HERB FEEDING GUIDELINES
When feeding dried herbal blends, a maximum daily dose of 30-50g is sufficient for a horse, and the dosage should be halved for ponies.
For tinctures, a dose of 3ml 2-3x daily, or 5ml 2x daily is the absolute maximum dose for a horse. Again, dosage should be halved for ponies.
If feeding the same type of herb over an extended period, a good rule to help maintain optimum efficacy and increase efficacy of the herb, is using a cycle of three months on and three weeks off. Giving the body rest from constant supplementation is good as, unlike allopathic medicine, herbs stay active in the body over a longer period. An occasional break makes the body less dependant on them and increases the benefits of long-term supplementation.
As a rule most herbs should not be fed to pregnant animals, as many of then have uterine or hormonal stimulant properties. Before feeding a herb to a broodmare or foal, please consult with a herbalist in order to substantiate safety of a specific herb.
The information stated below is intended solely for horses and ponies older than six months of age, and is not be used in place of veterinary care or expertise. The recommended dosage listed below is the maximum allowable for horses and should always be halved for ponies:
Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum)
Aniseed is THE coughing herb. The Aniseed herb is expectorant, antispasmodic and carminative, so it’s wonderful for soothing and relieving coughs. Blend Aniseed with complementary herbs such as Garlic, Liquorice root and Marshmallow. For sinus issues include Euphrasia in the blend, as it is anti-catarrhal. It is also carminative which makes it useful for colic.
Dose: 20-25g seed daily.
Burdock Root (Arctium lappa)
Burdock root is another blood cleansing herb that supports the liver. It is also a highly effective herb for treating all types of skin problems e.g. eczema, rashes and dry flaky skin. It has been found to have anti-tumour properties, so it’s useful for inclusion in blends for all types of skin growths, including sarcoids.
Dose: 10g dried root daily.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
The vividly bright orange flower petals are the part used for medicinal purposes. Calendula petals are used internally as a blood tonic, and have remarkable healing properties. It is also useful for healing gastric ulcers. When calendula is combined in equal proportions with Clivers, it forms a powerful lymphatic detox and support blend. This blend also works well together with the inclusion of nettle to treat cystitis and skin conditions. Calendula tincture is excellent when combined with Colloidal Silver as a wound wash, as it is antiseptic and antifungal as well as actively promoting skin healing. To make a healing cream or balm add 10% calendula tincture to an aqueous based cream or pure lanolin.
Dose: 15-20g dried petals daily.
A strong diuretic herb and highly antirheumatic, it helps to prevent fluid build-up around joints and improves mobility. It also helps to expel internal gas. It should be used with caution in pregnant animals, or animals with kidney disease
Chamomile (German) (Matricaria recutita)
Chamomile is a very good nervine for horses that process their nervousness through their digestive system, which generally also makes it useful for treating horses with gastric ulcers caused by stress. A “Chamomile” horse typically “gets the runs” at competition or when trucking (or any other stressful time when the horse senses it is going into an unknown situation e.g. hacking in a new area). It is a useful for all “types” of tense horses though, as it is a mild sedative. Chamomile is also a useful anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-spasmodic.
Dose: 15-20g dried flowers daily.
Chaste-tree (Vitex agnus-castus)
Chaste-tree berries are an incredible hormonal balancer. When it is combined in a mixture together with the nervines it is extremely helpful for “PMS”, moody type mares or for overly aggressive stallions. It’s hormonal balancing properties also makes it a must to include in Cushing’s Disease support blends.
Dose: 15g dried berries daily
Clivers (Galium aparine)
Combines exceptionally well with Calendula for various ailments, as mentioned above. Clivers are a rich bioavailable source of Silica, which is an essential trace mineral for promoting strong and healthy hoof and hair growth. It is also a mild diuretic, and when fed internally it is helpful for reducing windgalls or other soft swellings.
Dose: 20-30g dried herb daily.
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
Comfrey is widely known for its remarkable healing properties, be it used internally for ulcers, broken bones and soft tissue damage, or externally to promote speedy wound healing. It is very soothing for the mucous membranes, as well as being an expectorant, so it is excellent to include in any respiratory herbal blend. It also improves circulation, and is helpful for treating arthritis.
Dose: 20-30 g dried leaf daily
Dandelion ( Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion is THE herbal electrolyte!! The Dandelion herb is a very effective diuretic but is also contains an abundance of potassium, magnesium and calcium, so it helps to replace the minerals that are leached out of the body. It stimulates the liver as well as the kidneys, so is ideal to include in a detox blend. Be sure to feed only the true medicinal dandelion “Taraxacum officinale”, and not the indigenous sub-species which grows throughout Southern Africa in paddocks and along roadsides, known as False Dandelion (“Hypochaeris radicata”). The sub-species has a flat rosette of leaves which grow close to the ground, whereas the true medicinal Dandelion (“Taraxacum officinale”) has soft leaves that grow upward away from the ground, with very long and thin individual flower stems. The sub-species is toxic and can cause a stringhalt type of lameness if grazed too much. Never leave your horses in paddocks which are infested by this weed if there isn’t sufficient alternative quality grazing available in the paddock. True Dandelion is NOT associated with stringhalt and has marvelous tonic and health maintenance benefits.
Devil’s claw (Harpogophytum procumbens)
Devil’s claw is a low-growing plant that is native to Southern Africa. The root is used medicinally as a powerful natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic, and its effectiveness has been found to be comparable with that of cortisone and phenylbutazone, but without the unpleasant side effects! It is also an appetite stimulant. Very effective for easing muscle stiffness after heavy exercise. Combines well with MSM and Glucosamine for relieving arthritis.
Dose: 15g of dried root daily.
Echinacea is a truly wonderful immune stimulant herb, however dosage must be regulated in order to fully gain its efficacy. It should never be used constantly; it is much more effective if administered in cycles of two weeks on and one week off. Also, it is much more effective if the different varieties and parts (roots and aerial herb) are all blended together. Echinacea can be used prophylatically to help protect yards from viral outbreaks, or for treating chronic viral and bacterial infections. It is good also for treating all types of allergic skin complaints.
Dose: 10-20g dried herb daily.
Elecampane root (Inula helenium)
It’s a powerful mucus expeller and antibacterial herb, ideal for respiratory allergies and infections. It’s also an alterative herb, which helps to restore normal bodily function. It’s an ideal supportive through severe illness, as it supports the kidneys, the nervous system, helps to sweat out a fever, is an anti-convulsive, is a blood purifier and gentle energy tonic, and supports the respiratory system. It also stimulates the appetite and is an anti-ulcerative. Caution: Avoid during pregnancy, and for animals with known sensitivity to plants in the sunflower family (Astaraceae). May interfere with hypoglycemic and hypertension treatments.
This is a powerful astringent, anti-catarrhal and anti-inflammatory herb. It’s particularly useful for helping to relieve any congestion in the head, such as hayfever. Only the aerial parts of this herb are used. When made into a tea, strained and allowed to cool, it makes an excellent soothing eye wash. Caution: Avoid use in pregnant and lactating animals.
Dose: 20-30g dried herb daily.
Fenugreek seed is a rich natural source of Vitamin E (the fertility vitamin) although don’t feed it to overly flirtatious mares as it may increase oestrogen levels! It is a wonderful appetite stimulant and weight conditioner, is also very demulcent and emollient. Being so it encourages healing and prevention of gastric ulcers, so it is ideal for horses at high risk of developing gastric ulcers e.g. are fed high grain diets and stabled in busy competitive yards.
Dose: 20-30 g seed daily.
This powerful herb is anti-viral, antibiotic, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-septic, anthelmintic, expectorant and anti-diabetic so is excellent to use regularly in order to support the immune system. Be sure to feed the recommended dosage, and give an occasional break in supplementation. Excessive garlic fed over prolonged periods may cause Heinz body anaemia, but when fed in moderation it is perfectly safe and highly beneficial.
Dose: 15-30g dried flakes daily
Gotu Kola is a specific for arthritis, and also helps to support the circulatory system. It is anti-inflammatory as well as a mild diuretic. It has been used to promote healing and reconstruction of connective tissue in the joints.
Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha)
Hawthorn is the perfect cardiovascular tonic, as it both improves circulation and has the remarkable bi-directional ability to normalize both low and high blood pressure. It’s also a rich source of nineteen different types of flavonoid antioxidants. Another great aspect of this herb is its incredible safety even when fed in large quantities. And it does not interfere with allopathic cardiac medicines, so can safely be administered concurrently. It is fantastic for all types of conditions relating to poor circulation, including navicular, laminitis, windgalls, and slow, poor quality hoof growth.
Dose: 10-15 g of mixed dried leaves, flowers and berries
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
This herb is best known for it’s ability to heal bone and connective tissue injuries. It’s musculo-skeletal regenerative properties are linked to it’s significant content of bioavailable silicon. It’s silicon content also helps to strengthen hair and hoof quality. This herb is the most closely affiliated to bone health of all the herbs. It has the remarkable ability to break down and remove excess bone where it isn’t needed, and helps to lay it down and strengthen it where it is needed. In this way it helps to prevent degenerative bone disease. For healing bone and connective tissue injuries, it combines well with comfrey and nettle. It is also diuretic and helps to staunch bleeding.
Hops is a very good nervine for horses that tend to be distracted easily, even though they may not necessarily be very physically “hot” to ride. Your “Hops” horses battle to concentrate on their work and to retain what they learn. I have found that Hops combines well with the other nervine herbs for all types of horses, but especially for the “fizzy” “vervain-type” Thoroughbreds.
Dose: 15g dried herb daily
Kelp is anti-rheumatic, stimulates the thyroid gland, cleanses the blood, a mild diuretic and contains an abundant variety of minerals, vitamins and amino-acids, all of which help to encourage good health, including strong and healthy hoof and coat growth.
Dose: 15g dried kelp daily.
A powerful expectorant and immune supportive root. It is also demulcent, this helps to make it one of the primary respiratory supportive herbs. It is anti-inflammatory, one of the very best herbs to include in a herbal cortisone blend. It’s an adrenal and liver supportive. It helps to support the endocrine system and is an essential herb to include in a supportive blend for Cushing’s Disease.
Both the leaves and root are used medicinally. It’s very emollient and demulcent, and mildly anti-inflammatory, which makes it an ideal herb for treating gastric ulcers. It’s also expectorant and coupled with its soothing properties it helps to relieve coughs. It also has a strong affinity with the urinary tract, helping to dissolve crystals, lubricating the internal tissues and acting as an immunostimulant. The dried powdered root is an excellent drawing agent for abscesses and puncture wounds when combined in equal proportions with slippery elm inner bark powder.
Meadowsweet is also anti-inflammatory, being a natural source of aspirin, but in contrast to the drug extract it has the fantastic advantage of not irritating the gastric lining. In fact, it is so healing on the gastric system that it is a specific for gastric ulcers. Meadowsweet it THE “herbal aspirin”, only so much better, as it is also a natural antacid and promotes healing of the intestinal tract.
Dose: 20-30 g dried herb daily
Milk thistle seed is THE liver herb!! Not only does it help to detox the liver, but it also helps to regenerate liver damage if fed continuously for at least 6 – 8 weeks, but supplementing it for a 12 week period is the ideal. The active component of milk thistle is silymarin, which is only contained inside the very hard, indigestible seeds, so the ground/powdered form of the milk thistle seed is most effective for liver treatment. It’s best to feed in combination with dandelion, which helps to flush the toxins out of the kidneys which the Milk Thistle seed releases from the liver.
Dose: 10 – 15g ground seed daily.
Mint is a carminative and anti-spasmodic which reduces excess flatulence and can help prevent gassy colics. To use as a colic preventative, introduce the mint to the diet before making any feeding changes. Mint is a very good anti-depressant, a great pick-me-up for rescue horses, horses that seem depressed after losing a companion or moving yards, or feeling a bit work weary towards the end of a tough competitive season. It perks them up and gives them a more positive outlook on life in general,without making them go over the top.
Dose: 15-20g dried herb daily.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
This nervine herb is mildly sedative and helps to improve sleep patterns. It’s particularly helpful for cases who’ve lost their appetite and are struggling from depression. It’s also a bitters herb that supports the liver and digestion. Caution: Avoid use in pregnant animals.
Nettle is a rich natural source of bio-available iron and Vitamin C, so is very useful for treating anaemia. It is also a powerful blood cleanser and diuretic, improves circulation and is a mild anti-inflammatory, so it is a must to include in arthritic herbal blends. Nettles have a dramatic effect in improving hoof and coat condition, often causing an abundance of dapples rippling under gleaming coats!!
Dose: 20- 30g dried herb daily.
Passiflora has a powerful synergistic action with the other nervines in order to help the horse let go of old nervous habits and restructure more positive neural reactions. Highly recommended to include in any calming blend.
Dose: 15-20g dried herb daily.
Red Clover (Trifoliumpratense)
One of the best-known blood purifying and anti-tumour herbs. Highly tonic, this herb helps to soothe coughs and speed recovery from respiratory illnesses as it is expectorant and helps to soothe inflamed mucous membranes. Feed only at recommended dosages as excessive quantities increases oestrogen levels.
Rosehips (Rosa canina)
Rosehips are a rich natural source of Vitamin C, copper and many other nutrients, all of which help to encourage strong and healthy hoof and coat growth. They’re very anti-oxidant, highly beneficial for preventing and healing joint issues, and strengthen tissue bonds. Rosehips are also anti-scouring, if fed at recommended dosages. They’re highly safe to feed to all horses on a permanent basis, including broodmares.
Dose: 15-20g dried rosehip shell daily.
One of the best adaptogenic herbs, and the most sustainable to harvest. This herb helps the body to adapt and improve resistance to stress of all types. It is circulatory stimulant, dilates blood vessels, and is anti-depressant.
Slippery elm bark is a must for treating gastric ulcers, as it is mucilaginous and thus will form a protective and healing poultice like layer over damaged gastric lining tissues. It is also anti-inflammatory and mildly astringent, so is very useful for using as an external poultice on wounds, and works well as a drawing agent. Combine with honey, marshmallow root powder and a little water and apply a layer on the inside of a leg wrap and bandage over the affected area. Slippery elm bark is excellent for treating scouring; it is very safe and effective even for foals. It also helps to prevent gastric ulceration, so it is helpful to include in the feed twice daily when a horse needs to be on a long course of conventional anti-inflammatories.
Slippery elm bark is extremely costly, as it can only be harvested from a tree which is at least seven years old, only the soft inner bark can be used, and harvesting the bark can cause the tree to die. Understandably, this invaluable tree is in very short supply and is now threatened in it’s natural habitat; so only make use of this precious herb when it is truly justifiable, otherwise Plantain or Marshmallow root are good alternatives for treating gastric ulcers.
Dose: 15-20g dried and powdered inner bark daily.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
A rich source of curcumin and other powerful antioxidants, this golden root is highly anti-inflammatory and full of tissue protective anti-oxidants.This is a versatile and helpful herb for many health issues. It’s one of the best herbs to supplement for any chronic pain issue, not least of all arthritis. This herb also has a strong affinity with the circulatory system and strengthens liver function, which makes it a useful herb to include for digestive support. This herb has the ability to chelate excess iron out of the body, and is an extremely safe supplement to include in the diet. Only the root of this plant is used, and it’s effectiveness is enhanced by the addition of 2-3% finely ground black pepper (Piper nigrum).
“Valerian” type horses are regarded as processing their stress through their muscles. They tense up when frightened and the rider will feel it underneath the saddle and in their work, but bystanders may be completely unaware of it. If a “Valerian” type horse becomes completely over pressurized by a situation it may well explode and end up bucking, rearing or bolting. “Valerian” type horses often have very hard stools — so the valerian furthermore suits them because it is a mild laxative. It is contra-indicated for any horse that has diarrhoea. Valerian is a banned substance under competition rules.
Dose: 15g dried root daily.
“Vervain” type horses are the typical Thoroughbred – fizzy, spooky, impatient type horses who often use up all their energy dancing and fidgeting around before the race/competition has even started! Your “Vervain” type horses tend to have very sensitive skins which show up as allergic reactions to insect bites, rashes and general itchiness. It’s ideal to include in gastric ulcer blends as I have found that “Vervain” type horses seem to be typically prone to gastric ulcers and by balancing their nervous system it helps to heal and prevent gastric ulcers from reoccurring. Vervain is also an excellent liver supportive herb.
Dose: 20-30g of dried herb daily.
I had to include this herb in the Materia Medica chiefly because of its powerful ability to staunch bleeding. Soldiers as far back as Roman times used it on the battlefield, which is why the herb earned the common names “Soldiers Woundwort” and “Knight’s Milfoil”. Make a strong tea (3 tablespoons dried herb steeped in 1 cup of warm water), and use on the affected area when it has cooled sufficiently. It’s a good idea to keep a bottle of Yarrow tincture on hand for emergencies, using the tincture directly on a wound for it’s styptic properties, although be warned, it will burn! Most horses have a much higher pain threshold than humans and won’t kick out when applied, but some might. If you’re concerned the horse might react, rather add the tincture to equal proportions of hot (but not boiling water), leave for 1 minute for the alcohol to evaporate, and then add an equal amount of cool water and then it’s ready to apply.
Yarrow is also excellent for stimulating the appetite, especially if the horse is recovering from an illness. Yarrow is also extremely good for horses that suffer from epistaxis.
Dose: 25g dried herb daily.
The best kind of ACV to use is the unpasteurized variety, ideally it should still contain the mother, and it must have minimum 5% acidity. ACV should be fed to all grain or concentrate fed horses on a daily basis, as it helps to maintain the correct body pH. Excessive amounts of carbohydrates and proteins create an acidic pH level in the body in which diseases can thrive. ACV has numerous overall health benefits – too many to mention here unfortunately – but is particularly well known for its ability to prevent arthritis. It provides a wide variety of trace elements and is a good digestive aid. It’s an appetite stimulant and is generally very well accepted when mixed into concentrate feed. In this way, it can help to tempt shy feeders. ACV also helps to balance the metabolism, so it helps to slim down overweight horses and helps thin horses to gain a more ideal weight by encouraging their appetite and supporting healthy gut flora and digestion.
Dose: 30-50ml daily.
An incredible powerful natural antibiotic. It’s made by bees using resins, pollens and essential oils. Bees use it to line their hives to seal out contaminants. Propolis is antibiotic, antiviral, anti-fungal and highly safe. Conventional antibiotics may be used in conjunction with propolis, as propolis will reinforce and strengthen the action of the conventional antibiotic without causing any additional side effects. Propolis can be used internally for any viral or bacterial infection. Use the powder (5 – 10g daily) or tincture (3ml daily) internally. Externally the tincture is very good to use on wounds to encourage healing and staunch bleeding. When exposed to air, a thin layer of a good quality propolis tincture applied over a wound may at first feel a little sticky, but then it quickly dries to form a smooth and supple protective seal over the top of the wound. This helps to seal out and kill any infections and encourages healing.
An incredible wound healer. I usually use it on wounds for a few days after I have used the Propolis, as it speeds healing and promotes hair regrowth. It should be blended with a carrier oil, 1 drop lavender essential oil for every 10 drops of carrier oil. Lavender essential oil can also be used as a rinse on strained tendons, bruises or tired overworked legs. Add 15 – 20 drops Lavender essential oil to 2 liters of warm water and sponge down affected areas.
Natural sea salt contains a vast array of trace minerals, in minute quantities but all in a bio-available form. Ideally the salt should be available free choice, so that the horse is able to satisfy its own individual requirements.
A very good source of the water-soluble B-vitamin group and the antioxidant mineral selenium, and it encourages healthy gut flora and efficient feed assimilation. It’s also a good source of zinc and the blood sugar regulating mineral Chromium. Brewer’s yeast is a dead (inactive) yeast supplement, so it will not cause or aggravate any yeast infections in the body.
Dose: 20-40g daily.
– a very rich source of omega 3’s, from which horses are able to manufacture Omega 6’s as they require. Omega 3’s are desperately lacking in the modern horse’s processed diet, but Omega 6’s are usually excessively available. Omega 3’s have numerous health benefits and are an extremely good general health supplement for all horses. Dry flaky skin problems or inflammatory skin conditions such as sweet-itch are proven to benefit tremendously from added linseed in the diet. It is also indicated for horses that suffer from azoturia (tying-up) as it helps to prevent lactic acid build-up and promotes a smoother muscle action. It’s also recommended to feed internally to horses with ligament injuries, for this purpose its best if combined in equal proportions with white millet seed.
Contrary to popular belief, raw whole linseeds ARE safe for horses provided they are good quality (should smell nutty and look shiny and hard, if they smell fishy or are dusty and dull then discard them immediately). The tough outer shell is almost indigestible, so they are best utilized if freshly milled prior to feeding. Soaking them is not recommended as it creates a toxin. For fattening purposes linseed can be cooked for 2 –3 hours until a glutinous gel appears, but as Omega 3’s are very heat sensitive, they will be destroyed. NB!!!: Raw linseed oil is EXTREMELY toxic for horses – do not feed under any circumstances! Cold pressed flaxseed oil that is kept refrigerated is safe, and can be used as an alternative for the freshly milled seeds (daily dosage for a horse is 15-20ml daily)
Dose: ½ – 1 cup freshly milled seeds daily
Probiotics – not recommended for daily use, but are excellent for maintaining/restoring a healthy population of beneficial gut microflora during and after times of possible disruption. For example: Travelling long distance; after a bout of diarrhea; a long course of antibiotics or anti-inflammatories; and deworming. It usually takes 7-10 days for the microflora to reach optimum levels so 2-3 weeks supplementation is ample. In general probiotics are not recommended for foals, and should only be prescribed in certain instances by a vet.
Alterative – restores the proper function of the body, typically through altering metabolism by improving the tissues’ ability to metabolise nutrients and eliminate waste. Otherwise known as a “blood purifier”.
Analgesic – reduce pain by reducing the sensitivity of nerves.
Antacid – counteracts or neutralizes acidity, usually of the stomach.
Anthelmintic – destroy or expel worms from the digestive system.
Antibacterial – destroys bacteria or suppresses their growth or reproduction.
Antibiotic – helps the body to withstand infection or infestation of pathogens.
Anti-catarrhal – remove excess mucus, generally from the upper respiratory tract.
Anti-diabetic – help regulate and reduce blood sugar
Anti-diarrhoeal – opposes or corrects diarrhoea
Antifungal – act against fungal infection.
Antihistamine – having a neutralizing effect on the body’s release of histamine.
Antihypothyroid – reduces deficiency of the thyroid hormone.
Anti-inflammatory – help the body combat inflammation.
Antimicrobial – help the body destroy or resist pathogenic organisms
Antirheumatic – have the ability to prevent, relieve or cure rheumatism.
Antisclerotic – reduces hardening and thickening of cell walls
Antiseptic – inhibit growth of bacteria, and prevent infection and putrefaction.
Antispasmodic – help prevent or relieve muscle spasms in both skeletal and smooth muscles.
Antitussive – reduce or prevent coughing.
Antiviral – kills viruses or renders them unable to replicate.
Aperient – mild and gentle laxative.
Astringent – have a binding or contracting action on skin and mucous membranes, tone local blood vessels and stop bleeding.
Carminative – soothe and settle the gut wall, easing gripping and reducing flatulence.
Cholagogue – help to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver, and has a mild laxative action.
Demulcent – rich in mucilage, which soothes and protects inflamed or irritated tissue.
Diuretic – increase the formation and elimination of urine.
Emollient – have the same soothing and healing effect as demulcents, but specifically on the skin.
Expectorant – remove excess mucus from the lungs
Haemostatic – stop or prevent bleeding
Hepatic – tone, strengthen and support the function of the liver.
Hepatoprotective – protect the liver
Hypotensive – reduce blood pressure
Immune stimulant – stimulate and support the body’s defence systems against pathogens.
Laxative – promotes contraction of the bowels to stimulate the removal of faeces.
Nervine – promote relaxation of and restore the nervous system.
Nutritive – nourish the body.
Pulmonary – support lung function.
Stimulant – cause an increase in body functions, predominantly the circulatory system.
Stomachic – tone and stimulate action of the stomach.
Tonic – strengthens and supports the function of a specific organ, or in some cases, the entire body.
Vasodilatory – dilate blood vessels by relaxing their muscular walls
Vulnerary – help wounds and inflammations to heal.