Aloe bitters is an internal tick repellent. This bitter herb stimulates gastric acid secretion, which can help to prevent and aid healing of hindgut ulcers.
Not recommended for animals with suspected gastric ulcers, or for pregnant animals.
NB: Give a 2-3 week break in supplementation every 2-3 months.
Loading Dose (for 1-2 weeks, or until the tick burden is noticeably reduced):
Horses: 3 scoops (15g/15ml) daily
Ponies: 1 ½ scoops (7.5g/7.5ml) daily
Horses: 1- 2 scoops (5-10g/5 –10ml) daily
Ponies: ½ – 1 scoop (2.5-5g/2.5 – 5ml) daily
Vervain (Verbena officinalis)
“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.
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.
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
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 (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.
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
Comfrey is widely known for its remarkable healing properties for ulcers, broken bones and soft tissue damage. It has cell proliferant properties which promote speedy wound healing, for which it can be used both internally and externally.
It’s also 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.
The following dosages should not be exceeded. Mix into daily food.
Horses: 1-2 handfuls in feed daily (approximately 10-15g)
Ponies: ½ -1 handful in feed daily (approximately 6-10g)
Dogs and Cats: ½ to 1 teaspoon per 500g of food
Pigeons and Poultry: Up to 2% of daily grain feed. Mix well into feed together with a little vegetable oil.
Do not feed to pregnant animals, or pets with liver disease.
Comfrey contains small quantities of alkaloids that can cause liver damage if taken in large quantities:
“The Comfrey Debate:
Regrettably, the internal use of Comfrey has been a much misunderstood and frequently controversial subject since the late 1960’s. The presence of a group of compounds contained in Comfrey called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA’s) instigated concern during a Japanese study on lab rats in 1968, which involved injecting high concentrations of isolate symphytine alkaloid in sufficient dosages that it would represent a staggering 33% of a rat’s daily food intake!
Herbalists argue that this is a totally unrealistic representation – as to begin with, in order to replicate the experiment in horses, they would have to ingest 150kg of isolate symphytine daily, and because symphytine only represents a tiny portion (5%) of total PA’s, this would mean a horse would have to consume a staggering 8,33 tonnes per day of dried comfrey! To add further perspective, PA’s are not uncommon in many foodstuffs – for example, both red wine and dark chocolate contain concentrations of PA’s.
Herbalists argue that:
Use only as directed, and for short periods of time (1-2 weeks)
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.
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.
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.
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).