'Healthy Happy Horses, Naturally' with Catherine Bird

Archive for March, 2019

Essential oils with cats

Essential oils, when applied topically, ingested, or inhaled by humans, enter the bloodstream and are generally metabolised in the liver. Cats, however, lack the liver enzymes that break down the essential oil constituents, so it takes much longer for the metabolites to be eliminated. Depending on the amount of exposure and the individual cat’s ability to metabolise and eliminate the oils, there can be toxicity problems and—a worst case scenario—liver damage.
CAT TAG
Hmmmm I am not quite sure about this .. if your cat does not the scent, do not force any essential oils on them

Proceed with caution, and avoid certain oils

Cats can still benefit from essential oils, when they are administered with caution. Essential oils high in phenols such as cinnamon, citronella, clove, oregano, thyme, and savory are best to be avoided completely as these are the more difficult essential oils for a cat to metabolise. Various experts have longer lists of oils to be avoided, and viewpoints vary widely, which is another reason to do copious research, and proceed with caution.  Each cat should be assessed individually, and oils should be removed from the environment if lethargy or any abhorrent behavior is observed.

Cats will absorb some essential oil constituents if there’s a diffuser releasing essential oils into the air in a barn, however, with access to fresh air and proper egress, an average adult barn cat with a healthy detoxification process will eliminate the essential oils and, if not exposed daily, is unlikely to experience any negative consequences of toxic build-up. Signs of toxicity might include dribbling with excessive saliva. This reaction could occur if a cat has licked the top of a oil bottle or had drops accidently spilled on him, and should be treated the same way as a poisoning.

Other methods of administration

A personal diffuser can be clipped onto the cat’s collar or travel box with bergamot to help settle travel anxiety or lavender to settle nervous stress.

To banish grass fleas when your cat comes in for the evening, a personal diffuser with peppermint essential oils clipped to the collar will help them drop the fleas at the threshold, once the cat is inside, the diffuser should be removed.

Remember: a little goes a long way

Cats have very acute senses of smell and delicate and thin skin. Once your awareness of a scent has fatigued, you should stop exposing your cat to the aroma of the essential oils.

If you want to apply your essential oils topically to your cat, keep the area smaller than a nickel and dilute so that the essential oil is only 1 percent of the mix. In most cases this would be 1 drop of essential oil to 100 drops of palm or carrier (gel or vegetable) oil. Do not apply for more than three consecutive days. Older cats and kittens will be less tolerant of topical applications.

Overall, if you are using essential oils in your home or barn, and your cats are sharing the ambiance, a healthy cat will be unaffected. But if the cat shows any signs of not being quite right after a period of exposure, turn off the diffuser for a week or so, and if your cat doesn’t pick up have your veterinarian assess your cat’s liver health.

 

About Catherine Bird:

Catherine is an aromatherapy practitioner and author of Horse Scents (Making Sense with Your Horse Using Aromatherapy) and A Healthy Horse the Natural Way. Catherine provides the Equine Aromatherapy Correspondence Course, which boasts graduates on all continents.

 

“Originally published in Holistic Horse, Issue 109, June/July 2017 with permission.” as ‘Feline Groovy – Are Essential Oils Safe for Barn Cats?’ 

 

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Essential oils for respiratory conditions

aroma71Essential oils are antagonistic to pathogenic organisms on contact, which is why they are so effective when able to enter the respiratory tract directly, through inhalation.
The therapeutic potential of essential oils is yet to be fully realised. An essential oil can cover a wide field of activity and in this article we will focus on the role aromatherapy can play when your horse suffers a respiratory complaint.

Any condition or infection that involves the nose, throat, and lung would respond very well to essential oils. Inhalation is one very effective way of utilising essential oils, as when inhaled directly by the lungs they can cause an increase in protective bronchial secretion, which is beneficial for many respiratory ailments. Also by inhalation they are absorbed into the blood circulation even faster than by oral use so can be a more effective and safer option of use for your horse.

When selecting essential oils for the respiratory system we look for essential oils that are expectorant, antispasmodic, balsamic agents, and/or antiseptic.

Expectorants are useful for conditions with catarrh (mucus) which may include sinusitis, coughs, bronchitis, etc. Eucalyptus, pine, thyme, myrrh, sandalwood, and fennel are expectorants that encourage the passage of phlegm and other material in the lungs up the bronchial apparatus. With many respiratory conditions the self-cleansing action of the ‘mucocilliary escalator’ may get impeded or overloaded, and this is where these essential oils can be useful.

Antispasmodics are useful when your horse has heaves or a dry cough, and include hyssop, cypress, Atlas cedarwood, bergamot, chamomile, lavender and cajeput. They can reduce spasm or tension, especially in the visceral smooth muscle of the bronchial tubes.

Balsamic agents are my choice with colds, chills and congestion and often found in your old fashioned inhalations for when people used to steam their colds under a towel. They include benzoin, frankincense, Tolu balsam, Peru balsam, and myrrh.

Antiseptics are what you use to assist with heavier flu or viral infections; they include thyme, eucalyptus, hyssop, pine, cajeput, tea tree, and borneol. Antiseptics are often described as fighting against infections, however more specifically they are antagonistic to pathogenic organisms on contact. This is why they are so effective when able to enter the respiratory tract directly. They are useful as negative ion generators in a barn where you wish to reduce the risk of spreading infection.

There are several ways your horse can benefit from the use of essential oils when guarding off this condition or helping the body rebalance when recovering from a bug. It is not wise to use a candle burner in your barn, because unattended candles lead to disaster. so please do not do this. You can buy electric diffusers, and some come in protective casings so they can be kept dust free in the barn. You add your pure essential oils to the bulb and a small motor will disperse a fine spray of droplets. This can be set on a timer, and if you were to include an essential oil from each of the expectorant, antispasmodic and antiseptic groups, either combined or singular, you could ward off any lurgies. The balsamic resins will clog up the filter, so avoid these in diffusers. An alternative to this is type of diffuser is an electric ceramic bowl that is heated to help the essential oils evaporate, though there are some changes in the chemistry of your essential oils when you use heat to disperse.

You can extend this inhalation principle to using warmed cupped hands. Simply warm your hands and place a few drops of your chosen essential oil onto them, and cup under your horse’s nose as needed.

If you horse does have a respiratory tract problem, a chest rub is very supportive of the airways. This can be applied daily and rather than using a vegetable oil carrier, which can get sticky and rancid if you are unable to wash it off between applications, use a gel. You can use any appropriate essential oils. Researching the specific actions of each to understand which ones have an affinity with the respiratory tract will help you be more selective. Essential oils are very volatile and potent, so to achieve results with this application you only need a 2.5% dilution. For example, in a 1 fluid ounce bottle, add 30 drops of your chosen essential oils.

A simple chest rub:

  • Eucalyptus 6 drops
  • Frankincense 12 drops
  • Lavender 14 drops

in 1 fluid ounce of aloe gel.

Apply two or three times a day to assist a stall bound horse recovering from a respiratory complaint.

Ginger is an essential oil that is potent and present in the fresh root. Using the essential oil can be irritating to the sensitive horse, however if you cut the fresh root and add a couple of slices daily to a water bucket, your horse can drink the ginger flavoured water (have an alternative water source in case this is not to his liking). Ingested this way, ginger is very comforting and effective for conditions exacerbated by cold and chill, particularly those affecting the lungs and respiratory system.

Atlas cedarwood is useful with most congestions along with stress related respiratory complaints. It is antiseptic, antiputrescent, astringent, fungicidal, mucolytic and sedative.

Benzoin is useful with heaves, bronchitis and chills. It is antiinflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, and expectorant.

Bergamot (may cause photosensitisation in some horses – if skin it is applied to is exposed to sunlight, they may develop a skin rash) is useful with colds, fever, flu, infectious diseases, and mouth infections. It is analgesic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, febrifuge, and a tonic.

Borneol is specific for bronchitis and coughs and is antiviral, antiseptic, antispasmodic and mildly analgesic.

Cajeput is useful for catarrh, sinus infections and viral infections. It is antimicrobial, antispasmodic, antiseptic, diaphoretic, expectorant and a febrifuge.

Chamomile is helpful with allergies and respiratory complaints that may be exacerbated by nerves. It is carminative, antispasmodic and a tonic.

Cypress is very astringent and will help dry up runny, watery mucus conditions, assist with heaves, bronchitis and spasmodic coughing. It is also antiseptic and antispasmodic.

Eucalyptus – Any of the eucalyptus species can be employed with respiratory complaints; E. radiata tends to be preferred for fighting infection, while E. citriodora has bacteriostatic activity.

Fennel is often used in human cough drops, and is useful with asthma and bronchitis. It is antiinflammatory, antispasmodic, depurative, and expectorant.

Frankincense is a primary essential oil for heaves, clearing the airways and relieving the stress that comes with difficulty in breathing. It is antiseptic, carminative, expectorant.

Hyssop is moderately toxic so use it in moderation and not during pregnancy. It is useful with heaves, bronchitis, catarrh and cough. It is astringent, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, bactericidal, expectorant.

Lavender is good with heaves, catarrh, throat infections and cough. It is antimicrobial, antitoxic, carminative, hypotensive, sudorific.

Myrrh is useful with heaves, bronchitis, catarrh, coughs, gum infections, sore throats and conditions slow to heal. It is anticatarrhal, antiinflammatory, antimicrobial, balsamic, and antiphlogistic.

Peru balsam is useful for colds, heaves, bronchitis, and coughs (used in old style cough syrups). It is antiinflammatory, antiseptic, balsamic, expectorant, and parasiticide.

Pine is used for colds, flu, heaves, exhaustion from lack of fresh air, sinusitis. It is balsamic, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral, bactericide, expectorant and restorative.

Sandalwood is preferred for dry persistent coughs, often irritated by dust or exercise. It is a pulmonary antiseptic, bactericidal, expectorant, fungicidal, and tonic.

Tea tree is used to disinfect, for heaves, bronchitis, catarrh, coughs, and sinusitis. It is active against bacteria, fungi and viruses.

Thyme is used for chills, colds, flu, infections, heaves, bronchitis, catarrh, and coughs. It is antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, expectorant, and rubefacient.

Tolu balsam works primarily on respiratory mucous membranes, chronic catarrh, and ‘cold’ chest complaints. It is antitussive, antiseptic, balsamic, and expectorant.

It is important that you do not replace veterinarian care with essential oils. Some horses may need the attentions of your veterinarian.

First published Natural Horse Magazine Volume 7 Issue 1

Chamomile – the calming herb

Chamomile, Anthemis noblis or Matricaria chamomilla, depending on the species you select, is an herb that can assist you with your horse. Lets explore the use of the herb, the homoeopathic remedy which only contains the vibrational qualities of the original plant, and the essential oil made from the distilled flower.

Chamomile the Herb

Chamomile is a hardy perennial herb that was often used in Europe as a pathway plant or strewn along walkways due to its aromatic properties in the Middle Ages. It was an herb that was employed in a garden to help ailing plants in its midst, and nine times out of ten it would see a drooping plant recover when a chamomile plant was placed close to it.

The carminative properties of chamomile have been documented over centuries and in one veterinary text I have from 1886 refers to the use of Anthemidis Flores for its carminative and stomachic properties.

Today we can use chamomile with our horses for complaints that are exaggerated by nervousness. A very effective and simple method of using chamomile that I have found is in the form of making up a bucket of ‘tea’ with the human tea bags and using it to dampen the hard feed. This is one of the simplest ways to use chamomile with your horses.

You can add the dried flower heads by the cupful to feed during times of duress, however it is not wise to rely on this long term as Chamomile has been shown to be toxic to the liver with long-term use. It is best not to give chamomile for more than three months at a time and when you do to give your horse’s system a month’s rest from the additive at the end of three months. Some horses can develop an intolerance to chamomile because of its effect on the liver, and if your horse gets itchy skin while on chamomile, take him off it.

Many commercially prepared calming blends do contain chamomile and at some levels of competition a certain amount is allowed, as in some countries chamomile is a field herb. However with more stringent rules constantly being introduced you do need to take care as to how much and when you give your horse chamomile.

The best application for using chamomile as a calming herb with a difficult to handle horse is in your preparation for competitions. It can be used as a tool to take the edge off a situation so that when your horse is facing a difficult situation he will simply accept it as part of the norm. It is not wise to become reliant on herbs; simply see them as a way to assist you to overcome a block in training, or in another instance to help with muscle soreness when you are working your horse in a different way. Some associations are now stating that the use of calming herbs is unsportsmanlike, so please check the rules that govern your sport before using chamomile close to a competition.

Chamomile is an excellent herb to include in your horse’s feed when you are stepping up his training or moving into a different style of riding. It has a high level of magnesium and can help the body ease away muscle spasm or soreness when the new routine has been introduced.

Another application for the herb is pouring a cup or two over the feed of a horse prone to nervous colic. This is very useful when there is an obvious change in seasons. It is also a useful pain reliever when there is inflammation in the body somewhere and can be used as a poultice for painful bruising or muscle injuries.

A tea made from the dried flowers can be useful in bringing out the “blond” in a flaxen mane. The tea can also be used to wash out wounds or to wash stubborn skin conditions, especially those that are hot and irritated.

Chamomilla the Homoeopathic

When giving a homoeopathic to your horse you are often following principles that seem at odds to other therapies; here we are giving the tiniest dose possible to achieve the maximum response. It is important if you decide your horse needs a homoeopathic remedy that you do not administer any other herbs, drugs or feed within twenty minutes of giving the homoeopathic.

Chamomilla is a useful remedy when your horse has a slimy green diarrhoea; you can give a dose of 30C as soon as you notice this and re-dose again in 12 hours if you have not noticed a change in the condition. Do not ignore these symptoms and do call your vet for an opinion.

Its primary use in first aid remedies is with children who are bad tempered when teething. With your horse, if his teeth are sore and causing him to resist the bit in a strong and forceful way, you can administer Chamomilla to ease his discomfort and then call your dentist to address the physical aspects.

It is also a remedy to consider with a horse who suffers a false pregnancy or has inflamed or painful teats. This is a remedy to consider with any horse that develops a thirst and becomes irritable and restless. However the best way to use homoeopathics is with the guidance of a homoeopath, as homoeopaths are trained to recognize all the signs as the symptom picture and match it to the appropriate remedy. While Chamomilla may help your horse, there may be an even better remedy you are unaware of.

Chamomile the Essential Oil

Spider yawning after inhaling chamomile essential oil

Spider yawning after inhaling chamomile essential oil

Roman chamomile is a very versatile essential oil. It is the one I will use with every difficult horse. If a horse is putting on a temper tantrum, chamomile’s calming properties will ease any hysterical or unruly behaviour. It promotes peace, easing worries and removing agitation.

The strong analgesic properties relieve dull muscular aches and stubborn spasms. It will also relieve overworked and inflamed muscles. It is useful for the horse competing in a multiple-day event. At the end of each day, chamomile will help calm the muscles and help the horse relax overnight for the next day. Chamomile has been mentioned as unsportsmanlike with some associations because of its calming properties. It does not contain the constituents that show positive in most prohibited substances tests, however this may change, so all due care should be taken if you are competing at a level where you will be swabbed.

Dry, flaking skin will respond well to chamomile and with chronic conditions use jojoba oil as your base carrier oil application as it is able to moisturise the skin deeply.

Consider chamomile when your horse has suffered repeated infections or is always lethargic. In a weekly blend it will stimulate the production of white corpuscles to aid the body’s defences against low-grade infections and fortify your horse’s immune defence system.

If your mare becomes unmanageable when she cycles, chamomile would be beneficial in her daily care a few days before. It is calming and also regulates the hormonal activity in the body.

Recently I was giving a talk at a college and we used a horse for the demonstration for selecting essential oils. This horse was very non-committal about any of the essential oils offered except for Chamomile. He constantly showed his interest in chamomile, and this suggested to me that he had some muscle soreness somewhere. We un-rugged him and found some massive spasms in his back and the back of his shoulder on the offside (it was his right nostril that kept inhaling the chamomile essential oil).

As you can see, Chamomile can come in many different forms and each can be used with your horse at various times.

When using any of these recommendations remember they do not replace veterinary care and always use common sense with natural therapies.

 

First published Natural Horse Magazine Volume 3 Issue 8 – 2001

Summer relief

As the weather warms and we thaw out from the winter cold, your horse’s body can be sensitive to their environment. With our weather becoming more extreme it can be hostile to horses.

Herbs can support and strengthen your horse’s body from invasion, making it more difficult for the body’s protective barrier to be compromised.

By addressing the internal health of the horse you will have more success in dealing with this Summer’s allergies and common discomforts such as itch, photosensitivity, headshaking, and annoying bugs.

Relief

With many of these conditions, the herbs a herbalist may suggestion for each condition may cross over and cover other Summer conditions. This helps keep your selection of support to a focused minimum, and address conditions that may be linked.

A Summer herbal dispensary could include these herbs:

Burdock root, calendula flowers, cleavers, echinacea, eyebright, garlic, lemon balm, licorice root, lime tree blossom, marshmallow root, mullein, nettle, rosehips, wood betony, yarrow.

Which herbs to use?

When you first start selecting herbs for your horse, it can be difficult to narrow down the choice. People often think more is better, when two or three herbs will cover off on most of the clinical signs your horse is presenting. If your selection is kept to five herbs or less, you are more likely to achieve a result. It means you have enough of each herb to have them activate in the body. If you select more than five herbs to give your horse at one time, you can be dispersing the properties and in doing so not achieving the relief you are looking for. Look more closely at your selection and see which of your selected herbs is duplicating another herb’s action, giving only one of these duplicated herbs can be enough. Because ‘healing’ is a dynamic process, you can always substitute those other herbs as you see how your horse responds.

How much to give?

For the purpose of this article I am focusing on dried herbs, they are easier for the horse owner to obtain and most easily added to a feed. If you are giving five or less herbs, then the amount of each herb you are giving is most likely to be 1 to 2 tablespoons daily. This will vary with some herbs and some conditions, so use this as a general guide. If you end up selecting only one herb, give up to 1 cup daily. Any more and your horse will not be utilising all that you give, and your money is being wasted.

 

Thinking through your approach

Using herbs is a creative process. You can work through each of your horse’s clinical signs individually and see what herbs address each of these symptoms and where the actions of the herbs overlap. However, when you do this, do not limit yourself to the immediate signs, to be truly effective you need to consider the ‘whole’ horse. Sometimes the key element that helps trigger the healing process is not necessarily the herb you have chosen to heal inflamed skin, it may be the herb that helps the horse’s distress at being uncomfortable.

Itch

Henry at Ferrell Hollow Horse Sanctuary 'scratching his itch'

Henry at Ferrell Hollow Farm Senior Horse Sanctuary ‘scratching his itch’

 

A veterinarian may suggest an antihistamine to help your horse’s own inflammatory response. Calendula flowers have a histamine-like action which can be used for this sort of body condition. If your horse develops hives or hot spots with his itch, then nettles could be the herb you choose. If he wants to be left alone, settle his nerves with vervain.

This may be enough to start with, and apart for the reason they were initially selected, the calendula flowers will cleanse the skin via the lymphatic system; the nettles will strengthen the circulatory system and supports several glands within the body; vervain is a gentle liver and kidney cleanses tuning up these organs so they can better support the skin while his nervous system is settled by vervain’s nervine properties.

This way you are addressing the whole horse!

Photosensitivity

This is where your clinical signs and herb selection begin to overlap. Calendula is again a good herb to chose but this time supported with cleavers to emphasise the cleansing of the lymphatic system, especially if greasy heal is one aspect. This time you may want to support the liver and if the skin is also itchy, burdock root could be your next herb as it cleanses the blood and with its very bitter element wakes the liver up, and the liver can often be linked to photosensitivity.

Headshaking

Headshaking may be associated with an allergy or another aspect of the horse’s photosensitivity. If your horse has photosensitivity and you have read the previous article and decided on those herbs fit your horse, then wood betony may be the fourth herb you use with this horse. Wood betony has nervine properties that help relax tension held in the head and poll. Wood betony can also be selected for allergies which now links us into allergies.

Allergies

Allergies can many and varied and this is where your own insights of your own horse become the key to selecting what herbs to use. They may be a separate entity in themselves, or also be an expression of one of the previous issues. The intricacies of allergies they can be difficult to resolve, so you adapt your approach as you address each aspect with patience and thoughtfulness.

If your horse suffers from runny, watery eyes in Summer. Eyebright is astringent and also has an antibiotic-like action to help cleanse the eye. Eye problems can often be linked to digestion. You may have selected calendula for its histamine-like action, and in doing so it will be astringent and cleansing to the gut.

A cough may be the primary sign of an allergy with your horse, so then demulcent herbs such as marshmallow root powder may be the key herb you select and then with how your ‘whole’ horse determine what herbs you use to support. If your horse is stressed with coughing, lime tree blossom or lemon balm address upper respiratory inflammation and settle distress. Then you may add rosehips, although not noted as a liver herb, rosehip’s vitamin C content nudges the liver’s defences to help with inflammatory responses in the body, and is then a tonic to tissue that is healing.

Bugs

Summer wakes all creatures, and bugs are no exception. The saliva from their bites may be what your horse is allergic to, or they may simply irritate a watery eye. The person who develops a long term effective bug repellent will be the richest person on the planet.

Meanwhile, you can make your horse less tasty to bugs. If you have kept your selection of herbs above low, there is room to add one of these suggestions.

The sulphur in garlic is what repels the bugs when they get a whiff of it coming through the skin. If your horse is in strenuous work, needs medications, or has a sensitive stomach this may not be the best herb to give.

Brewers yeast is an alternate, being high in vitamin B. The theory being, if a body is low or deficient in vitamin B, their blood chemistry is more attractive to bugs that bite. Brewers yeast can also be good for the horse who needs his nervous system settled because to the vitamin B content.

Keep it simple

Keep your approach simple and stay focused so that you are responsive to the dynamic of the healing processes your horse’s body is working through. As you help your horse, your knowledge will grow.

 

First published Natural Horse Magazine 2014