Chinese Herbal Medicine

Use of Chinese herbal veterinary medicine has been described as, “Acupuncture from the inside.” Herbal medicine is a wonderful complement to acupuncture and is an integral part of the practice of Chinese medicine. Herbs are prescribed to animals as formulas, containing from 2-20 different herbs that contribute to the overall effect. Only plant (and occasionally insect) material is used, so you can be sure that the herbal medicine prescribed doesn't contain tiger bone or other ingredients that were traditionally used but are now unacceptable to ethical practitioners.

Although ideally used with acupuncture, herbal formulas can be a great alternative if you do not wish your animal to have acupuncture.

Dr. Harris was certified in Chinese herbal veterinary medicine in 2006 by the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. She has since lectured on herbal medicine at the Chi Institute, where she is now a faculty member.

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How Are Herbal Formulas Given To Animals?

NYVAS only uses herbal formulas that have been produced specifically for veterinary dosing and treatment. Herbal formulas are given to dogs and cats as small pills or capsules, either mixed with food or given directly. For horses, herbs are administered as powder that is sprinkled as a top-dressing on feed. Because horses are plant-eaters, they rarely object to eating the powdered herbs and may even seek out the powder to eat first! Herbal formulas are therefore easily administered to animal patients.

How Do Chinese Herbal Formulas Differ From Herbal Supplements?

Today, there are many, many different nutritional and herbal supplements available for dogs, horses and other animals. They can be bought from pet food stores, agricultural suppliers and online, without veterinary prescription. Some of these supplements are marketed as natural, Chinese herbal supplements for your animal. So why pay for a veterinarian to prescribe herbal medicine?

The Chinese herbal formulas that are prescribed by a veterinarian are different in several important ways. First, they are from companies that rigorously test and analyze their herbal ingredients for identity and purity, with quality control programs comparable to those of pharmaceutical companies. This quality control begins at the seed level and is fully compliant with GMP (Good Manufacturing Practises). There are no "secret formulas"; all ingredients are fully disclosed and on each product's label.

Many of the herbal formulas used by Dr. Harris are formulated specifically for veterinary use by Huisheng Xie DVM PhD, a third generation TCM practitioner and professor at the University of Florida. Due to their potency, they are only sold to veterinarians. When you buy herbal formulas from a veterinarian, you can be sure both that they are from a trusted source and that they will be effective.

Secondly, unlike Western medicine, the same disease is treated with different formulas in Chinese medicine. Take for example, a group of arthritic dogs. With Western medicine, they would all receive the same anti-inflammatory drugs. However, with Chinese medicine, the individual dogs would receive different formulas, depending on factors such as whether they prefer to lie in warm or cool places, whether they improve with exercise or rest, the type of weather that exacerbates the lameness, other medical conditions they suffer from and more. The same disease is therefore treated in many different ways; there is no "one size fits all" in Chinese medicine. It is therefore imperative that for Chinese medicine to be effective, the correct formula is chosen.

A veterinarian certified in Chinese herbal medicine will be able to ensure that your animal is prescribed the most suitable and effective formula. This just isn't possible for you to do on your own by picking up herbs at the store or online.

Conditions that can benefit from Chinese herbal medicine

  • Arthritis and chronic pain
  • Tendon/ligament injuries, rehabilitation
  • Allergies
  • Skin conditions
  • Immune-mediated diseases
  • Kidney disease and kidney failure
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism
  • Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing's disease)
  • Epilepsy and seizures
  • Behavioral problems such as anxiety, fearfulness, insomnia
  • Respiratory infections; chronic coughing or nasal discharge
  • Asthma
  • Nasal bleeding in horses (EIPH)
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, constipation
  • Gastric and intestinal ulceration
  • Non-surgical colic in horses
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Gingivitis and stomatitis (gum disease)
  • Megacolon, megaesophagus
  • Liver disease
  • Male and female infertility
  • Heart disease, heart failure, heart murmurs/arrhythmias
  • Eye diseases, including glaucoma and cataracts
... and many more!

Scientific evidence for herbal medicine's efficacy

Chinese medicine uses a huge variety of herbs, including the roots, bark, twigs, fruits, buds and flowers of various plants. Use of plants as medicine is not an archaic practice; indeed, natural products are often the basis for Western drugs. It has been estimated that 70% of new drugs introduced over the last 25 years are derived from natural products.

Although use of Chinese medicine is often thought to be undocumented and not grounded in scientific fact, much research has actually been done on Chinese herbs, from studies of compounds isolated from individual herbs to clinical trials of herbal formulas. This research has proven both that Chinese herbs are a very safe form of therapy and also that the herbs have genuine, beneficial effects on the body and in illness.


New York Veterinary Acupuncture Service provides acupuncture, herbal medicine, Tui-na and Chinese food therapy on either a house call basis or at several area clinics. House calls are offered in New York's Orange County (Newburgh, Middletown, Beacon, Warwick, Goshen, Washingtonville, Florida, Chester, Monroe, Harriman, Tuxedo and surrounding areas). Thursday house calls are available in Manhattan. Fees vary by location; for more information, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Office visits are available as follows:

High Point K9 Center
2224 Mt. Hope Rd., Middletown, NY
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for appointments

Compassion Veterinary Health Center
235 South Ave., Poughkeepsie, NY
Contact CVHC on 845-473-0358 for appointments

Contact NYVAS