The first time I took my cats on a long car journey they cried all the way and were very travel sick, so I took them to a vet who was a qualified herbalist. He prescribed skullcap and valerian pills.
Although it wasn't easy to persuade my cats to eat them - I had to shove them down their throats and them hold their mouths shut - they did the trick. Both moggies were quiet and content all the way home, despite two hours in the back of the car.
Books on natural pet care back this treatment up.
Veterinary Herbal Medicine by Susan G Wynn and Barbara Fougère describes valerian as a sedative used to treat "nervous unrest" and according to The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care by C J Puotinen:
"Valerian is one of the most popular medicinal herbs for pets and people because it is a highly effective nervine, a herb that calms and soothes the nerves, reducing tension and anxiety."Valerian is also a magically powerful herb.
Holland's Grimoire of Magickal Correspondences: A Ritual Handbook by Eileen Holland says that valerian protects against stress and adds that it is magically associated with cats.
Although most cats react to valerian as a sedative, books on the subject say some cats actually have the opposite reaction and find it is a stimulant. They recommend trying it out before you really need to use it.
Skullcap - so named because the flower looks a little skull-like - has been used for hundreds of years as a mild relaxant. It is often used in combination with valerian as a treatment for anxiety in herbal pet sedatives.
Recent scientific research suggest skullcap might have anti-inflammatory properties, although some studies on its effects on animals as an depressant and antihypertensive found no conclusive results that it worked.
Veterinary Herbal Medicine by Susan G Wynn and Barbara Fougère says that in 1918 the US Dispensatory claimed it was "devoid of medicinal effects", but that "evidence is accumulating that it may indeed act as a mild nervine".
Although the jury seems to be out as to whether it skullcap is effective, there do not seem to be many harmful reactions associated with it either, so long as only small doses are taken, so I suspect it gets included in pet tranquilizers simply because it may do some good, and is unlikely to do any harm.There are also a number of species of skullcap, which are listed as having different properties.
The photograph shows skullcap growing on a riverbank in East Sussex, but please don't pick it in the wild as it is rare.
Note: This is for information only and is not medical or veterinary advice. Always get expert advice before taking any remedy or to giving it to an animal. Take your pet to a vet if it is unwell.
The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care
Holland's Grimoire of Magickal Correspondences: A Ritual Handbook
Veterinary Herbal Medicine