Too much snot …
balancing mucous from coughs, colds and allergies
The respiratory system is one of the frontline defence systems for the body. The nasal passages and throat being the first barrier, and the mucous produced to protect the lungs often has to go into over production when attacked or threatened.
In Winter it is viruses and bacteria looking for a warm body to reproduce in. In the dry hot months the attack takes the form of allergens such as dust and pollens.
Herbs can be used to assist the body balance and produce the right amount of mucous to protect itself. The list of herbs in this article don’t always have to be used in the month they are noted under, they can be used in a different season if your horse needs them.
In the cooler Winter months
During Winter the immune system needs to be strong and as soon as a virus or bacteria invades, herbs such as echinacea and olive leaf are useful in the fight.
While Echinacea does not attack viruses and bacteria directly, it increases the ability of your white cells to engulf and kill microbes. It also helps the blood and lymphatic systems to deal with pathogens and toxins more effectively. Echinacea is most beneficial taken at first sight of a snotty discharge. Other herbs can help when symptoms develop fully into a cold or flu, and Echinacea can be re-introduced during recovery stage. For temporary use only, Echinacea not to be taken on a regular basis.
Western herbal medicine has traditionally used Olive leaf to support the immune system and to help relieve symptoms of colds and flus. If a respiratory complaint is moving from property to property in your area this herb combined with rosehips can be a good immune system enhancer helping to reduce your horse’s vulnerability.
Ginger can soothe a sore throat, promote perspiration helping with a fever and is useful with dry irritating coughs, especially those last niggles after a seriously infectious cough. One teaspoon daily of ginger during Winter helps keep the body healthy, the respiratory tract more resilient and digestive health functioning optimally, as well as supporting ageing joints.
Lemon balm can calm the stomach, soothe the nerves, and also works as a natural sedative. As a diaphoretic, it induces sweating and can break a fever. A useful herb with dual benefits in that it helps fight off an infection, as well as helping with the stress and tension of an ill body. It is an excellent herb to use if confined with an illness.
Fenugreek seeds are useful in dispersing congestion in the respiratory tract. They are healing and anti-inflammatory in their actions. Traditionally used where there is debility and during a convalescence period.
Mullein is a relaxing expectorant and demulcent, it is excellent for addressing irritating inflammation of the trachea and bronchial tubes. As it is good with a dry cough and/or bronchial spasm, it is often indicated with painful and hard coughing.
Elecampane is useful with congestive bronchial and pulmonary conditions and also with chronic respiratory complaints, helping where there is debility due to congestion.
In the warmer Summer months
During Summer demulcent herbs are needed to stop the airways drying out and being irritated by dust and pollen. Marshmallow root and slippery elm are very effective. If the irritation develops from an allergy-like reaction herbs such as calendula petal and wood betony can be used reducing the inflammatory response.
Peppermint is useful during the hotter months as it is a cooling herb and when there is a cough aggravated by work or the warmer weather, its diaphoretic action is paradoxically cooling. Also an effective cough suppressant, it can offer relief from annoying bouts of a cough that seems to be without an end.
Calendula petals help to repair damaged mucosal tissue and it can be very useful with allergic reactions as it has a histamine-like action where a horse’s cough could be attributed to pollen or grass seeds, and has been useful with photosensitivity. With its lymphatic properties it helps the body eliminate toxins created from fighting off irritants via the lymphatic system and is indicated where the lymph glands are enlarged in response to an allergen or infection.
Marshmallow root powder is a soothing demulcent on epithelial and mucous surfaces, where a cough is from dust or mouldy bedding. It acts by reflex to loosen tight coughs and bronchial tension calming inflammation and spasm. Being a cooling herb often useful during the Summer months with respiratory infections. Marshmallow’s soothing effect is also beneficial when treating a throat raw from coughing. It is a great immune booster as it improves the white blood cell’s ability to consume harmful pathogens and cell debris.
Slippery elm bark and marshmallow root can be interchangeable when it comes to their demulcent properties to settle irritated mucosa with a simple physical soothing action.
Transitioning though Spring and Autumn
During Spring and Autumn the body can be cleansed and strengthened in preparation for the stronger seasons onslaught. The coughs and snot are more likely to be from allergies making calendula petals, wood betony, and St Mary’s thistle very useful.
At the first sign of a nasal discharge, if not using garlic for other reasons give it for a few days, it may stop the cold from taking hold. It can inhibit or even kill a wide variety of microorganisms. Garlic has a powerful antibiotic and antibacterial action. Colds, cough, flu, fevers, and bronchitis all respond to garlic. If you do need to give an antibiotic or sulphur based drug, do not use garlic at that time.
Wood Betony has a role with congestion in the head, and is helpful with sinusitis as well as head-shaking or other catarrhal congestion in the head. It is useful for headaches in horses resulting in behavioural changes which you may note as a loss of focus or appearing to have a foggy head.
Licorice root is both an expectorant and demulcent, simultaneously soothing your airways while loosening and thinning mucous, easing congestion. It can also ease any inflammation that may be irritating your horse’s throat. If your horse is on steroids, or has a kidney issue, it is best to steer clear of licorice root, and do not give long term.
Nettles work as a decongestant, offering relief from respiratory troubles, such as colds and seasonal allergies, by opening up nasal passages. Nettle also reduces mucus production and is useful for sinus headaches, with quicker recovery from colds. Not always a primary herb in respiratory tract issues but a useful nutritive herb to combine with others in allergy or recovery approaches.
St Marys Thistle is a demulcent herb supporting the liver when attacked by pathogens. Having a slight demulcent effect it can add to an allergy approach in support of the other herbs.
Support for any Season
Any of the above herbs are not limited to the season attributed in this article, it is simply a guide For a cough or cold, select two to three herbs that best help what your horse is experiencing.
Two herbs not falling under one specific season and used any time of the year to help boost the immune system and address coughs and colds, are turmeric powder and rosehips granules.
Turmeric can help with any inflammation, anywhere. If the horse has a niggly cough with exercise or a snotty nose from the overly friendly horse at the last competition, turmeric can help with how the immune response strengthens itself and deals with these issues.
Rosehips with its high vitamin C content is good for any kind of infection but especially for the respiratory system and when your horse has a common cold. It can be used at any stage of infection, as a tonic herb and a dietary supplement that assists the immune system.
Originally written for Country Park Animal Herbs early 2019.