowing it to drip dry on your dog instead of towel drying it off.
“The tea can also be applied locally to inflamed areas or hot spots,” says Morgan. “Compresses or tea bags from brewed tea can be held on sore areas for a few minutes to bring relief.”
One important thing to keep in mind: While chamomile may provide some relief in mild cases of itchiness or irritation, it’s important to have an exact diagnosis as to the cause of the itching to truly address the problem, says Dr. Christie Long, a veterinarian and veterinary acupuncturist. Skin inflammation and itchiness can be a symptom of food or environmental allergies, an insect bite or sting, fungus or mites, Long says.
Ease Gastrointestinal Issues
Chamomile can help relax muscles in the stomach and bowel (the herb is an antispasmodic) which in turn decreases gas and pain, Morgan says.
However, Long warns against using only chamomile to treat GI disorders, as their presence could indicate a serious problem.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is to know what is causing the GI issues, as there are many causes in dogs and only treating at home with chamomile may delay making an important diagnosis,” she says.
Calm a Stressed Out Dog
Chamomile is often used in humans for its anti-anxiety effects, and it may work the same way on dogs, according to Morgan. “Chamomile contains chemicals that relax smooth muscles, including those found in blood vessels and the digestive tract,” she says. “This secondarily reduces anxiety, perhaps by decreasing blood pressure.”
Because chamomile’s effect on reducing anxiety are mild, it is typically combined with other herbs (valerian, for example) in veterinary-approved calming products, according to Long.
How to Give Your Dog Chamomile
Chamomile can be given to your dog as a tea, powder or fresh ground herb added to dog food, or as a capsule, says Morgan. What form is better and at what concentration depends on the symptom you are treating, the size of your dog, and his overall health, making it essential to talk to a vet before giving your dog chamomile or any other type of herb or homemade treatment.
The first time you give your dog chamomile, go slowly, especially if your pet has shown allergic tendencies to other substances in the past, Long says.
“If using an oral supplement that contains chamomile, make sure you can monitor your dog the first time you give the product for any unusual reactions including vomiting, diarrhea, swelling of the face or head, or difficulty breathing—all potential signs of an allergic reaction,” says Long.
And although chamomile is a fairly safe herb, long-term internal use can lead to negative side effects, according to Morgan. “Some pets may be allergic to chamomile, so watch for itching, hives, or rash after use,” she says.
In addition, chamomile is not safe to give to cats. “I would not advise giving chamomile orally to cats for any reason, as it has been implicated in potentially causing bleeding disorders,” says Long.
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and adventurer, whose work has been published in DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo!, & Popular Mechanics.