Equine Herbal Remedies
As with human medicine, alternative remedies and therapies have flooded the equine market. And, again, as with human medicine some work and others do not. The major difference comes from proof of the claims that come with such therapies – humans can talk and, of course, horses cannot unless, of course, your horse is the famous Mr. Ed.
How to sort through all those hopeful sounding claims is almost a full-time job. To save you some time I offer my personal (current) recommendations based on years and years (and yes years) of experience.
Herbal anti-inflammatories – these typically consist of White Willow Bark (salicylic acid and the original aspirin) along with a wide array of additional herbs such as Devil’s Claw, Nettle, Hawthorn Berry and Boswellia. There are others but these are the most common. Usually you find them mixed with a host of other herbal additions that better help the body assimilate these targeted herbs. The effectiveness of these preparations varies from horse to horse and the best advice is to try whichever you choose for 4-6 weeks and see if it makes a difference for your horse. Some horses do have stomach issues with anti-inflammatory remedies (whether they be traditional or alternative) – if you find this to be true of your horse then look for a product with additional herbs such as Marshmallow and Chamomile to help alleviate any stomach distress.
Joint therapies – these can consist of the above anti-inflammatory preparations plus a variety of other supplements. The newest indicators are that glucosamine/chondroitin products alone are only minimally effective. Add MSM and the results are improved. Add Omega fatty acids with consideration for the sort of such fatty acids, described with the following numbers and in the following ratios, and the results are even better. Omega fatty acids are described as Omega 3 (EPA & DHA), Omega 6 and Omega 9. You need all three for dietary balance but the ratio should consist of Omega 3 in the highest proportion and 6&9 in that order and reduced proportions. The exact numbers are in some debate but you want at least 4500mg of EPA and 3000mg of DHA per dose to be effective. The only source that provides these numbers is fish oil – there are several companies that provide fish oil for horses – do an internet search for such and you can choose which suits your needs the best. Flax meal has provided Omega fatty acids for years but the effective dose cannot be met with reasonably feed-able quantities. There are some current studies that suggest that a combination of both fish oil and flax is ideal – the suggestion is that the fish oil provides quick uptake and the flax, because it takes additional body processes to break the components into EPA and DHA thereby creating slower absorption, helps maintain a more consistent level throughout the day. In my experience all horses that have been put on fish oil have shown improved joint mobility and overall improved coat, hoof and immune health.
Herbal Ulcer remedies – there are several products that can aid in combating ulcers however the ulcer needs to be healed prior to prevention, which requires veterinary care. Once healed the idea is to minimize the levels of gastric acid. Since horses are grazers they produce stomach acid 24/7. This means that if their stomach does not have food in it then the acid is working on the stomach lining itself. The lower half of the stomach has a lining that can withstand this endless barrage of acid. The upper half of the stomach does not. When we ride we stir up the stomach contents and this acid will then splash up into the unprotected area of the stomach. By either reducing the acid or coating the stomach just prior to schooling we can help minimize such effects. Products that resemble Pepto-bismal can help and these come under a variety of names that are made just for horses. Other remedies include Marshmallow root, aloe juice, chamomile, meadowsweet, and ginger. My own horses have various supplements that are in a powdered form which requires a splash of water be added to ensure that they are actually ingested rather than left in the bottom of the bucket in a heap – I currently use ginger tea instead of water and they are licking their buckets clean every feeding – so it tastes good and is good for them too – a win/win in my book.
There are many more herbal remedies hitting the media and market everyday. As with all such things if the claim sounds too good to be true then proceed with caution. Most traditional medicines have their origins in the natural world so why not go right to the source – just go with care and do business with reputable companies. My source is a local herbalist, Angela Tiberio, owner of Lavender Moon Herbs – she is certified in various human applications of herbal medicine and has resources to help her with pets and equines. If you are lucky enough to find your own local, certified herbalist that has equine resources great but if not look to the equine supplement companies that you have trusted in the past.
For questions or comments contact Susan Hopf