In this article on our ongoing series on herbs for dogs, we’re going to explore the pros and cons of wormwood.
Wormwood is native to Europe but has been cultivated throughout the Northern part of our world and has made its way to North America to be found in many wild areas. It is most commonly discovered along roadways or on the edges of fields. It has shown up in other places too, like vacant lots and even waste sites.
Wormwood blooms from June to August and is relatively easy to grow. It only requires average soil, full sunlight and watering occasionally. Most wormwood plants can live in excess of 10 years. They can be harvested at any time of the day, but the most ideal time for collection is a summer afternoon because the heat impacts the potency of wormwood.
Wormwood smells like pine and sage and has leaves of a gray-green color. There are small, yellow-ball flowers in loose clusters on the top branches of the plant and the entire wormwood plant can grow to the size of a small bush, generally about four feet tall.
There are a number of medical applications for dogs when it comes to wormwood and the plant’s antiseptic and anti-fungal properties are certainly worth nothing. It also can function as an astringent and can expel worms, as the name would suggest.
The leaves of wormwood are used in various medical applications, with a tea or the dried leaves as the most popular methods.
- Wormwood is most frequently associated with the expulsion of worms. The plant has been used for hundreds of years as an herbal worming agent to expel tapeworms, roundworms and threadworms. The trouble is that it contains a series of volatile oils, bitter principles and tannins that require it to be used with care on your dog. Overuse of wormwood can irritate the liver and kidneys, while some cases of overuse result in damage to the nervous system. The issue here is using the right amount; too little is ineffective, while too much could cause problems. What I would suggest is weighing the risks: if your dog has an immediate need to rid the body of a parasite, consider wormwood.
- If the above instance applies, use wormwood as follows: add up to a quarter of a teaspoon of wormwood in its dried herbal form to the dog’s food OR use about one-eighth of a teaspoon of a low-alcohol tincture daily at mealtime for every 30 pounds of your dog’s weight. Do not use wormwood for more than three consecutive days. Some dogs may not take wormwood because of its bitter taste, so you may want to consider “concealing” it in either a treat or a gel capsule.
- Wormwood can also be used as a skin rinse for its antiseptic and anti-fungal properties.
As mentioned above, wormwood can be problematic if overused. An alcohol preparation of wormwood should NEVER be used on animals who suffer from seizures, kidney problems or liver problems.
Wormwood should also not be used by pregnant or lactating animals.
Reasons to Use
Wormwood is widely available at many herb retailers and can be grow with relative ease on your own. Its antiseptic and anti-fungal properties are interesting, of course, and the aforementioned rinse is useful. As a worm treatment, it’s a bit of a mixed bag because it can create more trouble than it solves.
Unlike bee balm and other herbs, I can’t simply offer a blanket recommendation for wormwood. There are too many risks involved for that. However, it can be a useful herb when used sparingly and within reason.
References: Herbs for Pets by M.L. Wulff-Tilford and G.L. Tilford, Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats by CJ Puotinen