Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs can be clipped, dug or plucked from the garden or where they grow. They are the most potent of all of the preparations of herbs. Some herbs require a drying process or other preparation in order to activate the active compounds that will benefit your pet.

Herb Capsules

Encapsulated herbs tend to pass right through dogs and cats, due to their relatively short digestive tracts not providing sufficient time for the capsule to break down. You may also have some difficulty getting an adequate dose of herb using capsules.

Alcohol Tinctures or Extracts

Alcohol tinctures are among the most readily usable and popular form of preparing herbs. They can be used orally or in topical applications.

Tinctures are prepared by soaking fresh or dried herb in a certain proportion of alcohol and water, the specific proportion depends on the herb being used. The alcohol breaks down the plant material to release the active ingredients into the liquid base. This liquid base is then strained to produce a finished liquid product. Alcohol tinctures have unlimited shelf life if stored properly, and are very potent.

Because these tinctures are liquid, they are rapidly absorbed in the digestive tract, even in short digestive tracts like dogs and cats. However, they can be difficult to administer as many animals do not like the way they taste.

To make alcohol tinctures, chop up or grind fresh or dried herb as fine as possible, place into a container and just barely cover it with the recommended alcohol/water mix. Cover the container and allow it to sit for two weeks. Strain the mixture using a cloth, and store the liquid in an airtight glass jar.

Glycerin Tinctures or Extracts

Glycerin tinctures are similar to alcohol extracts, only they use vegetable glycerin and water instead of alcohol. This increases the palatability for the animal, and makes them easier to administer. Some glycerin extracts may not be as potent as their alcohol counterparts however. Glycerin extracts can be used in pets with alcohol sensitivity or diabetes. They can be kept for up to 2 years if properly refrigerated and stored.

Water Infusions (Teas)

Infusions are made by steeping the herb in hot water. Teas can be difficult to use because many animals don't like tea, and it can be difficult to get a therapeutic dose into the animal due to the large quantity required. Teas generally are a weaker medicine. However, they can be very useful for skin and coat rinses, or as tonic food supplements mixed in the food.


A decoction is similar to an infusion, but requires a gentle simmering to make a therapeutic solution. Decoction is typically used for herb roots, because the strength of the root requires a longer processing time. Herbs should be simmered for about 15 minutes at a temperature only slightly above boiling. Decoctions tend to be stronger than infusions.

Oil Infusions

Oil infusions are made by covering a herb with olive oil and allowing it to steep in a non-metallic container for at least one month. The oil is then pressed out and can be stored for up to one year. Oil infusions are good for topical applications, as they can help soothe and protect the area while providing the benefit of the herb.


Poultices are made by mashing plant material in enough water or vegetable oil to make a wet paste. They are good for topical applications and can be applied directly to the skin, or made into a compress that can be secured to the animal. To make a compress, wrap the wet poultice in a piece of clean cloth, allowing the liquid to soak through the cloth. Wrap the compress onto the affected area and secure with knots.

Salves and Ointments

Salves or ointments are thickened oil infusions, often thickened using beeswax or coconut butter. Extra cautions should be used when applying salves or ointments to areas that are burned or infected, as they may trap heat or infection in the tissue. Make sure that a good antimicrobial preparation is used, or that the burn has cooled completely, before applying these topical treatments.


A fomentation is used when an oil or water infusion must remain on an area for an extended period of time. Gauze or cloth material is placed over the area, and the infusion is poured onto the dressing until it is soaked.

Standardized Extracts

Standardized extracts are made by increasing the content of active ingredients in order to bring about specific therapeutic effects. This is down by adding the specific compound into the extract at a much higher concentration than would normally be found. However, this process may cause some loss of herbal function that would normally result from using the whole plant.