GRACE’S FIRST HERBAL SAMPLING TEST
Since Grace’s arrival, I have had her on our Wild Horse Products herbal pre-blends. The reason is 1) to test the effectiveness of our blends on her particular issues 2) because I know the mixes so well, I can compare it to other horses that I have had on the mixes. While I am happy that they performed pretty much as expected, I also knew that in Grace’s case that she was going to need to be more targeted in her herbs. My plan was to use the premixes until we hit a “stagnant” stage (that comes with all horses at some point in their healing) and then target what her particular issues needed.
Since Grace was not only stall bound for over a year, but also already had issues before that happened (sarcoids were already present under the skin) it was pretty obvious that her immune system was already severely traumatized even before she was stall bound. Standing in the stall led to some seriously atrophied muscles, very subdued cardiovascular system, and the lack of vitamin D from sun exposure was guaranteed to lower her immune system even more. According to the vitamindcouncil.org, lack of vitamin D shows “symptoms of dry eye which typically include discomfort, stinging, redness and fatigue in the eyes, along with blurred vision and sensitivity to light”. Grace obviously had sight issues so that was also something I was watching for in improvements. As she spent the summer mostly outdoors, I was hoping that the exposure to Vitamin D would improve her eyesight, but the symptoms were still visible…casting about when walking in a shadowy barn, bumping into object in her stall in the evening. Part of this was also caused by swelling due to the location of the main sarcoid, but I could see there was also some cloudiness in her eyes…the real question being, now much of the damage could I reverse?
Most horses out there fall into a “median” range off issues. Most of those issues can be addressed pretty easily by being on a good base diet and some herbs to help address the issue. Then there are what I call the “out of the box” horses…the ones whose issues are long term and difficult to address. In most of those cases its not a matter of healing their issues, but controlling those issues to extend their life, or at least make them more comfortable. Its very important to be realistic about where a particular horse falls into those categories, and how we can make the best of each situation. In Grace’s case, I counted every day that I went out and saw her breathing as a blessing. Though she is just a young teen, with her body so messed up, there was always a chance that she just could not be turned around. About four months into her rehabilitation (after making steady progress) she seemed to stagnate. Her starting blends were No More Pain PLUS, Sugar Down (for a cresty neck) and Cootie Kicker to get her detoxing. This was put on top of the base diet of valley grass hay (which is a blend), orchard pellets, rice bran and Iron Horse. For replenishing minerals, I went with Redmond Rock Salt and Back in Balance Minerals. For her first three months, every time I went outside to feed her, it seemed like she was making progress. However, by the end of summer, that progress seemed to slow down, so on October 1st 2018 I did my first Herbal Sampling Test with her. Here are her results.
Ashwagandha-Many of its health benefits are attributed to its high concentration of withanolides, which have been shown to fight inflammation and tumor growth and may be helpful in fighting several forms of cancer. In several studies, ashwagandha has been shown to lower blood sugar levels. One test-tube study found that it increased insulin secretion and improved insulin sensitivity in muscle cells. May help to control cortisol levels, which is known as a "stress hormone" causing your adrenal glands to release it in response to stress, as well as when blood sugar levels get too low. May increase muscle mass and strength.
Bilberry Leaf-most famous for its ability to improve vision (especially night vision), it has been reported to lower blood glucose, have anti-inflammatory and lipid-lowering effects, promote antioxidant defense and lower oxidative stress.
Black Walnut-reported to be effective against pinworm, ringworm, tapeworm, and other intestinal parasites. Also has properties that are very anti-fungal and anti-viral. As a horse left in a stall for so long, pretty much guaranteed Grace was going to have parasite issues.
Blue Cohosh-though not safe to use during pregnancy or in large doses, this herb helps not only balance hormone levels, but helps with colic, arthritis issues, constipation, and PMS issues. It is very normal for mares to pick one or two hormone balancing herbs as routine.
Burdock Root-contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are shown to improve health. Traditional medicinal uses include: Prevention and treatment of cancer: Burdock root contains the antioxidants quercetin and luteolin, which have properties that may prevent cancer cells from growing and mutating.
Calendula-known to help with a variety of health issues, is a powerful antioxidant and is among the strongest of antiviral herbs In addition, it helps health issues ranging from skin inflammation to cramps to possibly even cancer. Anti inflammatory, calms muscle spasms, heals ulcers and wounds,
Cayenne-Capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne peppers, gives the powder its spiciness and is used to treat aches and pains of the muscles and joints. Cayenne pepper has also been used to help treat circulatory problems and increase appetite.
Chamomile-calming to the nerves, as well as calming to the digestive tract. Chamomile is a soothing antispasmodic, and has some anti parasitic properties.
Cleavers-stimulates the lymph and has a detoxifying, diuretic effect, whilst also cleansing and toning the kidney and urinary tract, so it really completes the action of releasing toxins from the body effectively. In this way it is known to support the body in de-congesting and purifying. Cleavers has been known to prevent and clear urinary stones and treat urinary infection and inflammation. Its very common for horses to pick Cleavers the first time they are tested but don’t often pick it after being on it for a couple of months. Geldings choose it more than mares and tend to stay on it longer than mares do. I believe it helps keep “beans” cleared out as geldings changed to a clean diet and put on herbs don’t tend to produce beans.
Clove-may have several health benefits, including supporting liver health and helping stabilize blood sugar levels. As well as containing several important vitamins and minerals, cloves are rich in antioxidants. One test-tube study found that clove extract helped stop the growth of tumors and promoted cell death in cancer cells. Most often picked by horses for its antiparasitic properties.
Dandelion Root-used as skin toner, blood tonic, and digestive tonic. Some people use dandelion to treat infection, especially viral infections, and cancer. Like any root, high in nutrients, especially minerals and is very helpful in detoxing the digestive tract.
Fennel Seed-naturally high in selenium, soothes stomach upset and boosts digestion. Increases iron absorption, which can help with avoiding anemia. Fennel is a source of vitamin B-6, which plays a vital role in energy metabolism by breaking down carbohydrates and proteins into glucose and amino acids. These smaller compounds are more easily used for energy within the body.
Feverfew-traditionally used for the treatment of fevers, migraine headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, stomach aches, toothaches, insect bites, infertility, and problems with menstruation and labor during childbirth. Feverfew is one of those herbs that is generally used short term, and horses will rarely pick for long term use.
Ginger-high in gingerol, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Appears to be effective at reducing the day-to-day progression of muscle pain, and may reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness and has been shown to lower blood sugar levels.
Ginkgo Biloba-contains potent antioxidants, which fight the damaging effects of free radicals. Ginkgo has the ability to reduce inflammation caused by various conditions. This may be one of the reasons it has such broad health applications. Improves brain function and reduces anxiety. Supports vision and eye health and also helps with headaches. As with feverfew, should be kept to lower doses as higher doses can cause side effects such and dizziness and headache.
Hawthorn-considered a “heart” herb, as it improves circulation and also improves digestion.
Horehound-cough relief, digestive aid, and an appetite stimulant. Most often chosen for it lung support benefits.
Horsetail-great for fluid retention, kidney and bladder stones, and urinary tract infections. Horsetail is often chosen long term by mares, and short term by geldings. Not all that is called “Horsetail” is the same, as some varieties are considered poisonous and do not have the same health benefits. Horsetail is also high in silica, the building block of life.
Hyssop-Hyssop is used for digestive and intestinal problems including liver and gallbladder conditions, intestinal pain, intestinal gas, colic, and loss of appetite. It is also used for respiratory problems including coughs, the common cold, respiratory infections, sore throat, and asthma.
Licorice Root-used to soothe gastrointestinal problems. In cases of stomach ulcers, licorice root extract can speed the repair of stomach lining and restore balance. This is due to the anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties of glycyrrhizic acid. Licorice is also found to help balance stress by lowering cortisol levels. Licorice can be used for the treatment of severe respiratory issues, including cough, sore throat, asthma, and bronchitis.
Lobelia-used for breathing problems including asthma, bronchitis, and shortness of breath. Some take lobelia as a sedative to help them relax. Others use it to increase sweating.
Lungwort-treats breathing conditions, stomach and intestinal ailments, and kidney and urinary tract problems. Lungwort is also used in cough medicines, to relieve fluid retention, and to treat lung diseases.
Meadosweet-high in salicylic acid, which means it has anti inflammatory properties. However, unlike aspirin, Meadowsweet has compounds that help protect the digestive tract and help it to heal. It is also beneficial for joint issues
Milk Thistle-best knows for healing the liver, aids in weight loss, and helps with asthma. Some testing shows it helps inhibit cancer growth and helps control sugar levels.
Mullein-herb most commonly chosen by horses with breathing issues, especially senior horses. Helps balance digestive issues, as well as helping with ear issues. Helps to clear out the sinus cavities and thus will help with sinus headaches.
Oregano-helps fight bacteria, and viruses, and also has anti cancer properties. Oregano also helps increase circulation and improves memory.
Oregon Grape-used for stomach ulcers, gastro reflux disease (GERD), stomach upset, as a bitter tonic, to treat infections, and to cleanse the bowels.
Paprika-high in vitamin E, helps to heal wounds and is naturally anti inflammatory. Supports healthy digestion and helps maintain hair color as it is naturally high in Vitamin B6 which aids in the production of melanin. As with cayenne, also has antiparasitic properties.
Peppermint-eases digestive upset, improves breathing, aids in clearing sinuses, may help with seasonal allergies.
Pau D’arco-anti-cancer properties, antimicrobial, especially anti-candida. Other uses for pau d'acrco include aiding in controlling sugar levels, healing ulcers, stomach inflammation, liver ailments, asthma, bronchitis, joint pain, boils and wounds. Immune boosting and high in antioxidants, this is a very beneficial healing herb.
Psyllium Husk-health benefits can be attributed to its fiber content. Soluble fibers like psyllium husk are prebiotics that facilitate the nourishment of beneficial bacteria in your gut. These beneficial bacteria help with proper digestion and absorption of food and play a role in improved immune function. This makes it also beneficial for balancing weight through sugar control.
Sage-strong antioxidant, boosting the immune system. Helps support brain function, and relieves muscle spasms. Studies also show it helps to control blood sugar levels.
Its pretty easy to see by Grace’s choice of herbs that her main issues are sugar control, lung issues and inflammation in her head. Considering where the sarcoid was located, her addressing head issues is not at all a surprise. Considering that her neck was pencil thin, and yet has a “pre-founder” crestiness to it, the sugar control is also not a surprise (thus the starting her from day one on Sugar Down). What surprised me the most was all of the breathing herbs that she chose, however, in retrospect it should not have. Being locked in a dark stall with bad circulation for over a year is going to have its tole on the lungs. But beyond that was all the body issues. She did not have any signs of coughing, wheezing, COPD or any other really obvious issues, but my equine chiropractor often talks about body issues on horses and how it limits breathing function. The choice of breathing herbs has a direct relation to that issue. Bringing her body back up to a functional level has taking many body work sessions, plus constant stretching, massage, and seven months of very slow progress. The host of circulatory herbs has done wonders on the puffiness in her fetlocks alone.
Though many of these herbs SEEM to have the same function, they are all unique in their abilities to help the body heal. It is very common for horse owners new to using the Herbal Sampling Kit to try to “outguess” their horse and weed through and pick which herbs they think their horse really needs. This is not a good approach to using the sampling kit. Your horse knows best what it needs! Also, using a high variety of herbs gives some guarantee that you are not going to over use some of the more potent herbs. Believe your horse. As long as you are sure you received clear signals when doing the test, trust that the horse knows what it is doing. Even if a mistake or two is made, its okay because the variety of herbs itself will balance out any mistakes made. I make sure I don’t interfere with the testing by not looking at the herbs, and picking them up randomly. This testing clearly shows that Grace was drawn to the herbs best suited to her issues.
Since starting Grace on her own choice of herbs, her color has deepened (showing there were still certain nutrients lacking), her energy levels have increased (which means longer workout times to build muscle) and she has started to have a glossy coat again. We are also making some really nice headway where muscle tone and holding adjustments are concerned and her eyesight is definitely improving. Since it has grown cold, keeping weight up has been a challenge especially since we are working on building muscle, but she finally accepts the winter blanket that terrified her before and is stabilizing. However, I would still like to see her gain another 100lbs or so and have some “extra” padding on her. A horse with muscle who lacks fat will burn muscle for warmth, which is the last thing I want her to do!
So how long until Grace’s next test? Generally, I will test a horse every three months. However, with horses with extreme issues, I will generally test earlier than that, especially if they are making big changes. Because I have been watching Grace for the last seven months, and know her body changes very well, I have decided to leave her on the three month testing time as she still seems to be greatly benefiting from this mixture. However, I’m excited to see what she picks next time, so impatience may win out. =)
I LOVE this idea! Any suggestions on how to make that happen? I would love to plant an herb row for my boy as well….let me know if you have tried this and how it is going!
Sorry my system isnt set up to do replies (will email as well)
I love the idea of an herb row! It is a very common thing in the UK I hear. The trick is allowing horses to nibble on the herbs without destroying the plants. That can be a bit of a challenge but it is possible!
I’m currently planning a track system and wondering what your thoughts are on planting an herb garden for the horses?