Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Complementary Alternative Therapies for Herps

©2000 Melissa Kaplan


Complementary alternative therapies (sometimes referred to as CAM, or complementary alternative medicine) are those modalities that lay outside the current realm of conventional medicine, both veterinary and human. Alternative therapies range from aromatherapy to acupuncture, from meditation to massage, to herbs, supplements, and nutraceuticals.

The problem is that there is little hard research into the benefits of most of these treatment modalities. Worse, it is an area rife with charlatans and individuals who mean well but end up creating medical disasters. One example is in the case of nutritionists who do not do adequate testing - and looking at your saliva or hair is (with very few exceptions) about as effective as using a Ouija board to figure out what is wrong with you. The results range from no benefit/no harm, to destroyed stomach and intestinal linings and hypervitaminosis or hypermineralosis. Many herbs, vitamins and minerals impair the function of many drugs. If you take them together, you end up negating one, such as taking thyroid medication within 6 hours of taking an iron supplement.

There's also a lot of bad information out there, ranging from outright quackery ("My nutritionist said that drinking this herbal tea will cure my prostate cancer") to shoddy workmanship, such as the Kaiser-Permanent (Santa Rosa, CA) hand-out to someone with iron overload disease that says that taking vitamin C helps the body get rid of iron (in fact, taking vitamin C with iron supplements or eating high C foods when eating iron-containing foods enhances the body's uptake of iron, exactly the opposite of someone with critically high levels of iron needs!).

The medical school curriculum rarely includes a unit on nutrition; they certainly haven't added anything so radical as the study of herbs, nutriceuticals and aromatherapy! Thus, it is up to us as individuals to do our own research into the sparse but growing body of scientific literature on CAM and discuss them with our health care provider. As pet owners, we are equally responsible for doing the research and discussing them with our veterinarians if we are interested in using these things to help improve the health and quality of life for our pets.

The inclusion of any commercial sites below should not be taken as a recommendation of the companies products or services. Instead, they are there because I found the information presented on these sites to be useful in understanding what some of the alternatives are.


Information Sites

AVMA Position on CAM
Guidelines for Alternative and Complementary Veterinary Medicine
Letters of Dissent

Body Work:
Acupuncture - Bibliographies
International Veterinary Acupuncture Society
American Veterinary Chiropractic Association

Veterinary Sources
Alternative Veterinary Medicine (AltVet)
What's Your Alternative? (JAVMA)

General Sources
National Center for Complementary and Alterntive Medicine



Alternative Medicine Review
Journal of Naturopathic Physicians


Drugs and Medications Resources
Most people make the mistake of not realizing that the vitamins, minerals, aminos, herbs and the other over-the-counter things they take are drugs. They are drugs, and like prescription drugs, can interfere with the action of other drugs and in healing and post-operative recovery.

Drug Information

Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Revised 2nd Edition (1997), Michael T. Murray, Joseph E. Pizzorno
a1 Books,, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble,,

Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 1997, James and Phyllis Balch.
a1 Books,, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble,, and

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