Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Have you ever used a native plant to treat animals?  (Read 4918 times)

William Milliken

  • Joined Jun 2019
  • Sussex
  • Farmer and ethnobotanist
Have you ever used a native plant to treat animals?
« on: May 07, 2021, 05:03:09 pm »
What do you know?

The Ethnoveterinary Medicine Project, established by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, aims to record the remaining knowledge across the British Isles before it disappears. Almost two years ago I put up a forum post on Smallholder about this, and a few people responded. Due to the pandemic and furlough, the project was then put on hold. Now we are restarting it.

These are some of the data that we have received so far:

“An old horseman whom I knew very well in the nearby village (Tebay, Cumbria) regularly went out in spring to pick wild garlic leaves (Allium ursinum) which he fed by the handful to his Fell ponies to worm them.”

“My husband says that years ago his father put Puff Balls on the shelves in the cow shed and the stable. They then dried out and the centres turned to powder. When a cow or a horse injured its leg, the powder was "puffed" on to the injury to aid the healing process, apparently with great success.”

“My father had worked with horses from an early age. One day the head horsemen decided that this horse that wasn't thriving had worms. He told Dad that when they were going round the cattle he would collect some broom and make a soup and dose the horse, which he did. A day or so later there was evidence of worms being passed in the horse's dung.”

“I remember in Somerset back in the 70s the older boys would be forever placing a spray of ivy in front of an inappetent cow.  In fact it appeared to be their go-to "treatment" for most ailments.”

“Lesser birdsfoot trefoil is flash grazed here for the same effect most years by weaned lambs as a break to conventional wormers. Only the one "dose" across a day so as not to have nibbly sheeps rip through the sward, but it seems to work.”

“I have farmed here in the Pennines for 36 years and my father and grandfather before me, so I know my land and the meadow grasses and legumes. We now offer holistic horse boarding and our biodiverse pasture and native hedgerows benefit the horses health. It is interesting to see how they self-medicate. At different times of year different horses will eat hawthorn, hazel, beech, oak, elm (yes we have elm!), ash, willow, gorse, thistle, sow thistle, willow herb, dried nettles, rose hips, dandelions, plantain, and even Ivy and holly, according to their needs.”

If you have any information about ethnoveterinary medicines, feed supplements or other information relating to plants/fungi and animal health from the British Isles, please contribute by replying to this blog, or send an email to

Thank you


Forum sponsors

FibreHut Energy Helpline Thomson & Morgan Time for Paws Scottish Smallholder & Grower Festival Ark Farm Livestock Movement Service

© The Accidental Smallholder Ltd 2003-2024. All rights reserved.

Design by Furness Internet

Site developed by Champion IS