After a bushfire – when your horse inhaled too much smoke
Smoke inhalation is a serious health concern as it can cause irritation, inflammation, and reduced oxygen exchange in the lungs and potentially lead to serious health problems.
When it comes to using herbs to support your horse after smoke inhalation, one simple approach is to use herbs that support the respiratory and nervous systems to wet down feed with a delicious, soothing herbal tea.
Mullein has a long history of helping with upper respiratory issues. It can help breathing difficulties by its soothing effect on the bronchioles. It soothes the respiratory tract and reduces mucus. Great for a scratchy throat from the smoke.
Peppermint contains menthol, which is the main soothing ingredient in cough drops. It clears breathing passages, and soothes inflammation.
Wet down each feed with:
1 to 2 heaped tablespoons dried mullein
1 to 2 heaped tablespoons of dried peppermint
that have been steeped for ten minutes in 3 to 4 cups hot water.
Add all the herbs including water to the feed.
For a horse that is struggling and more debilitated you can make a more complex tea, try and limit your number of herbs to five. This is an example of a soothing antimicrobial tea to wet down a feed
1 tablespoon of Mullein leaf
1 tablespoon of Licorice
1 tablespoon of Thyme
1 tablespoon of Peppermint
1 tablespoon of Nettles
With this amount of herbs you would make the tea in 4 to 6 cups of hot water, adding all the herbs and tea to the feed once or twice a day.
You may choose to make your own blend from the selection below. Chosen specifically to soothe and cleanse following smoke inhalation, each herb’s particular properties are outlined to assist in your choice of blend.
Chamomile – antispasmodic and useful with horses having trouble settling when you are trying to get things back to normal. Also useful with younger horses to help calm and reduce stress. If chamomile is steeped longer it is slightly bitter which will aid in digestion.
Echinacea – immune stimulating herb, but it’s also wonderful at reducing inflammation in the entire body, decreasing chances of getting ill while under stress.
Eyebright and Yarrow – astringent herbs that help irritated, inflamed tissues, mucus membranes and help to protect them and aid in healing, recovery and proper function. If your horse has irritated or weepy eyes, eyebright is specific and combines well with chamomile.
Elecampane – an expectorant to help move foreign particles up and out of the lungs by helping the body produce mucus more effectively.
Fenugreek – also an expectorant with an ability to thin mucous if it is too thick.
Garlic – better added as a granule than a tea as an anti-microbial. If your horse shows any signs of getting a virus in general start using garlic at the first sign of a cold, flu or infection.
Ginger – natural detoxifier and lung purifier. Not only does it contain chemical compounds that help the lungs function, ginger improves blood circulation. One teaspoon added directly into feed.
Lemon Balm – anti-viral herb used tofight off viral infection or help to inhibit viral replication. Also a relaxing herb, restoring an anxious nervous system when your horses return home.
Marshmallow root powder – a demulcent that can coat and soothe irritated or inflamed membranes to allow healing to begin.
Licorice root – a demulcent for protecting the mucous membranes from excessive particulate matter. Adding the shaved licorice root to any tea will make it sweeter, helping fussier horses to indulge.
Mullein – a lung tonic used to help with coughs and other respiratory issues because of its anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and expectorant properties.
Nettles – decongestant to reduce congestion and mucus production. This can help reduce the possibility of an opportunistic infection.
Rosehips – an antioxidant for your horse’s immune system, as well as an aid in building collagen with its vitamin c content. Shellcut rosehips make a nice textural additive to your tea mix.
Turmeric – anti-inflammatory for reducing overall toxicity through its antioxidant compounds and reduces inflammation. Add one tablespoon of turmeric powder to each feed as part of your ‘get back to normal’ routine and it will help any injury suffered.
White willow bark and Meadowsweet – two pain herbs that also have an astringent action on the respiratory airways and can help with pain relief.
Whatever herbs you choose, keep your selection simple and change your mix every couple of weeks as your horse shows signs of recovery. You may find you interchange one or two herbs and once your horse doesn’t show any more signs of respiratory discomfort, continue with herbs like rosehips, nettles and marshmallow to help strengthen the respiratory system.
If needing any drug therapy from your veterinarian, revise your use of herbs. Some demulcents may block the absorption of oral drugs, garlic and turmeric can be contraindicated with some drugs, and some pain herbs are contraindicated with NSAIDS such as phenylbutazone.
Enjoying a taste of your chosen blend before you serve your horse will probably mean your friend is going to enjoy it too.
This article was first written for Country Park Animal Herbs to support their clients during the 2020 Summer bushfires.