Herbs for Animal Health
Using Herbs to Help Your Animal's Health
The use of herbs to help promote the health and wellbeing of many animals, has been the case for centuries. (Due to the efficacy of plants, many 'conventional' medicines are actually originally derived from plants.) You will sometimes hear the term "Phytotherapy", this is how modern herbal medicine is often described.
Although herbs are natural, it doesn't mean that they are not powerful and so as with any complementary therapy, veterinary advice should be sought before using to ensure the safety and health of your animal.
Animals have a natural ability to self-medicate. In the wild if a horse felt ill it would find the plant or herb it needed, picking its own medication. Due to domestication, animals can no longer do this. A trained equine aromatherapist will offer various essential oils for the horse to inhale from their hands - the essential oil used will be dependant on which one the horse prefers.
Essential oils should not be taken internally, and apart from lavender should not be used neat - but either with a carrier oil (such as sunflower or almond), or in a water-based gel.
In general all essential oils have the ability to strengthen the immune system, and are detoxifying. Essential oils can be used as preventative treatment - regular massage before and after work will encourage optimum performance, prevent injuries and increase bonding between you and your horse.
A trained equine aromatherapist /animal aromatics practitioner will only work with the vet's referral or permission, as an aromatherapist cannot make a diagnosis. There are also many Veterinary Surgeon's who do use aromatherapy in their practice. Read more about Animal Aromatics here.
Herbs can have a variety of effects including - antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, sedative or stimulant. By being aware of each plant's properties, and used carefully the animal can be relieved of various symptoms or illnesses, with often few, if no side effects.
There are various herbs and plants that can be used including - aloe vera, arnica, basil, garlic, seaweed, nettle, rosemary, tea tree, dandelion, rosehip and liquorice. Please find below an overview of some of the most popular herbal remedies - and how they can be used to help many animals (from pets to livestock):
Aloe Vera is related to garlic and has many properties, e.g. anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-viral and anti-bacterial - it can be used internally & externally. To learn more about Aloe Vera - please visit our Aloe Vera page. Arnica is often used topically to soothe muscular aches and bruising, read more.
Basil has expectorant and antibiotic/antiseptic properties. Chamomile for calming hyperactivity and relieving stress. Chasteberry is used for hormonal ailments - see my blog for more. Dandelion is used to treat kidney or liver disorders, the root stimulates the liver and the leaves act as a diruetic. Devils Claw is often used with horses as a natural alternative to bute, due to its reputed anti-inflammatory benefits, (read more in our blog) .
Fenugreek contains many vitamins, read more about this in my blog post feature on Fenugreek. Garlic is antiseptic, antibiotic and expectorant. The expectorant properties make garlic excellent for the respiratory system. The juice from a bulb of garlic can be used on cuts and bruises. Ginger is often used for soothing digestive ailments, see more in my featured blogpost. Hawthorn can help strengthen blood vessels without affecting blood pressure - read more. Liquorice can be used as an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, demulcent, antispasmodic and expectorant herb - find out more in our blog.
Meadowsweet is a herb reputed to help with digestive complaints. Milk Thistle is often used to help with liver complaints. Nettles have a diuretic, astringent and stimulant use due to the formic acid (released when the nettle stings). Peppermint has anti-spasmodic properties, can also help stimulate the digestive system and is thought to help reduce tension. Raspberry leaves are thought to have tonic properties, to support the body's health generally. Rosehip contains an ingredient which can have an anti-inflammatory effect, plus is a source of vitamin C. Rosemary is an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic plant - horses enjoy eating the leaves.
Sage is an aromatic herb that's an "anti-catarrhal", read more in my blog post.Seaweed (Kelp) is an excellent source of nutrients. Plus as it's rich in minerals it is a useful supplement for horses that have been on poor grazing. It is best fed as a gel and not in dried form - dried seaweed can often have too higher a iodine content. To learn more about Seaweed - please visit our Seaweed page. Tea Tree is an antiseptic and mild disinfectant which aids healing, strengthens the immune system. Thyme can assist with removing excess mucus or catarrh, see more in my blog post.
Note: It is important to remember that feeding large amounts of various herbs at once is not beneficial and they should be fed with care as with any horse or animal feed. Additionally, some herbs can be dangerous when used in certain circumstances. The following herbs must not be taken internally and are only for use externally as Aromatherapy - Tea Tree, Lavender.
If in doubt about which herbal supplement to try for your animal, do contact your Veterinary Surgeon or qualified Veterinary herbalist for specific advice first.
If this page has interested you - read more about Animal Aromatics here
Different flower essences are also used as part of Bach Flower Remedies - find out more about the Bach system here.
Herbal Supplement Companies
- www.foresthorse.com - books, tack, videos, grooming products and more that are gentle on us, our horses, and the planet
- Global Herbs - Veterinary based herbal service
- Hilton Herbs Ltd - 'The complete alternative' herbal mixes, homoeopathy, Bach Flower Remedies, external herbal balms & salves, and shampoos for dogs and horses. Postal Address: DOWNCLOSE FARM, NORTH PERROTT, CREWKERNE, SOMERSET, ENGLAND, TA18 7SH or TEL: +44 1460 78300
- Horseshoe Herbals - Medicinal herbal formulas for horses. Many formulas including for sore muscles, calming and digestive, respiratory and immune system. Effective proven herbs used in formulas. Botanical conditioners. Available online.