Scientific literature highlights the potential of traditional herbal products to treat animals. For example, Bullitta and colleagues (2018)1 reported 42 plant taxa traditionally used to treat animals among different traditional veterinary treatments.
The traditional approach to animal health care is based on the knowledge, methods, practices, skills acquired by members of communities, with differences among communities and also across regions. It also includes a large number of herbal remedies for diseases. This traditional knowledge has been disseminated across generations orally.
Since it has been developed through years by deliberate experimentation, it is a less systematic and less standardized than the current conventional approach to veterinary treatments.
Scientific research is exploring the literature to find evidence about traditional herbal products and treatments used in animal health care, aiming at further investigating their potential as medicinal products.
As per the Organic Production regulatory framework, phytotherapeutic, homeopathic and other products must be preferred to chemically synthesized allopathic veterinary medicinal products, including antibiotics, to treat animals. When herbal, homeopathic or other products are inappropriate for treatment, conventional medicines can be used under certain specific restrictions (e.g., longer withdrawal periods).
Thus, there is room for the application of traditional herbal products, but greater certainty is needed.
We have got few months left to get ready for the application of the New veterinary medicinal products law[Reg. (EU) n. 2019/6].
Since there is insufficient information to date on traditional herbal products used to treat animals, the Commission is called to examine the possibility of introducing a simplified system on the base of information provided by the Member States on the use of such products on their territory.
To create its legislative proposal (if appropriate), the Commission will report to the European Parliament and to the Council by 29 January 2027 on the EU use of traditional herbal products used to treat animals.
As per the legal definition of veterinary medicinal product, any product containing vegetable substances and fulfilling the conditions established in the definition2 must follow the market authorization procedure and rules set up in the regulation.
Traditional herbal products for treating animals fall within this definition. Until a specific legislative framework is defined for these products, operators have to follow the procedure set up for other VMPs.
The assessment for traditional herbal products is needed since any product use to treat or cure animals must ensure an overall benefit-risk balance. Antimicrobial resistance development is one of the current biggest threats to human society and we cannot afford to misjudge risks.
For this reason, final users of VMPs should be careful at checking any product before using it on animals. As already discussed3, safe and prudent use on dairy farms is possible if products are clearly presented and if the final user is able to exclude misleading product from the routine of the farm.
1 Bullitta et al. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (2018) 14:50.
2 Veterinary medicine product or not? OZOLEA’s innovative approach within the new regulatory framework.
3 Veterinary products clearly presented, safe use on dairy farms.