Horses and Natural Medicine

Les Rees

The individuality of horses is no different from that of humans. Each of us has a unique set of requirements to maintain our health depending on factors ranging from genetic predisposition to acquired physical and psychological symptoms that influence the development of characteristics, behaviour, conformation and general demeanour. These are important factors when formulating treatments. Natural medicines work exceedingly well when all these aspects are taken into consideration and can bring about some astounding results in restoring balance in all aspects of physical and mental health. Being herbivores, horses are well suited to herbal medicine and often choose to browse on medicinal herbs if they're available in their paddocks. This is something their wild counterparts have in their favour as there is far more available biodiversity to choose from and limitless grazing available.

Herbal medicines work better when used in combination; using them singly can limit the treatment as each herb has its own set of individual actions according to its phytochemical and phytonutrient components. For example, devil's claw has anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions, and can be extremely useful for a number of conditions when inflammation and pain are present, but it's important to remember that inflammation is an outcome not the cause of disease and as a result, devil's claw should be included as only one part of any formulation.

Used as preventative medicines, herbs can protect against symptoms associated with seasonal changes, possible impact of viruses, joint health and a number of physiological and psychological problems such as digestive upset, respiratory health, hormonal imbalance, anxiety and stress.

When a horse's body is in balance, it will have a healthy shine in its coat. Routine small doses of preventative herbal medicines helps maintain that balance and is much cheaper than buying expensive topical products that offer short term results. It's far better to address the balance of nutrition from within the body. If you want your horse to have that external glow, it needs to come from within!

Occasionally, we hear rumours about the efficacy of using herbal medicines, but scientific research on the vast array of herbs available throughout the world is only in its infancy when compared to conventional medicine. However, many conventional medicines actually originate from derivatives of medicinal plants. Moreover, it would be extremely difficult to test the healing capacity of herbal medicine by assessing single herbs for analysis because they're generally used in combinations, which is why they are so effective. In fact, the inherent balancing effect from the different constituents in herbal medicines is the reason that they don't have the harsh side-effects as some conventional drugs. The combinations used by herbalists can be very variable because there are so many to choose from and each herbalist has their own preferences in combinations. Also these combinations have to be very flexible to meets the needs of each individual animal and also consider both psychological and physiological requirements. So the question is how can it be possible to assess the efficacy given there are so many variables.

Herbs are gentle and pose little risk associated with their use providing they are mixed with reference to their individual contraindications and dosage. However, both can be quite dangerous in the wrong hands and a sound knowledge of plant medicines is very important. If there is any doubt in your mind, go to a professional for a consultation or buy a pre-mixed formula for specific common ailments. Take the advice from a professional, your friends opinions may be well intentioned but can be extremely unhelpful and totally wrong for your horse's individual issues.

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