Organic farmers, pet owners, and holistic medicine/veterinary practitioners in British Columbia were asked about their use of medicinal plants for veterinary care (ethno-veterinary medicine) in a workshop and in individual interviews. Participants were asked about plants used for flea prevention, repelling flies, ear infections, and ear mite infestations. The study found that 6 plants were commonly used to repel fleas and flies, and 14 were used to treat ear problems. Mugwort, lemon, juniper, lavender, lemon balm, and cedar were used as infusions for treating flea infestations. Lemon balm, lemon water, and lemon spritzers were used as flea repellents. Planting of juniper trees and spraying juniper oil on bedding were common as environmental repellents for fleas. Mugwort spray was used as a fly repellent. Many combinations of ear treatments were used, but common ones included chamomile tea drops, various combinations of garlic and other plants, and vinegar for yeast infections. Castor oil and castor oil mixed with a variety of plants were used to treat ear mite infestations.

COMMENTARY: The use of low-cost plants for veterinary care has been termed "ethnoveterinary medicine." This article describes the use of various plants and contains an interesting table reporting validation information from veterinary and human medicine. For example, garlic may seem to be an odd ingredient in ear preparations, but studies have reported that the antifungal activity against Aspergillus species is similar or better than that of pharmaceutical preparations. In another example, nootkatone from Alaskan yellow cedar was shown in at least 1 study to be an effective insecticide against the nymphal stage of Ixodes ticks, and nootkatone from grapefruit was biocidal to fleas. In this day and age of technologic advances, it is easy to forget that the origins of many life-saving drugs are plants and that investigations of indigenous peoples' use of plants should always be the starting point.