Posts Tagged ‘ Gastric Ulcers ’

Slippery Elm Bark

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Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva, U. rubra)

Slippery Elm inner 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’s an essential ingredient in our specially formulated blend for healing gastric ulcers, Ulcer-Ease. More info can be found about this complete treatment approach for gastric ulcers in our blog post here.

It is also anti-inflammatory and mildly astringent, so is useful as an external poultice on wounds, and 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.

It’s excellent for treating scouring, and is very safe and effective even for foals.

It 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.


Horses: 15-20g dried and powdered inner bark daily.

Ponies: 10g dried and powdered inner bark daily.

Small – 2.5g daily
Medium: 5g daily
Large: 7.5g daily
Giant: 10g daily

Buy here.


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Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

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


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Marshmallow(Althea officinalis)

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.

Fenugreek Seed

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Fenugreek seed (Trigonella foenum-graecum)

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.

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Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

The vividly bright orange flower petals of Calendula officinalis are used for medicinal purposes.

Calendula petals have remarkable healing properties because of their antiseptic and antifungal properties, and by speeding up the rate of cell division. They’re anti-inflammatory also, so are ideal for alleviating skin itches and for rapidly healing rubbed skin.

When Calendula is combined in equal proportions with Clivers (Galium Aparine) they make a powerful blend to detox and support the lymphatic system. This combination also works well together with Nettle to treat cystitis and skin conditions.

Used internally, Calendula petals have the following benefits:


Horses:          1-2 handfuls in feed daily (approximately 10-15g)

Ponies:           ½ -1 handful in feed daily (approximately 6-10g)

Buy the petals here.

Used externally, Calendula tincture has the following benefits:

Buy the tincture here.

A Complete Equine Herbal Treatment Approach for Longterm Relief of Gastric Ulcers

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Gastric ulcers are widely recognized as a common issue for competitive horses. Studies have shown that over 80% of performance horses are affected by this condition. Some horses cope remarkably well despite them, but for others the situation can deteriorate until the horse shows related symptoms, including weight loss, decreased appetite, lacklustre performance, general irritability and restlessness and sometimes even recurring colic. The three main causes for gastric ulcers are: an unnatural (high grain/molassed concentrate) diet; stress; and certain drugs. Competitive horses are frequently subjected to at least one of these three main causes on a regular basis.

For permanent relief, the primary causes of ulcers must be reduced or eliminated. Ulcer-prone horses do well on a low concentrate/ high forage diet, based on good quality forages and grazing.  The horse’s stomach naturally developed in order to digest small but regular intakes of mainly fibrous material. The large quantities of starchy and sugary grain concentrate meal which stabled horses are usually fed in two or three large feeds daily are in stark contrast to this. Large quantities of grain promote the development of gastric ulcers, because a stomach full of grain will digest far more rapidly than a stomach full of a more fibrous feed. This results in an empty stomach which is vulnerable to continuous gastric acid secretions. It’s common sense that horses prone to ulcers should be allowed free access always to good quality roughage which buffers gastric acids. Ideally, they should also have their grain concentrate meals diluted with lucern chaff, and be fed smaller meals regularly through the day. Studies show that lucern hay has a particularly protective effect; because it’s high protein and calcium content have an excellent buffering effect on stomach acids.


If the horse has had to have a prolonged course of anti-inflammatories or antibiotics; or has had various stressors (e.g. long distance travelling or moving yards) then there are several soothing herbs ideal for healing gastric ulcers. These herbs can also be used before, during and after these types of stressors, to help maintain the horse’s digestive system in a healthy condition and prevent ulcers.


Honeyvale Herbs Ulcer-Ease herbal treatment blend contains 100% pure herbs which work together to restore and maintain a healthy balance of the horse’s nervous and digestive systems. In a synergistic blend form, together they form a highly effective blend for the comprehensive treatment and prevention of gastric ulcers.

They are:




A healthy gut flora imbalance is also linked to peptic ulcers. One particular bacterial organism, Helicobacter pylori, is the main culprit as it weakens the mucosal coating which naturally protects the stomach and intestinal walls from stomach acid damage. As a prebiotic supplement, Brewer’s Yeast restores the balance in favour of healthy bacteria, because it provides a rich source of nutrients which enable healthy gut flora to thrive and predominate the intestinal tract. Additional reasons why Brewer’s yeast is beneficial for ulcer horses because it helps to relieve scouring, encourages efficient feed conversion, and it supports the nervous system.


Antacid treatments, including omeprazole and ranitidine (which reduce gastric acidity) are routinely prescribed by veterinarians for equine ulcer treatment. Research has shown that although these treatments can be temporarily effective, they can have a laundry list of unwanted side effects. One negative effect ranitidine had was to permanently alter the normal function and structure of cells lining the stomach and preventing their ability to produce stomach acid. Although ranitidine used to be popularly prescribed by veterinarians for equine ulcers, thankfully it has since fallen out of favour once further research had proved this drug was an unsuitable treatment option. Omeprazole though is not without its side effects either, long-term (more than 60 days) use include risk of it reducing bone density. Also, it’s function in limiting the secretion of normal levels of gastric acids can lead to Vitamin B12 deficiency, which in turn can result in pernicious anaemia, limit the regeneration of damaged nerve tissues and impair healthy liver function. In addition, antacid treatments are limited to treating stomach ulcers only, as it is ineffective against treatment of ulcers in the small intestine, large intestine, cecum and colon.


From a herbalist’s perspective, antacid treatment is a fundamentally flawed treatment approach, in that only normal levels of stomach acids are capable of properly digesting and absorbing a large number of vitamins and minerals, and it’s crucial for breaking down and utilizing proteins.


Herbs do not have the unwanted side effects of standard antacid treatments, and certainly don’t inhibit digestion. In fact, besides actively stimulating healing of gastric ulcers throughout the equine digestive tract, herbs promote effective digestion, and are nourishing in themselves even!



(Text by: Jennie van der Byl).

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