Main content area

The role of natural plant products in modulating the immune system: An adaptable approach for combating disease in grazing animals

Provenza, F.D., Villalba, J.J.
Small ruminant research 2010 v.89 no.2-3 pp. 131-139
animal diseases, animal well-being, bioactive properties, chemotherapy, disease resistance, herbivores, immune system, plant products
Plants provide herbivores with an array of chemicals with the potential to improve health and well-being. For instance, phytochemicals, known as secondary compounds, which protect plants from consumers and pests can adversely affect cellular and metabolic processes in herbivores, but at low doses and in appropriate mixtures, they can have beneficial effects on animal nutrition and health, though the latter has not been explored in great breadth or depth. In this review, we summarize the potential impact of natural plant products on immunomodulation and other therapeutic effects in herbivores. Development of preventative strategies to help animals resist disease would be a more economical, ecological and socially effective long-term healthcare strategy than treating diseases. In this realm, immunomodulation promoted by forages emerges as an interesting alternative and complement to chemotherapy. The challenge for feeding systems will be to incorporate mixes of plants with bioactive properties in ways that enhance health without compromising animal production and well-being. A solution to this challenge may involve developing management programs that acknowledge the ability of animals to learn about the beneficial effects of diverse foods.