Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Food as Medicine: Goji Berries ~ Christa Riddle, DVM, CVA, CVCH

This is one of my favorite quotations and a basis for the way I would like to practice veterinary medicine. If there is a food or a diet that can accomplish healing in a patient, I would prefer that to medication. A few years ago, I posted on my personal blog about the medicinal benefits of goji berries, and I wanted to re-share that with my Shiloh clients. Read below to learn more about this amazing superfood.

Dried Goji Berries
What are goji berries?
Goji berries are a fruit that grows on an evergreen shrub found in subtropical and temperate regions of China, Tibet and Mongolia. Goji berries are also called wolf berries, Lycium, or by the Chinese pin-yin Gou Qi Zi. 

What's special about goji berries?
These berries are rich in antioxidants, specifically beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. They are good sources of calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, selenium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin C. Goji berries also contain 18 amino acids, 8 polysaccharides, 6 monosaccharides, and 5 unsaturated fatty acids. You can get an abundance of nutrients in just one small berry!

What are the clinical applications?
In Chinese herbal medicine, goji berries are combined with additional herbs to help with eye disorders, endocrine disorders such as diabetes and Cushing's diseases, premature aging, coughing, hypertension, and infertility. Goji berries have been used by herbalists in China for over 6,000 years! 

What do goji berries taste like?
The berries have a mild tangy taste, slightly sweet and slightly sour. When eaten in the dried form, they have the texture and consistency of raisins. (FYI--you should never feed raisins to your pet).

What are the forms of goji berries available?
The most widely available form is dried fruit. There are juices and teas available but the health benefits are less well documented with these forms. You can find goji berries at health food stores, Asian supermarkets, and online.

Are there possible drug interactions?
Goji berries may interact with anticoagulant medications at high doses.

Can goji berries be used as food therapy?
Goji berries can be used long term for food therapy in animals and people. Before starting this with your pet, please check with your integrative veterinarian or experienced herbalist for proper use and dosage.

Comments? Questions? Reply to this post below! We would love to have your input on any and all of our posts.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Felines and Flora ~ Rebecca, Technician

They say that the freshest food you can eat is the food that you grow yourself, but what about your pet’s food? I started growing some herbs and produce in and around my house last year, and I swear that it really does taste better grown fresh from the garden. This new interest in gardening lead me to start wondering how I could incorporate the same fresh ingredients into my cats' diet.

I have two cats, Charlie and Arya, but Arya was the main kitty who inspired me to add some greens into their lives. I started growing some wheatgrass indoors to add some extra vitamins to my morning smoothie, and before long, I started to find Arya jumping on the counter to nibble at the blades of wheatgrass. Once I learned that it helps aid feline digestion (no more hairballs!), I began offering it to my cats practically every morning. Not only does it have a high fiber content, but it also contains chlorophyll, folic acid, vitamins A, B, and E, calcium, and more! Keep in mind--with wheatgrass or oatgrass, if you leave them to grow up to five feet, the grains will become toxic; however, my grass has never made it farther than twelve inches.

Once I found out how much my cats love nibbling on some wheatgrass, I started to research other edible plants that I could grow for my cats and for myself. Catnip is an obvious choice, since it is a well-known kitty pleaser. The scent gives them bursts of energy, while if they eat the herb, it actually works to relieve stress and anxiety.

If your cat likes to ingest the catnip, it can be great to give before or after a trip to the vet’s office to help calm their nerves. One of the best uses for human consumption of catnip is to brew it into a tea. It can be used to aid digestion, calm nerves, and as a natural sedative. I will occasionally drink catnip tea an hour before bed if I'm feeling restless, and it puts me straight to sleep! If you prefer to keep your catnip for your kitties, a catnip tea bath can also be used to help relieve some itchy skin; just check with your veterinarian first, as this might not be recommended in all cases.

If your kitty is one of the sad few who do not get the bursts of energy associated with catnip, don't give up just yet! Valerian might be your next best bet. While cats seem to like the leaves and flowers, they will go crazy for the dried root. Valerian root is a stimulant, which means that it will send your cat dancing and rolling around your house. We bet you’ll never see your cat quite as happy as he is on Valerian root.

Some of the typical produce that you might already be growing can be enjoyed by our feline friends and can be beneficial to them as well. Parsley leaves contain vitamin A, B, and C, beta carotene, and potassium, so they’re a great addition to any edible garden. Carrot tops (Charlie's favorite), with their vitamin A and beta carotene, can be a great snack as well.

Whenever I am growing produce or herbs for myself or my kitties, I always try to start from seed. Going through the entire growing process helps to ensure that there are no chemicals added into the mix, and I can be confident that what we are eating is safe and extremely healthful. I try to have two or three pots of each plant growing so that I can get the most out of my production. I typically have plants that are only for human consumption (sorry Charlie, no sharing), plants that are accessible to my cats to nibble on as they please, and a set of plants in "recovery" from having their leaves bitten or being slightly uprooted. Most plants will recover and continue to grow well as long as you save them before more than 1/3 of the plant is destroyed.

Most importantly, when talking about edible plants, it’s worth having the knowledge of which plants to definitely not allow access to in and around your household. The most commonly encountered plants that are toxic to cats include:

       Autumn Crocus
       Lily of the Valley
       Sago Palm
       Tulips and Hyacinths

Visit the pet poison help website for a complete list of poisons.

Comments? Questions? Reply to this post below! We would love to have your input on any and all of our posts.