Planta Med 2015; 81 - PW_43
DOI: 10.1055/s-0035-1565667

Plant species reported from Swiss farmers to treat bovine respiratory diseases

H Ayrle 1, K Schmid 2, M Disler 2, T Bischoff 2, K Stucki 2, M Zbinden 2, CR Vogl 3, M Hamburger 2, M Walkenhorst 1
  • 1Department of Livestock Science, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Frick, Switzerland
  • 2Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
  • 3Division of Organic Farming, Department of Sustainable Agricultural Systems, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna, Austria

Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) causes high morbidity in cattle, and extensive antibiotic treatment is leading to increasing resistance of BRD pathogens. Medicinal plants (MP) used traditionally by Swiss farmers for BRD might be a potential future therapeutic option. Since 2011 ethnoveterinary surveys have been conducted in Switzerland, with some 200 interviews leading to more than 1'500 use reports (UR). From this dataset all URs referring to BRD were extracted and analyzed with respect to plant parts used, preparation of remedies, administration, and oral daily dose (ODD). A total of 54 URs were documented (Table 1). The most common of the 15 reported MPs were Thymus vulgaris L. (TA), Picea abies L. (PA) and Ilex aquifolium L. (IA) representing some 70% of all URs. Common ways of administration of MPs were by direct feeding of the herb, as herbal teas, by inhalation, and as a liniment. For 25 of the 32 oral applications an ODD could be determined. ODDs reported for TA varied widely, but were comparable (median 0.19 g/kg0,75) to commonly used human ODDs of 0.13 – 0.26 g/kg0,75. The use of this plant was reasonable considering known antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and spasmolytic properties. PA was administered by feeding of fresh twigs, but no detailed information on dosage could be obtained. However, antibacterial properties of spruce resin has been reported in literature. IA is commonly considered as toxic, but five UR corresponded to an average ODD of 0.41 g/kg0,75. Whether this ethnoveterinary use can be rationalized by the content in triterpene saponins is not clear at the moment. More research is needed, and the use of IA cannot be recommended at present. The 54 URs for BRD represent less than 5% of total URs documented so far from Swiss farms. In contrast to dermatological and gastrointestinal diseases the treatment of BRD with MPs seems less common. Nevertheless, several of the 15 documented MPs are interesting starting points for further investigations.

Tab. 1: Plant species used by Swiss farmers to treat respiratory diseases in cattle

No of UR

Plant species

Used plant part

Route of administration

ODD (g/kg0,75) (min/median/max)


Thymus vulgaris L.

herb (20), leaves (2), essential oil (1)

o (15), t (2), i (4), et (2)



Picea abies L.

branches (6), resin (3)

o (6), t (3)



Ilex aquifolium L.

branches (3), leaves (3)

o (5), et (1)



Origonum vulgare L.

herb (2)

o (2)



Allium cepa L.

bulb (2)

o (1), i (1)



Abies alba MILL.

branches (2)

o (1), et (1)



Juniperus communis L.

branches (2)

o (2)



Armoracia rusticana B. GAERTN., Avena sativa L., Camellia sinensis KUNTZE., Eucalyptus ssp., Matricaria chamomilla L., Pelargonium sidoides DC, Plantago lanceolata I., Salvia officinalis L.

UR = use reports; o = oral; t = topical; i = inhalative; et = environmental treatment
ODD = g dried plant equivalent per kg metabolic body) weight (g/kg0,75)