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Tapeworm? No problem!

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Our dog…
You know, some people love fine wines. Some people appreciate fancy truffle oil. Our dog, she loves goose poop. I don’t know what it is, but she seems to think it is the tastiest of all delicacies. Yuck.

And of course, here in Boston, there’s no shortage of goose poop. Which makes Elsie very happy, but also has landed her with tapeworm three times this summer. The first time was just a couple weeks before the wedding and I admit it: we went to the pet store and got the white powder dewormer. It seemed to work, but I can’t say I felt good about it. I promised myself I’d come up with a real answer before it happened again. But then we were back from the wedding and our honeymoon and busy catching up and here was Elsie with tapeworm again. And of course, there was some pressing thing I can’t remember now, so off I headed to the pet store again. Not that you should think that because I’m an herbalist I always get everything right and have all the answers ahead of time and never …you know.

The third time, enough was enough. I put everything else aside and determined that I’d deal with this problem once and for all. I expected some big complicated rigamarole, but actually, it was really easy – and really effective!

How do you know your dog has tapeworms? In the city, where you have to scoop every poop, it’s very easy. When there are tapeworms, the poop has wiggley dancing rice in it. They’re simultaneously really gross and oddly cute: you can just imagine a little smiley face on them, and there they are dancing around like some animated internet gif. Then you remember: this is really gross, and the cute evaporates.

When you see the tapeworm segments, take action right away. By way of disclaimer: no, I don’t guarantee this will work for you, but it worked beautifully for us, so if it seems like a good idea, try it!

It’s worth noting that we only feed Elsie GRAIN FREE, DAIRY FREE foods. That’s tricky – you really have to read every label, because the foods labeled grain free are not always dairy free, and even two different flavors of the same grain free brand might not both be dairy free. It makes a big difference in overall health though, so it’s worth the trouble. If you’re having trouble with tapeworms, I really recommend that you make the switch; getting the grain and dairy out of your dog’s diet improves intestinal health. I also feed Elsie kombucha sometimes, or lactofermented kimchi or sauerkraut, for the probiotic effect. I’m not certain that a dog’s gut flora is the same as a human’s, but we’ve been cohabitating for a long time: while I wouldn’t give a dog capsules of human probiotics, giving my dog traditionally fermented probiotic foods seems like a reasonable way to introduce probiotics.

Immediately when I saw the tape worm segments, and now also any time I suspect she may have munched some goose poop, I add the following into her food bowl:

Ground Pumpkin Seeds: She likes them, so I just sprinkle a tablespoon or so on top of her food. The idea here is that the rough seeds create a very hostile environment for the tapeworms. The downside is that it’s also rough on the gut, so I only do this for a few days at a time.

Dried Garlic Granules: Elise really doesn’t love garlic, so I have to hide this in clumps of wet food. Garlic has a long history as an “anti-parasitic” though, and does seem to be quite effective for tapeworm, so it’s worth the effort of hiding the flavor. I’ve been told that putting garlic in dogs’ food all the time is a good way to repel fleas and ticks, but Elsie doesn’t like it and we don’t have problems with fleas and ticks, so I don’t go that far.

Elsie’s Gut Heal tea: Roughly equal parts calendula, plantain, chamomile, sage, and fennel. Calendula and plantain are great for healing over any irritation caused by the ground pumpkin seeds, and both may have secondary action against the tapeworm as well. Chamomile is a nice relaxant, we use it regularly to calm her down when she has the puppy wiggles, but also it’s great for crampy guts (also in humans!). Sage has mild “anti-parasitic” effect, and fennel is good for preventing gas. Elsie likes this tea just fine, so I generally put a cup or so in her food bowl. I use it when she has diarrhea as well, along with pumpkin or squash, to very good effect.

We tried some other things that we didn’t continue: powdered turmeric, which she hates, and a homeopathic dewormer from the pet store, which may or may not have had any effect. We also used a tincture of calendula, sage, and other mildly “anti-parasitic” herbs, which did seem useful and which she didn’t mind in her food, but when we ran out, we found the tea seemed to do the job sufficiently.

We find this to be as effective as the white powder tapeworm de-wormer from the pet store: within one day there were no more tapeworm segments; We continued for about a week afterwards. Now, anytime she might have munched some goose poop, we use this protocol for 3 or 4 days, and so far, no more tapeworm!


Tea of the Month: April

You can tell a lot about a person from what’s in their teacup. Here’s a peek into ours!


Muffin Madness!

Love muffins? Tired of eggs and bacon for breakfast? Committed to sticking to your paleo* diet? Then you, my friend, have come to the right place.


Trademarking Tradition: the Fire Cider® Controversy

[For the purposes of this discussion, let's use fire cider to refer to the traditional herbal medicine preparation, "fire cider" to refer to the term, and Fire Cider® to refer to the company who have trademarked the term.]

Fire Cider by The Dabblist, on Flickr

Fire cider is a traditional preparation of various spicy and pungent herbs macerated in vinegar and honey.
photo credit: Fire Cider by The Dabblist, on Flickr

I first became aware of this issue when I read Michael Blackmore’s Facebook post about the trademarking of the term “fire cider” by Shire City Herbals of Pittsfield, MA and the subsequent action taken by Etsy to remove a product with that name from the Etsy store of The Withered Herb, an herbalist out in Washington state.

I checked out the Fire Cider® website and found contact info there, so I wrote the following to dana@firecider.com:



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