Here are the profiles of the herbs that can be given to horses. Don’t forget that herbs are medicine and you should consult your veterinarian when required.
Chamomile- Matricaria chamomilla
Chamomile may aid in soothing, calming and relaxing the digestion and the nerves in the horse. It is often used to treat the nervous horse during stressful times, or if they are prone to nervous scouring or colic. It can also be useful for reducing the severity of allergic reactions.
Chamomile in addition is an anti inflammatory and therefore may be used to ease discomfort caused by arthritis.
Suggested Dosage is one handful of dried flowers daily for a preventative or up to double that to treat scouring or extreme nervous tension. Can be used continuously for up to three months then a break is required.
Warning: some animals can be allergic to this plant and its relatives.
Chamomile has a mild restrictive effect on the uterine tissues therefore its usage should be limited during pregnancy. Like all herbs that have this effect, abortion may result so it is better to avoid this herb during pregnancy
Cleavers/Clivers- Galium aparine
Cleavers is known as a general detoxifier therefore it may be used to cleanse the blood, treat skin conditions, stimulate the lymphatic system, help to eliminate toxins, treat infections and allergies, help improve a dull coat, help with mane and tail regrowth and is also very useful treating urinary tract infections.
Suggested Dosage is one cupful of cut herb daily.
Devils Claw – Harpogophytum procumbens
Devil Claw’s main properties are as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic. It is used for arthritis, rheumatism and other painful joint disorders and musculo-skeletal problems. As a painkiller and an anti-inflammatory it has proven to be comparable to cortisone and phenybutazone (Bute), and is labelled the natural Bute.
Suggested Dosage is up to 1 tablespoon a day, 2 tablespoons a day during acute pain. Do not overdose and do not administer long term – break of 2 to 3 weeks between courses is advisable.
Warnings: Not to be used by diabetics because it has a hypoglycemic action. Not to be used when gut ulceration is present or suspected. Excessive doses may interfere with treatment for cardiac disorders and with hyper and hypotensive therapies. Do not give to pregnant mares (or any other animals) as it is a uterine stimulant. Because it is a painkiller, one should be mindful that a horse without pain might feel better and become more playful whilst its injury/disorder has not healed.
Echinacea- Echinacea purpurea
Very useful as an immune system stimulant. It may significantly increase the number of white blood cells which helps to fight bacterial and viral infections. Especially useful treating respiratory conditions due to a cold or flu.
Used with Garlic, this is a very good combination for fighting off any kinds of infections.
Suggested Dosage for powdered root half to one tablespoon three times daily, or half cup dried root three times daily. For dried leaves, up to 2 cups a day.
Warning: Echinacea stimulates the immune system so it should not be used for animals with an abnormal functioning immune system. This includes any disease where the immune system actually works against itself such as multiple sclerosis, leukosis, diabetes, mellitus or feline immunodeficiency virus. When used in the presence of any of these diseases there can be aggravating effects. Echinacea’s role is to complement a healthy immune system.
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
Fenugreek is commonly used for gastric conditions, arthritis, bronchitis and diabetes. Studies have shown positive effects in subjects with gastric ulcers as it acts as a membrane protector. Horses with equine gastric ulcer syndrome (GUS) might benefit from Fenugreek’s actions. It is also good for diarrhea and anemia.
It can also be given to mares to promote lactation, but not during pregnancy
Externally, the seeds can be used as a poultice to help wound healing.
Suggested dosage is 15 to 45g/day. Because the seeds are very hard, it might be useful to soak them for 24 hours or cook them for 15 minutes. The water can be used as well as the seeds. (2 tablespoons to 1 cup of water)
Warning: Do not feed during pregnancy. Not recommended in animals with low thyroid activity. Do not over dose as it has an iron binding effect and can cause anemia.
Garlic- Allium sativum
Garlic is known as a very effective herb for being anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic. It is full of minerals mostly Sulphur but also Selenium, Iron, Chromium, Boron, Molybdenum, Zinc and Copper, that helps assist the horse fight off diseases and infection and also parasites. Garlic also can help to keep away flies as some horses will secrete it through their skin.
In addition it is excellent in helping to maintain the balance of gut flora.
Suggested Dosage is one tablespoon once daily which can be increased to twice daily during times of need. It is best fed in a cycle of three weeks on and one week off.
Warning: Feeding Garlic must be stopped if the vet gives the horse any form of sulphur, in this case seek the veterinarian’s advice on when to resume feeding it again. Garlic should not be given to horses with ulcers as it can affect the stomach lining. Garlic should not be given to horses in racing (John Konhke). Some studies have shown that giving 0.2g/kg of body weight a day for 6 months will trigger anemia.
Marshmallow Leaves – Althea officinalis
Marshmallow is used as an expectorant and to soothe and protect membranes. Although this herb encourages the expulsion of mucus, it is particularly good for dry coughs. Marshmallow can also be used externally as a poultice to help “draw” infectious wounds. Marshmallow leaves may soothe ulcers and calm stomach inflammation as well as bowel and urinary ones. It may also help the horse flush toxins by increasing urination.
The root of the plant can also be used and is more potent. However, when it comes to urinary track inflammation and ulcers, the leaves are as effective.
Suggested Dosage: 1 or 2 handful that can be made in a tea or straight in the horse’s feed.
Meadowsweet – Filipendula (Spiroea) ulmaria
An excellent analgesic and antacid that is used in bladder and kidney diseases as well as gastric ulcers.
Suggested Dosage: 1 or 2 handful
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
Milk Thistle helps to support and protect the liver. Its main constituent, Silymarin, is an antioxidant, protects against many toxins, and decreases activity of tumours. Milk Thistle is said to be demulcent, hepatoprotective (protect the liver) and antioxidant. It has been successfully used in various hepatic disorders including toxin and drug-induced ones. Another constituent (Silybin) is known to reduce kidney damage due to oxidation. These 2 constituents have shown positive results in cancer prevention and reduction during research done on animals.
Suggested dosage is between 10 to 25g/daily. Cattle: 10g/day. 8 week course is recommended to see results.
Mint (Mentha piperata)
Mint has a calming, soothing effect on the digestive system and may be beneficial in easing colics.
Suggested dosage is a small handful.
They are a good source of zinc, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, copper and Vitamin K. and can be added to horse’s feed.
Do not get pumpkin seeds that are for planting as they’ve quite often been sprayed with chemicals. The best are those for human consumption you find in health fodd shops.
Suggested Dosage is a handful 2 to 3 times a week
Psyllium Husk- Plantago ovata
Psyllium Husks are very rich in soluble fibre. Once in the gut, good bacteria break down the Husks to a substance that stimulates gut wall health. The Husks also absorb large amounts of water in the gut which forms a gel that soothes the gut and absorbs toxins. Therefore it may be helpful as a preventative to sand colic, assisting in the clearance of sand from the large intestine.
Suggested Dosage is half to one cup once daily for 3 days. Repeat treatment monthly depending on individual conditions.
Rosehips- Rosa canina
Rosehips may be a very effective immune system stimulant used to treat and prevent infections. It is often used as a preventative to illness and also to rehabilitate the horse after stress, illness or injury, and also promotes healthy hoof growth. It is high in vitamin C.
Suggested Dosage is one tablespoon daily as a preventative/maintenance dose or up to two tablespoons daily during times of illness or stress.
Seaweed/Kelp (Fucus vesiculosus)
Kelp is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. It is extremelly high in iodine and may be beneficial in low thyroid activity. It is also said to strengthen hair and be a tonic for the whole body.
Suggested dosage is no more than 2 g per day due to its high iodine content.
Warning: feeding too much iodine to horses can result in permanent illness such as big goitre. If you are already feeding supplements or hard feed, check the labels to see their iodine content before adding seeweed to your horse’s feed.
When feeding sunflower seeds to horses, only the black ones are suitable (Australia). The other varieties (grey, white etc) can harm horses as there is a component that may be poisonous to them.
Black sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Horses love them!
Suggested dose: They are fairly oily so only a couple of tablespoons a day for a mature horse would be enough. It is possible to go up to 1 cup a day depending on the horse’s activity.