Natural health products are gaining real traction in the marketplace. Health-conscious people are increasingly attracted to things such as herbs and plant roots, hoping to boost their immune system and stave off illness. The idea is nothing new as almost every culture in the world has used the plants in their environments as a primary treatment of diseases and ailments.
Here in the western world, plant and herbal medicines have started to become more widely accepted over the past 30 years or so. An event that changed the way herb products were viewed in the U.S. was the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), which defined herb products as “dietary supplements” allowing companies to list a product’s benefits on the label.
A similar phenomenon is happening in agriculture. Scientists are finding new, natural solutions for keeping chickens, turkeys, pigs and cows healthy. I talk about this fast-growing area of animal health in a new video below. Typically backed by research and field studies, nutrition products are advancing animal health in impressive ways. As a bonus, they are often made from natural ingredients.
These products are providing a variety of benefits. For example, some nutritional products support animals’ immune systems, which helps keep them healthy. Others address very specific animal health needs, such as optimizing calcium metabolism in dairy cows and improving digestion and nutrient absorption in cattle, pigs and chickens. Still, others help to improve the defense against intestinal parasites one of the most significant challenges for farmers trying to raise poultry without using antibiotics.
The great news is that there are also bigger picture benefits. Because nutritional products help to keep animals healthy, they also potentially reduce the need for antibiotics. As a mother of three and veterinarian, I appreciate and support efforts to keep antibiotics effective for future generations of people and animals.
If you care about environmental stewardship, you’ll like this: many of these products are made from renewable sources. The quillaja tree is just one example of a renewable source. Yeast cells are another. It’s exciting to see impressive innovation in this area of animal health.
The overall goal is to keep animals healthy – less illness means less suffering and a decreased overall need for medicines like antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. That said, when animals do get sick, it’s important to ensure medicines like antibiotics, remain available to prevent pain and suffering.
The animal health community is constantly working to find new solutions to help ensure healthy animals, healthy people and a healthy planet. Veterinarians like me took an oath to protect animal health and having a diverse set of tools to fulfill this commitment is critical. Innovative solutions like nutritional specialty products made from natural substances hold potential to make a significant contribution to the health of animals.