Feeding your Cockatiel Herbs


Fresh herbs should be washed and cleaned to remove pesticides, and served as part of a chop or be hung off the cage to provide foraging opportunities

Please note most aromatic herbs are chemically active and most oils are toxic. All herbs should be served in moderation. The following are a list of herbs generally regarded as safe for birds when served in moderation. Parsley is regarded by some as potentially toxic you can make up your own mind. High oxalate foods to be avoided.

Safe Herbs

Alfalfa (sprouts)
Aloe Vera
Ashwaganda (Withania Somnifera or Indian Winter Cherry) see note *14
Astragalus (milkvetch, locoweed) see note *13
Bay leaf
Catnip Nepeta cataria
Chicory (root) - (leaf)
Chinese Parsley
Dandelion Greens and root
Dill - (seed)
Echinacea see note *1
Eyebright see note *2
Epazote or wormseed (Chenopodium ambrosioides) see note *17
Fennel (bulb) - (Seed)
Fenugreek leaf and - (Seed)
Henbit Lamium amplexicaule
Kava Kava see note *3
Lavender see note *4
Lemon Bee Balm (Monarda citriodora)
Lemon Grass see note *5
Lovage see note *16
Marjoram see note *6
Milk Thistle see note *7
Passion flower see note *8
Pennywort, Indian Pennywort, Gota Kola
Pau D Arco see note *9
St John’s Wart see note *10
Slippery Elm
Tarragon see note *11
Terminalia chebula (Haritaki) see note *18
Thyme see note *12

Unsafe Herbs

Chaparral as a plant is likely safe
Comfrey its listed as safe plant >
Creeping charlie or ground ivy see note *15
Deadly nightshade
Dong Quai
Epheda or Mia Huang
Juniper berry (Repeated doses cause convolutions kidney failure)
Ma Huang
Life Root
Saw Palmetto
Herbs containing Pyrrolizidine alkaloids see note *19


*1 Echinacea has a complex mix of active substances, some of which are said to be antimicrobial, while others are believed to have an effect on the human immune system. All species have compounds called phenols. Many plants contain phenols, active substances that control the activity of a range of enzymes and cell receptors, and protect the plant from infections and ultraviolet (UV) radiation damage. Phenols have antioxidant properties, which may be good for human health. Echinacea also contains alkylamides or alkamides, (not in Echinacea pallida), which have an effect on the immune system, as well as polysaccharides, glycoproteins, and caffeic acid derivatives.

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*2 Eyebright contains:Approximately 12% tannins, both condensed tannins and hydrolysable tannins; gallic acid is among the hydrolysis products; ca. 0.2% volatile oil with seven major and numerous minor constituents; iridoid glycosides such as 0.05% aucubin, catalpol, euphroside, ixoroside. Lignans such as dehydrodiconiferylalcohol 4-b-D-glucoside, other phenylpropane glycosides, e.g. eukovoside, flavonoids, including quercetin and apigenin glycosides, traces of tertiary alkaloids, steam-volatile substances, a range of free and combined phenol-carboxylic acids principally caffeic acid, p-hydroxy-phenylpyruvic, and vanillic acids. Other constituents include: Bitter principles; beta-carotene; phytosterols (beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol); resin; carbohydrates; and vitamin C. [Duke JA. 1985. Eyebright. In Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, Pp. 193].

*3 The main active ingredients in kava root are called kavalactones (kavapyrones). These chemicals (including kawain, dihydrokawain, and methysticum) have been extensively studied in laboratory and animal studies. They have been found to reduce convulsions, promote sleep, and relax muscles in animals. There is a posible connection to liver damage in humans.

*4 Lavender Toxic to Horses, dogs, cats Toxic Principles: Linlool, linalyl acetate

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*5 Lemon Grass Toxic to Horses, dogs, cats Toxic Principles:Essential oils, cyanogenic glycosides

*6 Marjoram Toxic to Horses, dogs, cats, high intakes can produce digestive disorders active compounds Carvacrol, Thymol

*7 Sonchus Oleraceus or Common Sowthistle is often refered to as Milk Thistle Common Sowthistle it is different plant to Silybum marianum or Scotish Thistle

*8 Unripe passion fruit are potentionally posionous Most species of passiflora produce cyanide in all their parts as a protection against insects and animals. Ripe fruit only

*9 Pau D Arco plant is chemically active include napthoquinones (lapachol, highest in the inner bark), anthraquinones (CoQ10), menaquinone (vitamin K), bioflavonoids, iridoids, coumarins, alkaloids, steroidal saponins

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*10 Hypericin in the oil glands of St John's wort leaves and flowers causes phototoxism. The use of hypericin in avian medicine liable to cause severe problems hypericin cannot be considered as a safe 'long term' treatment for psittaciness". Little or no work has been carried out to ascertain the full effects of hypericin in parrots and the possibility of phototoxism. When eaten by livestock, St John's wort causes photosensitisation of exposed skin (inflammation eg., of face, ears, lips), affects the nervous system of animals causing depression and hyperthermia (panting, salivation, respiratory distress) and alters heart, blood vessel and intestinal function. Chronic poisoning results in weight loss, reduced reproductive performance and death. Light-skinned and soft-skinned animals and those with white markings are the most affected. Those with thick, tough and pigmented skin are less affected. Early signs of clinical poisoning include agitation, pawing of the ground, rubbing of the head and face against fixed objects and mild diarrhoea. Hypericin in the oil glands of St John's wort leaves and flowers is the cause of the toxicity, but the effects depend on activation by bright sunlight of the poison circulating in the bloodstream.

*11 Tarragon Artemisia dracunculus L. its main constituents, estragole (up to 82%) and methyleugenol (up to 39%)

*12 Valerian is chemically active it has sedative effects in animals Valarian active constitients and method of action

*13 Some not all Legumes belonging to the Astragalus, Oxytropis, and Swainsona genera have been noted by ranchers in the Americas, Asia, and Australia to cause a neurologic disease often referred to as locoism or peastruck. The toxin in these legumes is swainsonine, an α-mannosidase and mannosidase II inhibitor. Recent research has shown that in Astragalus and Oxytropis species swainsonine is produced by a fungal endophyte belonging to the Undifilum genus. Medical uses

*14 Withania somnifera L. Dunal (Solanaceae), a small green shrub commonly known as “Ashwagandha,” is one of the major ingredients of Ayurvedic preparations prescribed for possessing several properties, including anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antioxidant and has also been used to treat ulcers, bacterial infections and senile dementia [1,2]. The withanolides are a group of naturally occurring C28-steroidal lactones built on an intact or rearranged ergostane framework in which C-22 and C-26 are appropriately oxidized to form a six-membered lactone ring. Figure 1A shows the basic structure of withanolide skeleton.

*15 Creeping charlie or ground ivy is reportedly toxic to cows, horses and chickens but is also promoted as an edible wild food. Glechoma hederacea is known to contain terpenoids known to irritate the gastrointestinal tract and kidneys. The volatile oils contains pulegone, a chemical also occurring in pennyroyal, that is a known irritant, toxic to the liver, and also an abortifacient. The pulegone in Glechoma is 1/30th the concentration found in pennyroyal

*16 Lovage is chemically active its mainly Diuresis to treat oedema, inflammation of the lower urinary tract and prevention of kidney gravel. As carminative to improve digestion, as expectorant and emmenag ogue

*17 Has use as a natural wormer ref

*18 Terminalia chebula also known as Haritaki, black myrobalan or Kadukkai Podi is used in traditional Indian medicine. The plant is chemically active and contains potent cytotoxic components. The inner seed of the fruit of Haritaki is known to be toxic. Dried powder can be fed at 0.5 to 1g/kg This herb is chemically active and has a wide range of effects. Terminalia chebula powder could be a delicate laxative, up elimination, notifying the colon, clearing away compacted waste and serving to stop constipation. Rat studies show it's a significant enteral motility-enhancing effect’ and might be helpful aid keeps gut movements regular. Chicken studies show T. chebula polyphenols (GCP) may be a potential alternative medicine for the prevention or treatment of avian colibacillosis.

*19 Any herb containing Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (contained in comfrey, borage, senecio, coltsfoot, and others) linked to liver damage

back to top A good list of forrage herbs and plants herbs and traditional medicine