By Yvonne Cavanagh, EquuHerb, Founder and Senior Practitioner When I was asked to write an article for this website I said I would write about the main problem I have been talking to my clients about for the past few months – rain scald and mud fever – but wouldn't you know it! the rain has stopped and now with the cold snap we're looking for the top rugs! So that led me to think about preventative measures to ensure our beloved equine companions have a comfortable and healthy winter. During the summer months we are often battling the effects of the biting insects and the humidity (well here in Queensland and Northern New South Wales anyway) so look to the topical treatments to soothe and repair damaged skin, but in the autumn and winter I think of medicinal and nutritional herbs to boost the health of the immune system, the respiratory system and to warm arthritic joints . so I'd like to introduce you to my thoughts .
With every new viral epidemic in any species, be it human or equine, or bovine, canine, feline, avian etc. for that matter, or an outbreak of drug-resistant bacteria, it is becoming more obvious that the conventional approach to preventing and treating infection is starting to fail. Our environmental antimicrobials (disinfectants/medicated washes) and 'magic bullet' antibiotic drugs which have NEVER been effective against viruses are even now being rendered next to useless by antibiotic-resistant bacterial organisms . and add to that the high cost of research to develop and then to market new antibiotic drugs to Vets (and Doctors) and the future is not looking too healthy! This poses a challenge to all horse owners to try to understand the role of the immune system in their horse's overall health and wellness and probably more importantly, to gain a better understanding of what is now, I believe, our most potent weapon for improving immune function and fighting infection – immune enhancing herbs! However, when we think of the immune system we generally think of it's role in fighting infections, but there is also an new understanding that a healthy immune system is actually essential for overall good health and wellness. Recent research has shown that poor immune system function can also play a key role in the development of chronic diseases as diverse as metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, chronic inflammation (such as arthritis and allergies) and premature ageing.
So, keeping this in mind, we can now understand why it is important for us, as responsible horse owners, to ensure the healthy functioning of our equine companion's immune system. It's not just about fighting the infections as you notice your horse's symptoms, it's about keeping your horse in good health and wellness to help prevent illness and the disorders of inflammation and premature ageing. There are many herbs that can have a beneficial effect on the immune system and perhaps the best known of all is Echinacea. This is usually given to horses as the herb, that is, the leaf, however, research has demonstrated that it is the Echinacea Root that has a truly amazing immune enhancing function. Also, what is perhaps not well understood is that the herbs that improve our adaption to stress also have a beneficial effect on the immune system. These herbs include Astragalus, Rhodiola, Schizandra, Withania and some of the Ginsengs. The reason I became interested in herbs as medicine is because my dear Mum was a cook by profession and I was fascinated that the herbs listed in her recipes sometimes had little notes beside them – I remember my first introduction to these notes was peppermint tea for digestive upsets and a gargle with sage for sore throats and mouth infections. There are some nutritional herbs that when added to your horse's mixed feed in a dried form, such as garlic, rosehips or thyme that can improve your horse's resistance to illness by their known therapeutic action . “let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” Hippocrates c 460BC – c 370BC, known as the 'Father of Medicine' . but please ensure that you get your dried herbs from a reliable source with a high turnover so you know that not only are you are getting the right herb but it is as fresh as possible as they do deteriorate over time.
It is also important to remember that if you decide to add herbs to your horse's feed you need to be very careful that you do not over do it – a little can be good but too much may be harmful, and then there is always the possibility of an 'idiosyncratic' reaction, that is, in this case, a rare and unpredictable physiological reaction to a usually considered safe herb, food or drug. So when introducing a new food or herb (or drug) to your horse always start with a small quantity and watch for a reaction.
I am a great believer in a natural diet to keep the immune system in good working order, and that applies to our horses, ourselves and all our companion animals. For horses, grass, forages – which should include things like dandelion, thistles, clover etc growing naturally in the paddock – and clean water are most important in the diet, followed by good quality grassy hay and then depending on the your horses breed, age, the environment he is kept in and the work you are asking him to do, a hard feed, a supplement, herbs and chaff. I can't give specifics here because there are so many variables, however, my advice is go as natural as you can and always read labels! Some herbs are not particularly palatable to horses, except perhaps when they instinctively self-medicate, known as Zoopharmacognosy. I've seen my mare very carefully eat the leaves from the rosette of a scotch thistle and both my horses occasionally eating dandelion leaves and clover. (I keep a range of about 70 human quality medical herbal extracts that I use to test, or rather ask, a horse what he needs at that time. I have often been surprised by the horse's choice, but on questioning the owner I usually find the symptoms suit the chosen herb/s. These are known as an Equine Self-Evaluation Consultation but due to current time constraints I am not able to offer these at this time). When it is not possible for your horse to self-medicate, the dried herbs are too unpalatable or not available, or you can't give the herb in the quantity your horse needs, or you don't have the time or inclination to research what your horse may need, EquuHerb makes a range of medical quality herbal extracts formulated specifically for activating and enhancing the immune system. EquuHerb Elements “Immune Insurance” is a premium product that contains both the root and leaves from two Echinacea sources for maximum immune system support for acute and chronic disorders, but as the name says it is also great insurance when used as a preventative therapy. If your horse is under par from long term illness or any type of stress, such as environmental, extra workload, new paddock etc “Immune Insurance Plus” contains both immune enhancing and immune balancing herbs. “Immune Recovery” helps optimise the performance of the immune system under stress with immune enhancing and balancing herbs but adds draining herbs to support the detoxifying functions of the organs to help speed recovery. Similarly, “Respiratory Insurance” and “Respiratory Recovery” support the immune system function but with an emphasis on herbs to benefit the lungs and respiratory system. Our beautiful Greys get a mention here too, as being the owner of a sweet and very precious (to me – she is not branded and I only guess at her breeding) grey mare I have learned that they need some special looking after. I have formulated a “Greys Immune Insurance” for their special requirements which can be used alone or as part of the EquuHerb Elements “Greys Herbal Health Kit” that also contains two other formulas to be used in rotation – but I'll explain more about that in another article.
The winter cold can also cause 'old' joints to feel stiff and sore. Keeping the body warm with appropriate rugging will help and nutritional joint supplements can assist the integrity of the cartilage in the joint. Additionally, keeping your horse moving and flexible through the colder months is important too, so EquuHerb Elements has a herbal mixture, “JointEase 20+” formulated to reduce joint inflammation in older horses and for those with insulin resistance. For our younger equine companions still in work EquuHerb Essentials “AllRounder” is a great pre-warm up massage oil with essential oils to assist getting the initial circulation of warm blood to cold joints before you start training. “EquuFlex Tincture” or “EquuFlex Balm” are topical formulations made with traditional anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving and circulatory herbs and essential oils that can be used pre-training or help resolve muscle sprains, strains and joint injury . and “AllRounder” and “EquuFlex” are also great relief for your own painful muscles and arthritic joints.
EquuHerb is a Queensland small business formulating and manufacturing herbal, essential oil and nutritional blends for horses. Owned and operated by Yvonne Cavanagh, a horse owner and a qualified and accredited Natural Therapist of 25 years experience, all preparations are hand made in her large, well-stocked clinic dispensary. EquuHerb preparations do not contain any petro-chemicals such as paraffin oil, mineral oil, petroleum jelly or Vaseline, no inorganic sulphurs, parabens or other synthetic manufactured ingredients. Yvonne sources her raw materials from natural, organic, Australian and sustainable sources to provide completely natural preparations of uncompromised quality for your horse. For more information about EquuHerb and what a qualified therapist with 25 years experience in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Naturopathy and AromaTherapy can do for your horse and for you, please contact Yvonne ator visit(new website coming soon – www.equuherb.com.au)

Source: http://www.healinghorse.com.au/upload/Article%20Rescue_website.pdf

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