Scientific advances have ensured that there is a wide array of drugs available with which to treat medical conditions in horses. Your vet can address most equine diseases and conditions with the latest drugs. However, it is possible to boost your horse's health with herbs and plants. Here's a brief guide to plants and herbs for horses and their potential benefits. Sometimes nature knows best!
You can apply arnica to treat wounds, bruises and muscle pain. It is only for external use and acts as an anti-inflammatory and stimulant. Arnica mixed with water or witch hazel is also a good wash down lotion for tired muscles.
Both the root and the leaves of the dandelion offer potential benefits for horses. The root stimulates liver function whilst the leaves are a good diuretic. Dandelion cleanses the blood which makes it an excellent choice for horses suffering from laminitis, skin conditions and rheumatism. This plant is rich in vitamin A, B, C and D and can stimulate appetite whilst improving digestion.
Garlic also cleanses the blood and so provides another excellent choice to prevent laminitis and sweet itch. It is a natural insect repellent and so could help ward off flies and offers antihistamine properties. Garlic is an expectorant and so can help to clear the lungs of mucous and infection. The juice from garlic bulbs can be utilised to clean bites, stings and cuts.
Antirheumatic and antibiotic, kelp can be used in compresses to reduce inflammation and pain. Kelp is rich in minerals, particularly calcium, iodine and potassium and so is a useful supplement for horses which have poor quality grazing.
Lavender oil if for external use only and is an excellent relaxant. Simply rub a little oil on your hands when you are handling a nervous horse. The oil is also an effective antidepressant and can stimulate the circulation. Do not use the undiluted oil on your horse's skin.
Rich in vitamin C, iron, calcium, potassium and dietary fibre, stinging nettles are highly nutritious. Horses won't eat them when they are growing so cut them, allow them to wilt and then chop them up so you can add them to your horse's feed. Stinging nettles are useful for addressing sweet itch, laminitis, arthritis and rheumatism.
This essential oil is for external use only and acts as an antiseptic, mild disinfectant and fungicide. Tea tree can accelerate healing, strengthen the immune system, ease swelling and reduce inflammation. Also, a good massage oil to treat strained and bruised muscles, tea tree is a great all-rounder.
Featuring vitamins C, E and B12 together with minerals including calcium and potassium, aloe vera is a natural anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-viral and anti-bacterial remedy. You can apply aloe vera to broken skin as it does not sting, and it is a good way to address bruises, swellings and insect bites.
Peppermint and Spearmint
Both peppermint and spearmint help relax the muscles of the digestive tract. You can grow mint easily to provide yourself with a ready supply and your horse should to be happy to eat the fresh leaves. However, you also find mint in many equine supplements and herbal treats.
Burdock and Fenugreek
Burdock should be used in powder form to stimulate digestion. Fenugreek is also a great choice for horses with digestive issues but should not be given to pregnant mares.