cows in field

Whole Herd Health: Holistic Healing Therapies That Work A NODPA Field Days Workshop with Dr. Cynthia Lankenau, DVM

By Liz Bawden, NODPA Board Past Co-President

Dr. Cynthia Lankenau, DVM

In my humble opinion, Dr. Cynthia Lankenau ranks as one of the “rock stars” of the holistic veterinary world. So, we were fortunate to welcome her back to the Annual NODPA Field Days in Reedsville, PA this September. “Whole Herd Health” is a pretty massive topic, and she uses a variety of healing modalities in her practice: botanicals, acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine and reiki. Her founding mantra seemed to be “Do what works”. A one-hour workshop could not possibly make the attending farmers competent practitioners of any of these modalities, so Dr. Lankenau pointed out some basic treatments for common health problems.

The most stressful time for a cow is at calving, and there are some acupuncture points that you can get familiar with to offer help when it’s needed. Acupuncture manipulates the electrical energy flowing in distinct pathways to causes changes in the body. Farmers are not trained to use needles, but can achieve very real effects using brushes, liniments, finger pressure or even tuning forks at these points on energy meridians. If you suspect a malposition before she begins labor, massage with your fingers or use a liniment on her hind foot above the outside dew claw, along the coronary band. This is called BL-67 or the “Spinning Babies” point; it will help encourage the calf to right itself into the correct birthing position. It is only effective before labor actually begins. If the calf is descended into the birth canal, use LI-1 which is found on the inside of the inside claw on her front foot at the coronary band. To increase dilation a bit when the calf seems large, use the “Good Shepherd” point at ST-45 located at the top part of the inside claw on her rear foot.

Homeopathy uses (mostly) botanicals in very dilute doses to achieve healing of an ailment that an excess of the same ingredient would cause. Choosing a remedy will be determined by the actual symptoms, what makes symptoms better or worse, the body type or constitution of the animal and more. Here’s Dr Lackenau’s list of emergency remedies to have on hand for acute conditions:

Arnica – for any soft tissue trauma

Bellis – for pelvic trauma

Hypericum – for nerve pain, a pinched nerve after calving or a recently dehorned calf

Belladonna – hot, red inflammation

Aconite- for acute “wind invasion”, pneumonia due to drafts, sudden fear

Silica, Sulphur, Carbo veg – mixture for mastitis

Nosodes – homeopathic “vaccines”, deliver in drinking water

To strengthen a cow for her overall wellness, homeopathy pays attention to an animal’s “constitution”. There are four main constitutional types that are associated with these remedies:

Cal Carb: These are big, blocky, slow-moving, stubborn.

Cal Phos – These are thinner, a bit nervous.

Phos – thinner still, and a bit excitable

Lycopodium – very nervous, easily startled, often digestive/liver issues.

She highlighted the following remedies for these special circumstances:

Gelsemium – for muscular exhaustion at calving

Arnica – use after calving to reduce injury/inflammation, for any putrid/septic type of uterine infection, bruises, can’t handle being touched.

Bellis – down cows, helps with trauma to organs, sensitive to the cold.

Traditional Chinese medicine uses plants and combinations of plants to cure disease. It is imperative to locate these from reputable importers since Chinese medicines have a very high rate of contamination. This system of medicine recognizes that disease happens in layers; so, a practitioner has to diagnose not only the disease, but also the layer it has penetrated.

One essential remedy Dr. Lankenau recommended is Yunnan Baiyao, a strong antiseptic that stops bleeding and it’s very useful diluted in water and infused for a septic uterus. For first beginning colds, use Yin Qiao (Elderberry); if it’s a bit deeper, use Gan Mao Ling (a mixture of 6 herbs). She shared a case study of a newborn calf that turned septic: he was born in a manure-filled gutter in a cold, damp barn and was there for several hours before being assisted. Although he was moved to a box stall with his dam, he became quite ill, experiencing the onset of respiratory symptoms and diarrhea. He received Gan Mao Ling for the respiratory symptoms, and a remedy called “Early Comfort” for the scours. Both remedies are in tincture form, and the calf received 60 drops of each four times a day for 5 days. The dose was dropped to twice a day, then discontinued. By the 6th day, the calf was well.

Western herbal medicine is a bit more familiar; she recommended sourcing herbs from organic and sustainably harvested sources. Use ground herbs on adult animals where they are well-absorbed and utilized but use tinctures on young calves. A general rule of thumb is to give a cow 3 to 4 times the human dose; give a calf the human dose. A hypothermic week-old calf with watery diarrhea was treated by mixing tinctures of Cinnamon, Agrimony, Echinacea root, White Horehound, and Usnea lichen. He received equal parts of the herbal tinctures mixed together; one teaspoon three to four times a day, given orally for 10 days. With good nutrition and a warm, dry pen the calf fully recovered.

Down cows are especially complicated due to what is called Compartmental Syndrome; this is where the thick fascia covering the muscles stays tight, stagnant blood causes the muscles to swell, and leads to death of the muscle tissue. Corydalis will help to move the stagnant blood to keep the muscles from dying. Vigorous massage will help as well, especially along the sciatic nerve, along the quadriceps, at the top of the hamstring muscles and at the ”Jing River” point –just above the hock.

For ketotic cows, use citrus peel, Burdock root, and Milk Thistle seed (freshly ground) at a dose of 4 tablespoons twice a day to support the liver, spleen, and pancreas.

She reminded us that conventional veterinary medicine relies on antibiotics to control disease organisms, but the reason that they may not work for long is that the antibiotic uses only one pathway to control disease whereas herbal remedies have many phytochemicals, and therefore have a multi-pronged approach. This is why the major pharmaceutical companies have not moved to patent drugs from botanical sources; for when they isolate a compound that is identified as effective, it may not work as well (or at all) by itself.

She recommended the following sources for herbs: Frontier Co-op, Mountain Rose Herbs, Zach Woods Herb Farm, Healing Spirits Herb Farm, and Pacific Botanicals. And Chinese medicines should be sourced through a professional to ensure quality.

Dr. Cynthia Lankenau, DVM, can be reached at the Holistic Center for Veterinary Care, 9002 Sunset Dr, Colden, NY 14033, (716) 941-9477.