Ayurvedic Remedies for Ectoparasitic Infestation in Livestock

Dr. Jyotika is the Dy Manager, Technical & Regulatory at Zenex Animal Health

Dr. Dibyajyoti Kalita is the Head of Technical and Regulatory Affairs at Zenex Animal Health

Email address of corresponding author: jyotikadsangale @zenexah.com

Ectoparasitic infestation poses one of the threats to cost-effective livestock production. Ectoparasites, such as fleas, ticks, and mites, cause discomfort and can lead to more serious health issues in animals. The damaging effects of the ectoparasites includes itching, irritation, dermatitis, alopecia, scaling, and secondary pyoderma. Severe ectoparasitic infestations may lead to anaemia, hypoproteinemia, reduced weight gain and poor production performances. Among the ectoparasites, ticks have been recognized as a remarkable threat to the livestock health. They also act as vectors of pathogens causing diseases like babesiosis, theileriosis, anaplasmosis etc. There are many synthetic chemicals like organophosphates, carbamates, formamidines, pyrethroids, macrocyclic lactones etc. are used to combat ectoparasitic infestations. However, there are few challenges associated with the use of synthetic ectoparasiticides which includes development of drug resistance, drug residues in animals & environment. Use of herbal insecticide has been an emerging concept. The traditional medicine systems predominated in India for control of various ailments including control of parasites. Plants& herbs were used to control parasites of both humans and animals in empirical way. Various plant extracts have been found to be effective in treating ectoparasite infections, which are a common health concern for many animals. These natural derived ingredients are not only effective but also safer for animals compared to chemical-based products. Furthermore, herbal medicine allows for a more holistic approach to treating ectoparasite infections, addressing the root cause of the issue rather than just the symptoms. There are many more organic repellents based on plant extracts, have proven their ability to repel ectoparasites and cause their death by directly affecting the respiratory tract and denaturing their external structure.

  • Impact of Ticks on Health and Production

The economic impact of tick infestation can be equally distributed in a direct and indirect losses. The major effect of the ticks is through their bite which affects the skin and they also transmit infectious agent such as viruses, bacteria, rickettsiae and protozoa. Heavy parasitic load causes blood loss that can lead to anemia, sever immunological reaction can be occurred because of inoculation of the toxins. Due to a severe tick infestation, the animal can experience stress that affects the health and behaviour of the animal, which also leads to suppression of immune function.

Fig:  Effect of tick infestation on health and production

  • Chemical control

Along with other infectious diseases, managing the multifaceted worries caused by parasite infestations is extremely grim. Chemical or synthetic acaricides (organic phosphates, pyrethroids, amidines, phenylpyrazoles) are most commonly used to control ticks by spraying, watering, and pouring. Most of the synthetic drugs for ectoparasitics originated from research or development in crop protection. Extensive use of synthetic insecticides or acaricides lead to the widespread emergence of drug resistance. On the other hand, long-term use of drugs is often related to serious problems including contamination of the environment, drug residues in milk &meat and adverse effect in animals. According to studies conducted worldwide, drug residues in animal products vary between 5.2 and 27.48%.

  • Challenges In Current treatment option
  • Drug Resistance
  • Drug residues in milk &meat
  • Environmental contamination
  • Side effects in animals
  • Risks to non-target organisms
  • Herbal Remedies: 

Medicinal plants have been identified and used traditionally from the beginning of human civilization. Later, shift towards to chemical drugs had taken place due to convenience and better efficacy. Again, in search of natural, eco-friendly remedies, herbal medicines have been gaining increasing acceptance in today’s world. There are several plants which are found to be effective in the treatment and control of ectoparasite infestation in animals. Ideally herbal drugs are formulated by mixture of different active agents from different plants having different mechanisms of action. Due to mixture of different active ingredients, possibilities of development of drug resistance are negligible and safe from drug residue perspective. Medicinal plants can also act as immunostimulants, which activate the non-specific defence mechanisms of cattle at an early stage and strengthen specific immune reactions. Because of multiple benefits, the use of herbal medicine in veterinary practice for ectoparasite infestations is becoming increasingly popular among veterinarians.

Acaricidal Plants and their Bioactive Compounds

Natural bioactive compounds degrade rapidly in the  and insect resistance towards these compounds develops slower than synthetic acaricides. Plants are an important source of bioactive compounds. Various plant extracts and essential oils have been reported to exhibit significant acaricidal activity, suggesting that they may be a source of new modes of action and alternative products with low toxicity that can be used to suppress tick populations. Effects of few such plant / herbal extracts that possess anti-parasitic activities are presented here.

  1. Neem- Azadirachtin

Azadirachtin Neem (Azadirachta indica) is a tree of the Meliaceae family native to the tropical countries of Southeast Asia, commonly known as clay, Indian lilac and neem in English, the term has its origin in the Sanskrit Nimba Sarva red nivarini (curator of all diseases).

Mechanism of action

  • Prevent the proliferation of pathogens
  • Interferes with pathogenic metabolic pathways leading to cell apoptosis and death.
  • Protects host skin from damage by pathogens.
  • Regulates multiple inflammatory markers to mediate inflammation and pain.
  • Supports wound healing.
  • Narikela (Coconut)- Tannis

Tannis (polyphenol) is a category of compound present in mist plant, similarly, it is also extracted from coconut plant. In addition to its other medicinal properties, it also acts as an antiparasitic agent.

Mechanism of action-

  • Act directly on parasite cell membrane by dissolve outer fatty layer of pathogen cell structure.
  • It also Inhibit the attachment of pathogen on surface of the host and Induce apoptosis and block propagation of pathogen.
  • Makka (Zea Mays- Corn)-Courmic acid

The by-products of Zea mays have various medicinal properties like antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, diuretic effects, hepatoprotective, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, neuroprotective and other activities.

Mechanism of action

  • Increases permeability of pathogenic membrane, leads to cell leakage and death.
  • Reduces the toxins production by pathogens and their effect on the host.
  • Reduces inflammation in infected areas.
  • Reduces stress experienced by host.
  • Ganna (Sugarcane) – Luteolin

The roots of the sugarcane are known as diuretic and demulcent. Both roots and stem are used to treat skin, eye diseases, bronchitis, reduced milk production.

Mechanism of action-

  • Suppresses increased inflammation.
  • Reduces discomfort caused by inflammation.
  • Calms the hyper-activation of immune system.
  • Help the body to fight with infection/ infestation and promotes wound healing.
  • Harichaaya (Lemongrass)- Limonene

Lemongrass is a plant widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions. The essential oil from Lemongrass is known as lemongrass oil, the main component of which iscitral. Lemongrass oil has been reported to have several pharmacological properties, including anti-parasitic, antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Lemongrass oil has also been reported to have miticidal activity against a plant pathogen (Tetranycchusurticae) and house dust mites.

Mechanism of action-

  • Targets the cell membrane and cell wall of the pathogen, resulting in cell lysis and death.
  • Keeps infected/ wounded area free from secondary infections.
  • Supports wound healing.
  • Cinnamon- Cinnamaldehyde

Cinnamon also known as Dalchini, is a popular spice that is widely used for its medicinal properties. It has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treatvarious ailments such as inflammation, digestive issues, and respiratory problems. In recent years, there has been an increased interest in the use of Cinnamon in veterinary science. Studies have shown that Cinnamon can be beneficial for animals in treating conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and skin infections. Its anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce pain and swelling in animals, while its antimicrobial properties can help fight off infections. Additionally, Cinnamon has been found to have antioxidant effects which can help improve overall health and immunity in animals. This versatile spice can be used in various forms such as powder, oil, or as an herbal supplement, making it a convenient and effective option for veterinarians to use in treating animal health issues. With more research being conducted on the medicinal properties of Cinnamon, it is becoming increasingly recognized as a valuable ingredient in veterinary medicine. 

Mechanism of action

  • Increases the stress experienced by pathogens and reduces virulence of pathogens.
  • Promotes pathogen cell apoptosis and death.
  • Induces mild vasodilation on host skin to support better immune response and wound healing.

Advantages of Herbal formulation against ectoparasitic infestation in veterinary field

  1. Naturally derived – Botanical
  2. Non- Irritating
  3. Non – Genotoxic /Non- Carcinogenic
  4. No drug resistance
  5. No drug residues
  6. Environmentally Safe
  7. Bio- Compatibility
  8. Immuno-stimulatory activity


Tick infestation and its repercussions cause significant economic losses to the global livestock industry, amounting to several billions of dollars. It is associated with the loss of health, growth, production, and in severe cases loss of life. Chemical acaricides are the most commonly used agent for controlling tick infestation throughout the world. However, there are growing concern of environmental hazards, development of resistance in ticks, and presence of drug residues in food chains.To delineate these troubles, the use of herbal acaricide is an emerging concept. Various plants possess strong acaricidal properties without any adverse effect make them a valuable prospect in developing a sustainable tick control strategy. These substances are widely available and have the properties of rapid degradation, non-selective nature, immuno-stimulatory activity, causing low mammalian toxicity and overall eco-friendly or environmentally beneficial in nature. Medicinal plants that act as immunostimulants, provides early activation of non-specific defence mechanisms of animals and enhances specific immune responses against ectoparasites.