More and more horse owners are looking to healthy herbal supplements as an aid to promoting health and overcoming problems in their four-legged friends.


This article suggests herbal remedies which may help in the treatment of certain equine ailments. The information herein should be regarded as a replacement for veterinarian advice.

Where there is a serious issue, your local vet and/or holistic animal health therapist should be consulted. Always heed their advice as it may be absolutely critical in situations of life and death. 

Thin Horse


Scouring occurs for a number of different reasons. It is usually a reaction to a temporary disturbance of the horse's metabolism. Scouring occurs when the immune system attempts to get rid of a substance which it perceives is 'bad'. The liver becomes over-active, producing too much bile. This might be in response to a sudden influx in green feed or as a result of contact with a fungal or other agent.  Accumulation of chemicals through the horse's feed, interruption of normal exercise patterns and stress can also lead to scouring.

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Sometimes, the sudden rush of material through the gut sets up a pattern of irritation – and you end up with a horse which persistently scours. The manure is consistently runny and it becomes difficult to keep the horse in good condition. With persistent scouring, the causative agent is probably long gone. The problem now is to deal with the irritation in the gut.


Herbs can be dramatically effective. Dandelion root will balance out the liver; chamomile flowers the parasympathetic nervous system (which affects the digestion) and fennel the pancreas. These herbs  can all be obtained from health food stores. Make them into a tea and give as a drench on the tongue or mix into the feed. Add a third of a cup of chamomile flowers to a litre of boiling water. Allow to cool, strain and add twice a day to the feed together with a couple of dessertspoons each of dried dandelion root and fennel seeds.

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As soon as symptoms settle, give the tea once a day. A tablespoon of kelp each day will help keep the thyroid healthy. Slippery elm bark powder is useful too, providing a soothing lining for the gut and allowing healing to take place. Unlike processed treatments, herbal doses are not too critical except when treating very young foals. Give the mother plenty of herbs but the baby very small amounts. Continue the diarrhoea treatment for at least several weeks after symptoms disappear. This will give time for the mucosa of the stomach wall to recover completely.

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Some horses find travelling very stressful. They may be difficult to load or may scramble in the float, arriving at their destination covered in sweat and quite traumatised. There are various holistic practices which can be tried. Rosehips, maritime pine, hawthorne berry, vervain, hops, chamomile, dandelion and agrimony are all useful for varying reasons. Bach Flower remedies which can be tried include aspen, rock rose, mimulus, rescue remedy, wild rose, olive, walnut and larch.

  •  Rosehips - This is a valuable herb. It has extremely high levels of iron and vitamin C. It will help protect the body from kidney and adrenal exhaustion caused by panic or fear. Herbal rosehip tea can be given in drinking water and is particularly valuable as an aid to protecting horses from the negative effects of travel.
  • Maritime pine - is a bark extract from a particular species of pine. It is an extremely powerful anti-oxidant, capable of building up the immune system to counter stress.
  • Hawthorne berry - is considered a major heart tonic, ideal if a horse has been down in the float or has panicked while being transported for long distances.
  • Vervain - is very effective for those horses that become agitated, fidgety and nervous. Administering vervain before and during a trip will help the horse cope with any unexpected happenings which might occur en route.
  • Hops - Also good for the nervous system, especially for those horses inclined to panic.
  • Chamomile is a support herb for the digestive and parasympathetic nervous system. Give chamomile prior to stress. For those horses susceptible to colic, regular doses will help prevent subsequent attacks.
  • Dandelion and agrimony are liver support herbs which help reduce chances of scouring dur to stress. It is particularly effective if given with chamomile. Scouring aggravates any dehydration issues and is debilitating for the horse. Dandelion will help prevent colic developing during travel.
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Maintaining A Healthy Skin And Coat

A dull coat indicates problems with the horse's health in one area or another. By trialling each of the following for about three weeks, you will be able to ascertain which make a difference. This will give you an idea of the best supplements for an individual horse.

  • Nettle - Dried stinging nettle is a very high source of iron and will stimulate peripheral circulation. Fresh or dried leaves can be added to boiling water to make a tea.  Improved circulation will improve the health of both the skin and the coat. If there is a dramatic improvement in the appearance of the coat, it is an indication that the diet is lacking in iron. This should be corrected by providing some green grazing, not by giving an iron supplement! To keep up iron levels, feed the tea two or three times a week. Occasional additions of yarrow, red clover and comfrey will support assimilation of iron and blood cell health.
  • Dandelion - is a powerful liver tonic. If there is a major improvement in the coat, it is likely that the horse is receiving too many chemicals in some way, perhaps in prepared feed. These chemicals compromise the health of the liver. Some believe routine chemical drenching is not good and recommend drenching less often with proprietary substances but controlling parasite s with herbal preparations and good pasture management. Use dried or fresh leaves or dried roots to make a tea. Alternatively, feed a handful of fresh leaves each day for three weeks. If the coat responds dramatically, give dandelion several times a week as a treat.
  • Linseed -Linseed is quite safe in small quantities but should be soaked overnight. It is a good source of natural oils. It also improves health and elasticity of ligaments. If the three week trial shows good results, continue feeding a half cup several times a week.
  • Chamomile - can be made into a tea and given twice a day. Use half a cup of leaves to make a tea. This herb is very safe, simple and powerful. It has a very beneficial effect on the digestive system. While good digestion may seem to have little to do with a shiny coat, an inefficient digestion will show up in the coat.
  • Millet - Soak half a cup in water and give as a tea. If this makes a difference to your horse's coat, you need to investigate his diet as it will be silica that is lacking. Silica is found in dried feed such as meadow hay and chaff. A diet low in available silica should be adjusted to make up any shortfall.

Again, while herbs can be of enormous help with various ailments, always consult a professional if your horse is unwell.

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