Herbal/flower additives

This is a quote from one of the products in the Dog Food Directory:

..... the ingredients list reads like a Holland & Barrett stock take.
I was reminded of it, having just read a review of one particular product that contains Juniper Berries, Angelica Root, Marigold Flowers, Sweet Fennel, Peppermint Leaf, Lavender. The only one of those plants that I grow in my garden is lavender and in all the years I have had dogs not one of them has ever attempted to eat any of it. This makes me wonder why companies feel it is necessary to add these items. I know that fennel and peppermint are useful in humans for digestive upsets but not really necessary otherwise. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that it is usually the better brands (i.e. more expensive) dog food that contain them. Question is, why do so many companies add these herbal and/or flower additives? Are they really necessary for a healthy dog? Is it just to make the recipe seem better i.e. a marketing ploy? What do you think? Personally, I haven't a clue why they add them so am looking forward to hearing from people who do.
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I am sure a lot of the time it is just so it all sounds healthy. I do add mint and parsley to my home made bedtime biscuits but it is more to give a sweetness without using sugar. I have tasted them myself and can confirm they taste a little sweet. ;D

I was hoping the parsley would sweeten the breath but its much better since feeding raw. I don’t think the parsley had much impact to be honest.

I don’t know about the product you are referring to here Dottie, but in the case of the Nutriment ‘Holland and Barrett’ ingredients (which are the ones referred to in the review you quote), they themselves explain the reasons for their inclusion here: http://www.nutriment.co/understanding-our-ingredients/

They all sound like pretty good reasons to me and it’s clear that they contribute very many important vitamins and minerals to the diet. Personally I’d far rather feed a food containing herbs and natural supplements like these than either a food with artificial manufactured vitamins or one in which important vitamins could be missing.

Yes, it was the Nutriment review but by using the quote I was not actually referring to that particular product, that is why I didn’t mention the name. The food which contains those named additives is one of the Acana range. Since posting I have put one or two of the ingredients into Google and information about them can be got from a number of websites. The problem is that you cannot believe everything you read on the Internet. However, I can’t help but feel that there is no need for marigold, lavender and the like to be added to dog food. They are just more products to check out when wading through ingredients to find a suitable food for dogs.

I add herbs and flowers to my dogs food. From the garden he has wild sorrel, alpine strawbs, nasturtium flowers and leaves, calendula (marigold) petals, borage, sage, mint, parsley, cleavers, dandelion leaves and root. A lot of them are beneficial for digestion and help with renal problems as well as having vits and minerals.

He does go and eat strawbs, cleavers, bit of grass of a certain type and even picks the petals off the calendula flowers to eat. Couldn’t believe what I was seeing the first time I saw him lol

But I agree I think some companies use it as a gimmick probably to make the food sound organic and wholesome. Blueberries seem to be one of the favourite “superfoods” to add. To me the type of meat source is more important not derivatives.


I can see it both ways, Dottie. It may well be true that some companies add herbs (marigold and lavender are herbs too btw, not just ‘flowers’) as a marketing ploy, as you say, but on the other hand…

The health and nutritional qualities of herbs have been known for centuries, if not millennia, and I think it would be a shame if a potentially valuable ingredient were to be omitted simply to save some consumers (probably a tiny minority since most won’t bother) from checking them out.

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I don’t mind added joint supplements and similar things that conceivably would be of use to most/all dogs, but by and large I would rather add my own supplements - herbal or otherwise. If my dog doesn’t need whatever is added, then not only am I paying out for something useless, but it’s also adding to the number of ingredients to look up and check up on.

I add scullcap and valerian when the dogs need it, as well as cod liver oil and evening primrose oil daily. This way I know where the ingredients come from, and can monitor exactly how much they’re having.

Another great question Dottie and not one that is easy to answer. From my experience, herbs are added for both of those reasons - they can provide a food with a good, natural source of nutrients and/or therapeutic properties and, if marketed correctly, they can make a food easier to sell.

As far as feeding philosophy goes, herbs fit in well with a natural, ancestral diet, whichever way you define it. We have all seen our dogs grazing for grasses and while that doesn’t really give them much benefit now, it is a behaviour that developed when the variety of wild meadow species was far more diverse and included a huge range of nutritious herbs. They would also have had access to herbs through the stomach contents of their prey and from human cast offs so herbs should arguably be a part of any balanced diet.

Of course, this is not why most manufacturers add them. From my experience, the primary concern of most manufacturers is marketing. If I spend £10,000 on herbs, will I be able to make more than £10,000 back through additional sales? This is sadly the nature of the world as every company knows that a poorly marketed product won’t sell no matter how good it is while a bad product can dominate the market if it is marketed well.

For that reason, your average manufacturer will add herbs (or any other ingredients for that matter) not so much for their nutritional properties but because it is a good selling point. If the dog receives a benefit too, then that’s just a bonus.

Nevertheless, some herbs can be enormously beneficial for some dogs. Devils claw, for example, has been proven to be at least as effective in reliving arthritis symptoms as many prescription drugs. The problem is that ‘herbs’ covers such an enormous array of supplements that it would be extremely misleading to say that herbs are a good thing or a bad thing.

There is also the question of herb quality and things like synergies between herbs (some herbs work better or differently in the presence of other herbs) which makes the whole subject far too complex to cover here. If you do want to find out more, you can find a good overview here.

Note that I am only talking about most manufacturers - there are also a number of very good manufacturers that really do strive for nutritional excellence and are very careful about the quantities and qualities of the herbs they add. If in doubt, always ask the manufacturer why they add their specific herb mix.

Just as a final point, beware of foods that just list generic ‘herbs’, ‘herbal mix’, ‘culinary herbs’ and so on as the legal definition “any plants with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for their flavour, aroma, nutritional constituents or medicinal properties” leaves a lot of room for abuse.