Herbs for Deworming
Copyright 2008 Alethea Kenney (email: allie@reedbird.com)
The table accompanying this article can be viewed by clicking here. It is provided as a PDF file.
Herbs have always been a part of animal husbandry and probably no place more important than their use as anthelmintics. Although primitive areas and traditional cultures still use herbs for this purpose, in developed countries, especially the United States, Canada and most of Europe, chemical dewormers have dominated the farm scene. Inexpensive (here), readily available and easy to administer, they appear to be the perfect solution to parasite problems for the modern shepherd. Unfortunately, there are drawbacks; chemical dewormers introduce new and sometimes toxic molecules to the environment through animal feces and parasites rapidly develop resistance to the chemicals (Wynn, 2003, p. 36). Chemical dewormers may cause birth defects in fetuses when given to pregnant animals (Wynn, 2003, p. 31). Farms wanting a more natural approach to animal husbandry or those trying to meet organic standards must look elsewhere for deworming products (Wynn, 2003, p. 35).

Many plants have been traditionally used for this purpose but scientific or on-site studies on efficacy have been slow in following. Nevertheless, those plants studied do show varying amounts of efficacy, some as high as 100% against certain species of parasites (Wynn & Fougere, 2007, p. 328). Herbal deworming products and/or plants should be considered for use based on efficacy, safety to the animal, possible resistance in parasites and willingness of the shepherd to follow through on administration, which will probably need to be long term (Wynn & Fougere, 2007, p. 327). Benefits of herbal use is broad spectrum efficacy, non toxic with a wide margin of safety while being rapidly metabolized and eliminated from the body and sustainability of the product (Wynn, 2003), p. 35). Use of herbal dewormers does not mean other mechanical means of parasite control are not needed, parasites can develop resistance to herbs and rotation of plant species may be necessary (although use of more than one herb at a time may mitigate this effect), while pasture management and nutrition must also be taken into account (Wynn & Fougere, 2007, p. 442).

Following is a partial list of herbs studied, results of efficacy in ruminants (sheep, goats or cattle) and parasites effected. Plants with traditional use status versus scientifically studied results are noted as such. For the most part, I have chosen to include only herbs common to the U.S. or Europe and used in ruminants, otherwise the list of possible herbal anthelmintics would be tremendous. Most studies are not done in the U. S., possibly due to influence by large pharmaceutical companies and agribusiness relationships, but that does not mean the studies should be viewed as inaccurate (Wynn & Fougere, 2007, p. 442) All of the studied plants have a history of use for parasite control and some have proven to be more effective than common chemical dewormers (Wynn & Fougere, 2007, p. 443).

Scientific Name of Species of Parasites Studied (not always specified):
  • Round Worms: Trichostrongylus, Nematodirus, Cooperia, others
  • Stomach Worm: Ostertagia ostertagi, Haemonchus contortus
  • Tapeworm: Moneizia

List of Herbs Not Readily Available or Not Often Considered:
  • Albizia anthelmintica 89.8% efficacy for mixed parasites in sheep (Wynn &Fougere, 2007, p. 442)
  • Azadirachita indica Neem (Wynn, 2003, p. 31)
  • Calotropis procera for H. contortus (Wynn, 2003, p. 34)
  • Caesalpinia crista for Toxocara vitulorum in calves (Wynn, 2003, p. 32)
  • Diospyros mespiliformis (African ebony) extract in rodents 97-100% effective (Wynn, 2003, p. 32)
  • Hilderbrantia sepalosa 90% efficacy for mixed parasites in sheep (Wynn & Fougere, 2007 p. 442)
  • Khaya anthotheca decoction for Fasciola hepatica in ruminants (Wynn, 2003, p. 32)
  • Mallotus philippensis powdered fruit for Cestodes in goats (Wynn, 2003, p. 32)
  • Myrosine afriacana 77% efficacy mixed parastes in sheep (Wynn & Fougere, 2007, p. 442)
  • Nauclea latifolia extract as effective as albendazole for mixed nematodes in sheep (Wynn, 2003, p. 32).
  • Ocimum gratissimum (Basil) essential oil, eugenol (at 0.5% conc.) for H. contortus (Wynn & Fougere, 2007, p. 443)
  • Pittosporum spp. for Moneiza in sheep (Wynn, 2003, p. 32)
  • Spigelia anthelmia ethyl acetate inhibited 100% of H. contortus eggs and 81% of larval development, methanolic extract inhibited 97% of eggs and 84% of larva (Wynn & Fougere, 2007, p. 443)
  • Spondias mombin 100% effective for Haemonchus spp., Trichostrongylus spp., Oesophagostomum spp., Strongyloides spp., and Trichurias spp. in sheep (Wynn & Fougere, 2007, p. 328)
  • Terminalia glaucescens infusion and decoction for strongyles in calves (Wynn, 2003, p. 32)
  • Vernonia amygdalina infusion and decoction for strongyles and coccidia in calves (Wynn, 2003, p. 32)
  • Plants high in tannins also show anthelmintic properties (Wynn & Fougere, 2007, p. 433).

Plants Effective to Varying Degrees Against Protozoal Infections (All from Wynn & Fougere, 2007, p. 443):
  • Bertholletia excelsa
  • Coptis chinensis
  • Nycanthes arbortristis leaves
  • Parthenium hysterophorus flower
  • Ranunculus sceleratus
  • Xanthium strumarium (rough cocklebur)
  • Zanthoxylum liebmannianun

Plants for Coccidia, Traditional Antiseptics (From De Bairacli Levy, 1991, p. 227):
  • Allium sativum (garlic)
  • Artemisia spp. (wormwood, southernwood)
  • Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary)
  • Ruta graveolens (rue)
  • Thymus vulgaris (thyme)

Anthelmintics as Pasture Plantings (All from Wynn & Fougere, 2007, p. 442):

Cichorium intybus (chicory) grazed showed fewer adult abomasal helminths
Hedysarum coronarium (sulla) grazed showed higher antibody titers against antigens of Ostertagia circumcinta and lower numbers of adult parasites also
Lotus corniculatus (birdsfoot trefoil) grazed showed lower fecal egg counts
Onobrychis viciifolia (sainfoin) legume with polyphenols and tannins had significant in vitro and in vivo effects on larva and adult H. contortus, Trichostrongylus colubriformis and Dictyocaulus viviparous (lungworm)

Plants Showing Potential as Anthelmintics and Recommended as Pasture Plants (U. of Aberdeen, 2003):
  • Fagus (Beech creosote possibly)
  • Fraxinus spp. (young ash shoots)
  • Legumes (possibly)
  • Rubus spp. (blackberry and raspberry)
  • Sambucus spp. (young elder shoots)

Herbs Listed as Drugs and Regulated in Countries Other than U. S. (Wynn, 2003, p. 35):
  • Artemisia absinthium (wormwood)
  • Chenopodium
  • Juglans nigra (black walnut)
  • Ruta Graveolens (rue)
  • Tanacetum vulgare (tansy)

In conclusion, there are many plants that have a history of use as anthelmintics. Each culture and medical tradition has its own favorites that may have been in use for thousands of years. I have not attempted to include most of these although the recipes from Eclectic American physicians can be entertaining, useful or even poisonous. There are too many options of plants that may be slightly or completely effective against most parasite infestations to include here. Use caution when choosing herbs for deworming purposes, some may be toxic at low levels to the host while others may be completely safe, or unsafe for one species of animal while harmless to another. This information was intended to provide insight into traditional and scientific validation of plant use as anthelmintics, not to provide doses or prescriptions for particular parasite problems. Nutrition, minerals, pasture management and good husbandry practices combined with qualified veterinary care are the best solutions to parasites in sheep.


Works Cited (numbers refer to sources cited in spreadsheet):
1. De Bairacli Levy, J. (1991). The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable. London: Faber.
2. Satrija, F., Retnani, E. B., Ridwan, Y., and Tiuria, R. (2001). Potential Use of Herbal Anthelmintics as Alternative Antiparasitic Drugs for Small Holder Farms in Developing Countries. Proceedings of 10th Conference of Association Institutions for Tropical Veterinary Medicine. Copenhagen, Denmark
Online: http://www.aitvm.kvl.dk/E_periurban/E6Satrija.htm
Retrieved Feb. 25, 2008
3. University of Aberdeen, 2003, www.abdn.ac.uk/organic/organic_14c.php, Retrieved Feb. 29, 2008
4. Wynn, S. (2003). Herbal Treatment of Gastrointestinal Parasites in Companion Animals. Journal of the American Herbalists Guild 4(1) pp. 29-39.
5. Wynn, S. and Fougere, B. (2007). Veterinary Herbal Medicine. Missouri: Mosby.