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Herbal Treatments



Basic Herbal Treatments for Horses:


In the natural environment horses would pick around pastures and in the hedgerows for a balanced diet. Unfortunately pastures today have been subjected to weed killers and chemical sprays that remove some of the beneficial herbs and plants that the horse might choose to eat. Alternative medicines are now being re-introduced into our modern medical world and the benefits of certain herbs for horses have been recognised. Treating large and sensitive animals such as the horse with herbs can be beneficial to the pocket as well as to the animal. However, there are some herbs that are acceptable and safe for humans but would cause problems or even death if administered to horses. It is imperative to know which herbs are suitable for horses before consideration of this alternative treatment. Below is a short discussion of some of the more widely accepted herbs for treating common equine ailments.

Horses left in pastures where herbs grow wild will pick and choose the ones their bodies instinctively know they need. Listed below alphabetically are some of the more common herbs that grow readily in meadows and pastures in different parts of the country. Most of these herbs can successfully be naturalised in pastures. By adding the natural nutrients back into the diet of your horse with the use of supplements and natural remedies you can give your horse added immunity to cancer, arthritis, and other disease; improving temperament and behavioural problems and eliminating digestive, skin, bone and joint disorders.

Burdock
Burdock - produces those irritating little burrs that stick to anything and everything but is an excellent digestive aid as well as being useful for arthritis.


Calendula
Calendula - a yellow flowering plant more commonly known as the pot Marigold. It is native to Egypt and the Mediterranean but can be easily cultivated elsewhere. Not only is Calendula oil a wonderful skin healer, it is also know for building the blood and for stress.


Chamomile
Chamomile - helps reduce stress and tension in the horse, it has proven to have significant anti-stress actions as well as being anti-inflammatory and an analgesic.


Comfrey
Comfrey - is a popular pasture weed and horses with respiratory indications will graze on it for as long as their body requires.


Dandelion
Dandelion - has a strong diuretic action and is rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium. Vitamins A, B, C and D are rich in this weed and horses have been reported actually digging their paddock in order to reach the potent properties of the Dandelion root.


Devil's Claw
Devil's Claw: should not be given to pregnant mares.


Echinacea Purpurea
Echinacea Purpurea - an immune boosting herb, horses that may need an immune boosting herb will benefit from the Purple Coneflower. The beautiful purple flowers attract butterflies as an added attraction to the pasture or meadowland. The antiviral and anti bacterial properties of this plant benefit animals of all species, including humans. For horses it can be used as a prophylactic to protect them from infections such as strangles, cystitis and urethritis. It has also been used as a post-viral treatment to boost the immune system and help eradicate whatever bacteria or virus remains in the horse's body.


Eyebright
Eyebright grows wild in the meadowlands for easy free grazing. This plant is used extensively for conditions of the eye such as inflammation, weeping or stinging.


Golden Rod
Golden Rod plant, solidago virgaurea is a common weed in several countries. Digestion of the leaves and flowering tops is helpful for urinary infections and kidney stones. It also helps digestion.


Horseradish
Horseradish grows wild in Eastern Europe but can be easily cultivated. This is a powerful aid against internal parasites and can be used as a poultice, as well, for windpuffs.


Mints
Mints are known for their digestive aid properties. There are many varieties of mints that are easily grown and proliferate. It is used as an additive to many horse feeds because of its relaxant actions on the digestive tract. The oil is wonderful for diminishing flatulence and colic. Mint can also be used to help dry up milk in nursing mares.


Mullein
Mullein is another very common roadside and pasture weed that compliments the actions of Comfrey in its expectorant and anti-inflammatory properties.


Nettle
Nettle - Stinging Nettle -contact with the leaves causes stinging. It grows throughout the world and is a rich source of Vitamin C, Iron, Sodium, Chlorophyll, Protein and dietary fibre. It is an excellent remedy for anaemia because of its iron and Vitamin C properties. Some horses may react with a "nettle rash" but this rash usually disappears within 24 hours.


Tea Tree Oil
Tea Tree Oil, Melaleuca alternifolia, although not grown wild in pastures, should not be left out of this useful list of herbal treatments. Tea Tree Oil is available throughout the world and is highly effective for treating minor cuts, abrasions and external parasites. When a few drops of oil are mixed with water, the spray makes an effective Fly repellent. Tea Tree Oil is highly effective for Rain Scald and other bacterial or fungal skin conditions. SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN INTERNALLY!


There are many other herbs and natural growing flowers and plants which are highly beneficial for almost any equine physical ailment. Again, it must be stressed that there are some botanical plants that are harmful or poisonous to horses. Some of these are:


Red Clover
Red Clover: a trifoliate, too much Red Clover can be toxic for horses.


Rosemary
Rosemary: should not be given to pregnant mares. Also, contains oil such as thymol and camphor that if found in the blood by the Jockey Club or FEI, is a prohibited substance.


Thyme
Thyme: is another volatile oil and is prohibited by Jockey Club and FEI rules. Should not be given to pregnant mares.


Anyone who keeps horses will benefit from knowing what plants and herbs help to treat what ailments. It must be noted, however, that this information is not to override advice from a Certified Veterinarian but can be safely used to compliment any prescribed treatments.

Recommended Reading:


A Modern Horse Herbal
"A Modern Horse Herbal", Hilary Page Self, 1996, 1997, 1998, Kenilworth Press, Great Britain.


The Little Herb Encyclopaedia
"The Little Herb Encyclopaedia", Jack Ritchason, N.D., 1995, Woodland Health Books, Pleasant Grove, UT.



The Healing Herbs
"The Healing Herbs", Michael Castleman, 1995, Bantam Books, New York, NY.



Complete Holistic Care and Healing for Horses
"Complete Holistic Care and Healing for Horses", The Owner's Veterinary Guide to Alternative Methods and Remedies by Mary Brennan, DVM.



Natural Horse Care
Natural Horse Care by Pat Coleby. Explains how easy it is to keep your horse in top condition without using expensive treatments. Nutritional needs, and avoiding diseases through sound farm management are among the topics covered.





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