Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Plants for animal health

The Ethnovetinary Medicine Project, led by William Milliken of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, seeks to gather herbal remedies which are remembered as being used to treat animals in the British Isles, and information on plants which are fed to animals to ensure that they enjoy a healthy life.  See

Therefore, anyone with knowledge of such practices is urged to record them and send them in.  Although the project focusses on what people  do and remember today, previously published information would also be appreciated.  With the latter in mind, here are some of the cures recorded by Anne E. Jones in her ‘Folk medicine in living memory in Wales’, in Folk Life, vol. 18: 58-68 (1980):

‘In many parts of South Wales ivy [Hedera helix] was chewed and spat into the eye of a cow or sheep suffering from a cataract.  It was also fed to cows suffering from a mineral deficiency, and was considered excellent for cleansing cows after calving’.

‘An informant in Pembrokeshire used to boil herb robert [Geranium robertianum] and broad-leaved plantain [Plantago major] with grease and a piece of rusty iron as a remedy for red-water in calves’.

‘In south Caernarvonshire … a decoction of broom [Cytisus scoparius] was applied externally to rid animals of lice’.

William Milliken has carried out ethnobotanical work in many parts of the world, including Scotland, where with co-author Sam Bridgewater he produced the magnificent Flora Celtica, published in 2004.  We wish him well with his  current project.

William will be talking about his work to the South London Botanical Institute – on Tuesday 28 November 2023.

Image:  Jacob sheep, Coulsdon Common, London Borough of Croydon, December 2019.

Updated 28 September 2023.