Does long term Devil’s Claw usage in horses cause ulcers??

No, not necessarily. Devil’s Claw is a bitter herb, and its medicinal property as a “bitters” herb really can be a good thing, provided it’s used with understanding.

Natural grazing is full of herbs with these bitter properties, and wild horses and herds living in a natural lifestyle are known for actively seeking out herbs with these “bitters’ properties. “Bitters” herbs stimulate the secretion of gastric acids, and that is exactly what healthy digestion is based on and is exactly what the stomach is designed to handle. In fact, too little secretion of stomach acids can lead to hindgut ulcers, as inadequately digested foods (particularly grains) which pass through into the hindgut change it’s pH and results in a rapid die off of gut friendly bacteria, hindgut ulcers, and metabolic and auto-immune disorders.

So, why the belief that devil’s claw causes gastric (gastric  – pertains to the stomach only) ulcers? It all depends on management. Devil’s Claw WILL increase stomach acid secretion, so if you add it to your horse’s feed in the morning, and then take him out for an 20min or longer training session shortly afterwards, you will be perfectly setting the horse up for gastric ulcers. This is because he will not be taking in any forage during work time, and he needs foragein his stomach in order to buffer gastric acids. Horses who have empty stomachs for as little as 20 minutes are proven to be at increased risk of gastric ulcers. 

What about using devil’s claw longterm for chronic arthritis?? ….No problem. A retired horse with arthritis can stay on devil’s claw throughout the winter months in order to help give him comfort through the colder months, provided he has access to good quality forage 24/7.

An injured horse needs stable relief and an herbal “bute” anti-inflammatory blend (such as Honeyvale Herbs Arthro-Ease) to manage inflammation for the first 10 days or so post injury?? ….No problem, just make sure the horse has access to good quality forage 24/7, and for added protection give the horse a thin slice of lucerne after they’ve had a dose of devil’s claw.

Need to give the horse a herbal anti-inflammatory for stiff muscles and joints after a big event or long distance travel??….No problem, just make sure that the horse has sufficient good quality forage (preferably one with a higher calcium content, like lucerne or teff) after a dose, and don’t work them too soon after a dose.

Ideally, horses should always have access 24/7 to good quality forage. It’s us imposing an unnatural lifestyle on them which can lead to these bitters herbs “causing” ulcers. Our modern horses are proportionately eating far more sweet feeds than is ideal, and these lead to multiple other health issues.


These bitters herbs have traditionally always taken after an over indulgent meal, and still commonly are – you’ll find a few options available in liquor stores. They help the liver and whole digestive system cope with a too rich meal, and this principle can help our horses too, when they’re used appropriately.

Using a blend of herbs is safer and more effective, as the proportionate dosage of each herb is then individually lower, but the overall effect of the blend greater, because well-chosen herbs complement and work synergistically with each other. It’s best to use Honeyvale Herbs Arthro-Ease as a herbal bute blend, rather than a single herb like devil’s claw.

In summary, Devil’s Claw is not recommended if a horse has known or suspected gastric ulcers. However, it’s highly recommended for horses with hindgut ulcers. And Devil’s Claw can be used longterm if necessary, provided it’s used mindfully. And for increased safety and efficacy use aherbal bute blend such as Honeyvale Herbs Arthro-Ease, rather than the single devil’s claw herb.

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