'Healthy Happy Horses, Naturally' with Catherine Bird

Posts tagged ‘aromatherapy’

Natural support for allergies and skin conditions

get-itch-outZelda, and eight-year-old Arabian, had a beautiful coat when Barbara acquired the mare late in the fall. However, as summer arrived and temperatures began to rise, Zelda broke out in hives. The poor horse itched so badly she rubbed herself raw. Barbara suspected Zelda’s skin problems were due to allergies but when she phoned her local practitioner about getting help, she could almost hear him cringing on the other end of the line. “I knew then that I had my work cut out for me,” she said.

While more horses than ever before suffer from allergies, there is no one shot cure that takes care of the problem. Each case is so individual and what works on one horse may have no benefit to the next. As you consider the information I have to offer here, please remember that if one approach does not work for you, do not give up on your horse. Allergies and skin conditions are multi-layered and, although it may appear your approach is not working sometimes, your horse’s body may just be peeling away at an invisible layer, enabling your next level of treatment to be more effective.

What is an allergy?

The Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary defines an allergy as “an acquired hypersensitivity to a substance (allergen) that does not normally cause a reaction. It is essentially a disorder of the immune system resulting in an antibody-antigen reaction; manifestations most commonly involve the respiratory tract or the skin.”

An allergen can include pollen, dust, feathers, drugs, insect bites and feedstuffs, so your first priority is to eliminate what you suspect may be causing your horse’s allergy. If the allergens cannot be avoided, your veterinarian may suggest antihistamines or corticosteroids. These can provide temporary relief, but in the long term you do need to address your horse’s immune and elimination systems. Natural therapies can help you with this process.

Herbs for the inside and outside

Your horse’s first line of defence is the liver, so any protocol should include supporting this gland. If you believe there is a toxicity or poison present in the body, you’ll want to help the liver detoxify using my two favorite herbs, milk thistle (Silybum marianum) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)*. Milk thistle seed helps cleanse the liver, assists with the regeneration of liver cells and protects these cells against the action of liver poisons. Add rosemary in the next phase of treatment as it is a complete herbal antioxidant, a secondary liver cleanser and also hepatoprotective. The powdered forms of these herbs are commonly used.

From a naturopathic perspective, most skin issues reflect an inhibition or dysfunction of one of the other major elimination organs. Look at the liver first, but also consider the kidneys, digestive system and respiratory tract.

If there are breathing difficulties or the presence of catarrh, your horse could benefit from supporting his immune system. My preferred species is Echinacea angustifolia in either its powdered root or liquid extract form. I find I can give these forms long term effectively, whereas the dried leaf does not seem to maintain its potency or efficacy as well and is better suited to short term use.

As your horse’s body begins to detoxify with the liver herbs, Echinacea can fight off secondary infections and help your horse rebuild her immune defences to the allergens. In addition, since Echinacea is traditionally used as a blood cleanser and purifier, it supports the milk thistle and rosemary. These three really make a great team.

*Rosemary should not be given to pregnant mares.

Internal systems are interconnected

Any issues with the lungs lead us to the digestive system. If your horse has a runny nose or gluggy ears in response to the allergens, it could indicate an internal reaction to feedstuffs. My favourite herb to address this with is marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) and I prefer the powdered herb in this situation. In severe cases, paste your horse with one or two tablespoons of herb mixed with water before feeding (use a syringe) or, in milder cases, simply mix it into a wet feed. By addressing the gut in this way, you will soothe the mucosal layer of the digestive tract, which in turn will alleviate the clinical symptoms – the dry and pruritic skin conditions.

Could it be his kidneys? 
If your horse’s urine is irregular, his sweat patterns vary, or your horse has sensitive ears, you may find his allergic conditions respond well to flushing the kidneys. A gentle yet very potent approach to this is adding some freshly picked parsley (Petroselinum crispum) – a nice handful each day – to his feed for about a month. You can use the dried leaf as well; in this case usually one or two heaped tablespoons are sufficient. Parsley also calms the nervous system and serves as a carminative (relieves gas) and digestive tonic, supporting the use of marshmallow root.

You may observe as I work through the body’s elimination processes, that the herbs I select overlap in their functions across each of these body systems. So, as you assist your horse through the various stages of his “line of cure”, your emphasis may shift between any of these systems. You can vary and substitute herbs to further individualize your approach; any bitters including burdock or dandelion root will replace my liver suggestions; immune support such as astragalus or olive leaf could continue on from Echinacea; slippery elm or plantain could address the gut, and mullein or elecampane may help the respiratory tract. Dandelion leaf serves as an easy substitute for parsley.

The emotional toll

If your horse has suffered from a chronic allergy condition, you may also need to address the nervous system. Allergies can really wear on the soul, and after a while most horses become agitated and short-tempered by the constant physical irritation. Again, parsley may assist here as it can be very calming to several body systems. You could also use any of the calming herbs such as sweet flag, lemon balm or chamomile for the same purpose.

Creams, oils and rinses

Topically, you have a wide selection of herbs and essential oils to choose from. I usually recommend calendula (Calendula officinalis), sometimes known as pot marigold, which is an effective local tissue healer when applied in a cream, balm or infused oil to itchy skin. You can also administer it internally to help the body’s inflammatory response come back into balance. Other herbs include aloe vera gel and a rinse made from chamomile flowers.

Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is antipruritic (anti itch), and when applied to a very small section ‘neat’ or diluted into a carrier such as aloe vera gel, this essential oil will take the itch out of most skin irritations. It is safely combined with lavender (Lavendula officinalis) which is cytophylactic (able to stimulate new cells) so the skin repairs quickly. Manuka (Leptospermum scoparlum), another essential oil very effective in healing the skin, has anti fungal and anti bacterial properties and works well with the other two essential oils.

Nutritional support

Once your horse’s body has begun the process of elimination, you can take the next step by supporting her nutritionally. Rosehips (Rosa canina), an inexpensive additive to any feed, is high in flavonoids which nourish the skin and assists our previous herbs with addressing mild infections and soothing gastric inflammation. Clivers or cleavers (Galium aparine) contains high amounts of silica to support the skin, and is a very effective lymphatic cleanser and remedy for skin eruptions, especially where associated with tissue oedema.

Essential oils and aromatherapy

We often think of massage when we talk about aromatherapy, but essential oils can help with allergies and skin problems too. If you are having difficulty in deciding what approach to take with your horse, offer her a selection of essential oils to give you some insights as to where to start your protocol. At the same time, this approach will stimulate and tune up her endocrine system to help rebalance some of the issues that may be underlying the allergic conditions.

My first essential oil of choice is carrot seed (Daucus carota). The scent is an immune stimulator and can indicate if your horse’s digestive system needs addressing. If she shows an intense interest in the scent, your horse can safely lick this one from your hand. This can have a catalytic affect throughout the body to help trigger the liver into action. A horse that goes for this scent may have sluggish digestion, be burdened with worms or need support from liver herbs. This essential oil’s action is so strong, that I check too see if the horse is still attracted to the scent 24 hours later. Often the initial scent and taste will be enough for the body to adjust and restore its own homeostasis.

Addressing your own emotions with Bach flowers and tissue salts

It’s possible that irritating issues in your own life may be contributing energetically to your horse’s condition. Clearing these emotions will most certainly help you but may also help your horse to heal. To this end, I like to include simple flower essences such as the Bach flower essence, Crabapple.

To support this approach, I also include the use of biochemic tissue salts. Kali Sulph (Potassium Sulphate) is a skin nutrient, and is well supported by Silica. If there is a nervous component I may include Kali Phos (Potassium Phosphate), or if my focus herbally is that of cleansing the body, Calc Sulph (Calcium Sulphate).

There are 12 tissue salts in this therapy that follow basic homeopathic principles and each may be employed at various stages throughout dealing with allergies and skin issues. An experienced homeopath could certainly guide you here.

As Barbara discovered when she started working with Zelda, addressing allergies and skin conditions takes a personal approach. Depending on your horse’s condition, it can be simple or be multi-layered. When it’s multi-layered, the key to your success is patience and a keen observance so you know when the next layer of the issue is available for healing. Hopefully, I’ve provided some direction to follow if your horse is unfortunate enough to be inflicted with allergies or skin conditions.

HINT: Another indicator that your horse’s stomach may need assistance is if the flies aggregate around his eyes. In Chinese medicine, the eyes are closely linked to the stomach.

HINT: Add carrot seed essential oil to your calendula cream to give it that little extra range of healing. If I suspect the horse needs further detoxification, I will offer her the scent of juniperberry (Juniperus communis). Juniper will indicate the need to cleanse; it supports the elimination of any toxic build-up and indicates if the horse needs assistance with liver herbs.

 

By: Catherine Bird

First Published in: Equine Wellness Magazine Vol. 1 Issue 1 (pic from their edition)

 

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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

Essential oils for moving to a new home

Your horse will select his preferred essential oil by leaning forward toward the open bottle; he will show his lack of interest by simply turning his head away.

Your horse will select his preferred essential oil by leaning forward toward the open bottle; he will show his lack of interest by simply turning his head away.

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils, pure plant extracts usually obtained by distillation, to assist your horse in maintaining a balanced physical body and emotional state of being. Horses are creatures of habit and enjoy a regular routine; when something comes along to disrupt this routine such as a move to a new farm, you can use the aromas from essential oils to assist make the transition gentle and welcoming for your horse.

Before introducing your horse to a new place, it is important to prepare it for him. I find horses are very sensitive to their environment so to make the environment welcoming you need to energetically cleanse his new home. If it is a stabling complex, often the previous occupants may have dumped their frustrations or other negative emotions when working with their own horses. This is simple to cleanse and the essential oil that helps clear away other peoples’ dropped negativity is eucalyptus. If you are able to do so without feeling uncomfortable, you can wash the walls of the stable down with water that contains a couple of drops of eucalyptus essential oil. If you are not sure of what the owners of the property may think of you if you do this, simply take a spray bottle with either a eucalyptus hydrosol or with water containing the eucalyptus essential oil and a dispersant, and spray the stable your horse will occupy with your intention to clear away any “junk” from any previous occupants.

When it comes to helping your horse with this adjustment, one of the most nurturing essential oils is sweet orange, from the peel of the fruit. If you picture the shape of an orange, it is inviting and bright and sunny, and what the scent does is create a space that feels like a warm motherly hug. It is a reassuring scent especially if offered to your horse when he needs a little extra special attention.

Juniper is useful for the horse that worries and finds change difficult to accept. It also assists the horse who is joining a new herd to a move into his rank in the pecking order. It is also for the horse who is always looking to his owner with the look of “Am I getting it right here?” or the horse with a crinkled look above the eye.

Frankincense will dispel any fear your horse may experience when you bring him to a new home. It can be useful if your horse, once moved, begins to shy at shadows when riding. It can also be used for clearing off past problems if you have had to move your horse from a “not so friendly” property. You can do a daily wipe of your horse for the first week. You simply place a couple of drops of frankincense on your hands and warm them together, then deliberately and slowly work over your horse from head to toe, sweeping away any bad feelings that may have been directed at him or you from the past.

For a young gelding who may need assurance, especially if he has been gelded recently before the move, ylang ylang will bring that assurance. For the young filly, clary sage can bring the same assurance. Lavender is the essential oil to help the horse who is brought into a stabling complex, when he has previously been a pastured or paddocked horse, adjust to a more frantic and active environment where there are people and horses about all the time. For the horse who has been stabled most of the time going to pasture, patchouli will help this horse not feel overwhelmed by the space.

It takes some intuition on your part to assist your new horse or a horse you are moving with. You can also offer a horse in this situation essential oils including mandarin if there is an element of frustration, sweet fennel if the move has been traumatic, geranium if anger has an expression, possibly Roman chamomile if you are moving a young horse and he is showing behaviour you would describe as a childish tantrum.

If your horse likes more than one of the suggested essential oils, you can blend them together for him into a carrier. As you are looking at this being his “comfort” scent for the day, add a 2.5 percent dilution to some aloe vera gel and apply where your horse is showing a physical stress. Sometimes when a horse is uncertain if his environment is secure, you will find his back will tighten. In this type of horse simply wipe your aloe vera containing the blend of essential oils along his back.

If your horse creases the top of his eye and looks heavy in the head while trying to mentally process the move, this application may be most appropriately applied to his poll. For the horse who has moved and left behind paddock mates he has been attached to, rose essential oil in jojoba oil applied to his chest will help with the grieving process and strengthen his sense of self while adjusting to his new home.

The key to selecting the best essential oils for your horse is to have a small selection and offer them to him on a daily basis. Each day during this transition period, his attraction to the essential oils will vary. For this reason it is best to make up any blends as each day dictates. Your horse will select his preferred essential oil by leaning forward toward the open bottle; he will show his lack of interest by simply turning his head away.

The benefit with using essential oils when moving is you will benefit just as much as your horse when you use the essential oils to help him. Inhaling essential oils will work with both your limbic systems within the brain so that this move will become a pleasant memory, so that in the future if another move has to be faced, you will be able to recall the “good” memories to assist you again.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional veterinary care.

First published Volume 4 Issue 3 – 2002 Natural Horse Magazine

Immune system enhancing essential oils

Your horse’s body often gets compromised by microorganisms. Aromatherapy can be used to help your horse with any infection, however it is adjunctive to your horse’s veterinarian care, so the suggestions in this article are for your information and not to replace his advice.

The use of any essential oils will help your horse maintain a stronger and healthier immune system

The use of any essential oils will help your horse maintain a stronger and healthier immune system

Microorganisms that cause disease are called pathogens and can include bacteria, fungi and viruses. They can cause infection and they actively reproduce causing damage to healthy cells, often being responsible for producing toxins in the body. Infection can be systemic where it spreads throughout the body, or localised, and when your horse’s body responds to an infection, the severity of this response is displayed by the symptoms you see. With the use of essential oils we aim to strengthen your horse’s own defence system and lessen the intensity of symptoms so your horse can recover with less stress as his body destroys the offending microorganisms.

Early recognition of an invader is important for any treatment to be effective. Your horse’s body is designed to minimise attack of its body by microorganisms. As orifices are often the points of entry they are designed to keep the body protected. Eyes have tears to wash away microorganisms, mouths fend off invaders with mucous membranes and alkaline saliva, the hairs in the nostrils minimize entry of microorganisms, the respiratory tract secretes mucous to trap microbes, the urinary system contains healthy bacteria to prevent harmful microorganisms taking hold, the stomach and intestines produce acid, enzymes and beneficial bacteria that destroy unfriendly bacteria, and even the sebaceous glands of the skin secrete chemicals which are highly toxic to bacteria. It is important when we use essential oils we assist these natural barriers, and not compromise their function.

Essential oils in themselves all have varying anti-microbial properties. Depending on their chemical makeup, they will be more effective with different microorganisms, however to some degree all essential oils exhibit anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral properties. They act to directly oppose threatening microorganisms and help build a healthier body resistant to attack.

Bacteria

Bacteria are what we commonly refer to as germs. They can include the bacteria Clostridium tetani, which causes tetanus and Streptococcus equi, which causes strangles. Your horse’s body will attempt to fight invading bacteria and sometimes this is successful without treatment, but in some cases your horse may need an antiserum, such as with tetanus, or antibiotics as in bacterial pneumonia.

Essential oils such as tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia, have been shown to be very effective in helping fight Streptococcus bacteria in human trials. When a horse has been infected with this bacteria and you need to quarantine him, regular diffusion of a blend of essential oils including tea tree will assist the infected horse with his battle against this invader. An immune-building blend to help your horse if this is an issue would include tea tree, bergamot (Citrus bergamia), and lavender (Lavendula officinalis or angustifolia). If other horses have come in contact with an infected horse before his quarantine, you can also strengthen their immune systems by diffusing their stalls with a similar blend.

Not only would these essential oils inhibit the progress of the bacteria, they would also assist any horse in dealing with the stress of confinement. Simply add 5% of equal parts into a bottle of distilled water with a dash of alcohol or detergent to help disperse the essential oils and spray the horse’s stable throughout the day. Alternatively these essential oils could be added to an electric diffuser undiluted and left to disperse throughout the day and night to support the animal.

With any wounds where your horse may have come in contact with the bacterium responsible for tetanus, you can use tea tree essential oil to wash the wound while monitoring the horse and checking with your veterinarian if further treatment is necessary.

Fungi

Fungi are relatively simple invaders, however they can penetrate into the tissue of the horse. One common fungal infection is ringworm. Your horse can also suffer fungal infection of guttural pouch from the fungus Aspergillus. Tea tree oil is also highly antifungal and our first choice as an essential oil when it comes to fungal infections. Patchouli, Pogostemon patchouli, is also a highly antifungal essential oil and useful applied to skin fungal infections. A lesser known antifungal essential oil is manuka, Leptospermum scoparium, a native of New Zealand and often referred to as the New Zealand Tea Tree, it is similar in scent yet softer, though this does not diminish its action. Another essential oil from the same family is niaouli, Melaleuca viridifolia. Each of these essential oils may be applied undiluted to small areas, less than one square inch, or on larger areas in aloe vera gel.

Viruses

Viral infections can include something as simple as a wart to extremely serious diseases such as rabies, as well as a cold virus. Viruses can be inhaled in droplets or swallowed in food or water; they may also be passed through the saliva of biting insects, or may enter the horse’s body during covering/ breeding.

We have a wide selection of antiviral essential oils including Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus radiata, which are useful in fighting adenoviruses responsible for the common cold. Introducing eucalyptus in a body rub or diffused in the air can assist the body to produce white blood cells to help it fight infection. When it comes to localised infections such as warts we can look at topical applications of lemon, Citrus limonum, which can be applied undiluted to small warts or in aloe gel to larger areas. Lemon is not photosensitive, especially the essential oil obtained by distillation, so it is safe to use over a period of time no matter what time of the year your are working with your horse.

Building up Your Horse’s Immunity

It has been shown in human health that for those who are exposed to and use essential oils regularly, their immune systems are more finely tuned and often fend off attack by invaders with little effect on the body. I have seen this with horses that have regular aromatherapy sessions or where owners incorporate aromatherapy into a weekly grooming routine.

Most essential oils from the Myrtaceae family are anti-infectious and can be used around your horse to protect him from any disease that may be circulating in your area. They include Cajeput (Melaleuca leucadendra), niaouli, clove (Eugenia caryophyllata), Eucalyptus, and Myrtle (Myrtus communis). They will also assist the sick horse with his battle to overcome disease states.

The regular use of essential oils such as bergamot, which is also antiviral, and lavender, ravensara (Ravensara aromatica), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), pine (Pinus sylvestris), palmarosa (Cympopogom martini), kunzea (Kunzea ambigua) will not only help build your horse’s immune system, it will also create a barrier in the form of negative ions. When there are plenty of negative ions in the air, it is more difficult for any invader to move unimpeded through the air.

Blue cypress (Calitris intratropica), lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora), lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), lemon tea tree (Leptospermum petersonii) can also make effective insect repellents, offering limited protection from disease-spreading mosquitoes while also helping your horse build his immune system.

As an aside, the scent of an essential oil, once inhaled, is filtered by the limbic system of the brain and then this information is fed on to the hypothalamus gland. The hypothalamus gland in turn then sends out instructions to the endocrine system, whereby each gland in the body is affected and given a “tune-up”. It is the glands that help keep the immune system healthy. With this in mind the use of any essential oils will help your horse maintain a stronger and healthier immune system.

First published Natural Horse Magazine Volume 5 Issue 1 – 2003
Bibliography:
Equine Science, Health and Performance by Sarah Pillner and Zoe Davies, Blackwell Science.

Essential oils for colic

Yesterday when visiting one of my favourite properties  the morning was disturbed with the thought that another horse on a property down the road was in need of assistance. Fortunately the vet was called and knowledgeable horse people were on hand to help the owner get her horse upright and eventually releasing some good sized poops. It reminded me of this article I wrote a decade ago, the advice is still valid and hopefully you won’t ever need the information.

 

Colic

The word ‘colic’ is one most horse owners fear hearing. There are many clinical signs that can be associated with colic to give an owner an early warning. The most common include pawing repeatedly with the front foot, looking back at the flank region, curling the upper lip and arching or twisting the neck, repeatedly raising a rear leg or kicking at the abdomen, lying down, rolling from side to side, sweating, stretching out as if to urinate, kneeling, straining to defecate, distension of the abdomen, loss of appetite, and a decreased number of bowel movements.

In its strictest definition, the term “colic” means abdominal pain. Over the years, it has become a broad term for a variety of conditions that cause the horse to exhibit clinical signs of abdominal pain. Consequently, it is used to refer to conditions of widely varying etiologies and severity. To understand these etiologies, make a diagnosis, and initiate appropriate treatments, the veterinarian must first appreciate the clinically relevant aspects of the horse’s GI anatomy, the physiologic processes involved in movement of ingesta and fluid along the GI tract, and the extreme sensitivity of the horse to the deleterious effects of bacterial endotoxin that normally exists within the lumen of the intestine. Reference Merck Manual www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp?cfile=htm/bc/21700.htm

As most horses will not exhibit all the above clinical signs, they are a reliable indicator that your horse is in pain. For your veterinarian to make a diagnosis and decide on appropriate treatment he will need to thoroughly examine your horse and consider your horse’s past history for any such episodes. Your horse may have colic because the wall of the intestines has become excessively stretched or otherwise damaged by gas, fluid or feed, excessive tension or obstruction of the bowel, twisting of the intestines, or inflammation or ulceration to all or part of the intestinal tract.

For your vet to be best able to assess your horse, have the following information ready to provide:

The history of the present colic episode and previous episodes, if any. This must be ascertained to determine if the horse has had repeated or similar problems, or if this episode is an isolated event. The responses to treatment are important information as well.

The duration of the episode(s).

The horse’s heart rate, and whether it is normal or has changed.

The colour of the oral mucosa and its speed of refill.

The severity of the pain.

Whether feces have been passed, and their quantity and characteristics.

The horse’s deworming history (schedule of treatment dates, drugs used).

The horse’s dental history (when the teeth were floated last, and whether anything was extraordinary)

Whether any changes in feed or water supply or amount have occurred.

Whether the horse was at rest or exercising when the colic episode started.

Even the colicky horse who shows little interest in anything else may show a keen interest in an essential oil.

Even the colicky horse who shows little interest in anything else may show a keen interest in an essential oil.

When using aromatherapy with a horse who has suspected colic, our aim is to help relieve his pain or stress while waiting for the vet to arrive. As you can see from the brief points extracted from the Merck Veterinary Manual, colic can have several causes and it is very important that you have your veterinarian do a thorough examination to have the best possible outcome for your horse.

Some horses can become dangerous when they are experiencing pain. They can strike out as a reaction to the pain or to annoying outside stimulus you provide while they are distracted by the pain. Because of their olfactory application, essential oils are easily implemented and of remarkable benefit while waiting for your vet.

All you have to do is waft an open bottle under your horse’s nose and let him tell you which essential oil is going to help him the most.

Essentials Oils to Offer in a Colic Situation

Roman Chamomile is very useful to let your horse inhale if he is pawing and chewing at his side; it helps with more aggressive behaviour in a horse that is in pain. It is also useful with a horse that is becoming difficult to handle while uncomfortable.

Peppermint, Fennel and Aniseed will assist a horse that has gas; the scent will assist with its dissipation. These essential oils are also digestive stimulants so in some cases can help improve the motility of the gut.

The cleansing effect of Lemongrass or Lemon may also appeal to your horse. Lemongrass particularly stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and has an affinity with smooth muscle, such as that which lines the large intestines.

If you or others at the barn are generating fear around this horse, you can use Frankincense. A few drops in a spray bottle of water with a dash of white alcohol or detergent to disperse can make it a useful spray to clear the air. This can be combined with Bergamot for its ability to clear anxiety; Bergamot is a digestive stimulant and commonly referred to for keeping in check “butterflies in the tummy”. Bergamot is also useful if your horse’s colic has been preceded by a bacterial or viral infection.

Where you suspect some of your horse’s pain may be due to spasm, you can still use Roman Chamomile, however you may also offer Basil or Marjoram to help ease discomfort. Combining these will address spasm effectively and without feeling intrusive, especially with winter time colic where the body needs warming – and for this you could make a blend in cold pressed olive oil, as it also warms the body to apply, if your horse is obliging.

One blend of essential oils I have used with success with horses that are showing early signs of colic is 2 drops of Basil, 5 drops of Bergamot and 3 drops of Lavender in a tablespoon of cold pressed vegetable oil applied to the abdomen of the horse. This blend eases discomfort and stress so the horse is more comfortable while you wait for the vet to arrive.

During winter, Ginger or Pepper essential oils can also bring warmth to the body just from their scent. As some early herbalists believed that most illness was caused by cold invading the body, these two essential oils may just be what is needed. They both target the digestive system and stimulate it into working with more ease.

When recovering from a bout of colic, your horse can be offered essential oils such as carrot seed, garlic and thyme to help his body rebalance the gut and its function so he can again have an efficient digestive system. However you can also offer any other of the above essential oils to your horse; his response may give you further insight into his general disposition after the event.

The added bonus with having these essential oils with your horse while waiting for the vet is that as you offer them to your horse, you also inhale and smell the scents and this will help you with your stress levels. The calmer you are when your horse is in pain, the better both of you will deal with the situation.

It is important that you do not replace veterinarian care with essential oils. Some horses with colic may need either medical or surgical treatments which can only be determined by your veterinarian.

First published Natural Horse Magazine Volume 5 Issue 5 – 2003 written by Catherine Bird

Energizing Oils – essential oils for the unambitious

Do I have to?

Do I have to?

Well, this could be a delicate topic, as no horse really likes to be referred to as a plodder, or worse still – stubborn, resistant, possibly even lazy! Now, it is important that you make sure there is no physical reason for your horse being called one of these names. Perhaps his muscles are not able to do what you want, or, as in the case of George, you may find a medical problem – my mate here had a bladder stone, and no matter how many essential oils we would have used before the discovery we would have had a very resistant horse with anyone on his back.

Essential oils provide a gentle way to give our equine friends a little push along, to save us squeezing until our legs just seem to have no more squeeze in them. The scent molecule is underestimated in its ability to have an effect on how our horses “think” and “feel”. This tiny entity registers with the cilia in the nasal passages and this sends impulses to the brain where we can stimulate the mind and body, or calm the body. The limbic system reads the impulses and then the hypothalamus gland sends a myriad of messages to the whole body and its glands. It is believed to even communicate to every cell in the body when it instructs the release of neurochemicals, which then have the body wake up, or slow down.

So let’s look at essential oils that will help motivate the “unambitious” horse.

Basil for its amphoteric action

Basil essential oil is one that can bring focus to the mind. Sometimes a horse can be perceived as being lazy, where he is really having trouble comprehending what you are asking of him. You need to get clearer in your asking, as well as helping his mind tune into your way of communicating. Amphoteric,
from Greek amphoteros, “each of two”, from ampho, “both”, means basil will either relax or stimulate the mind and body. This is often an early choice when working with an unambitious horse, as sometimes it is not necessarily in need of stimulation, but more a need to have some focus amongst too much stimulation.

Bergamot to uplift

Bergamot is one of the essential oils we get from citrus plants. It is expressed from the peel of the plant and can be the trigger for photosensitivity, so it is best not to apply to the skin if your horse will be exposed to strong sunlight. However it is a wonderful winter time essential oil to waft under the nose of your horse – if he is a bit tentative during the colder weather, Bergamot will ease these anxieties and help him move forward with confidence.

Grapefruit to brighten

Not every horse is able to be paddocked 24 hours a day, and in some countries where land is limited and performance horses need to be stabled most of the day, grapefruit is the essential oil to bring a little sunshine into their lives. Before morning feeds for these horses, it will help lift their spirits, improve their digestion and have them a little more giving when asked to work.

Frankincense if the horse is recovering from illness

Frankincense was once one of our most highly valued commodities, many battles fought over the land it was cultivated on. The religious connection in raising the soul and cleansing the spirit can also assist a horse who is reluctant to return to ridden work after an illness or spell due to the need to recuperate from surgery or injury. Frankincense is used to assist with rejuvenation and this is useful when the unambitious horse needs to be freshened up.

Rosemary is one of the most stimulating

Rosemary is one of the most stimulating essential oils available to non-aromatherapists, and will assist in lifting your horse out of any lethargic state of being. A sprig of rosemary is often worn in remembrance of soldiers who have fallen at war – “Lest we Forget” – r for rosemary, r for remembrance – so it will also help your horse remember his cues. Be careful as most rosemary essential oils contain camphor and this is a prohibited substance on most show circuits.

Ginger to spice things up

At the beginning of the 1900’s racehorses used to be “gingered” (by rudely placing some ginger root into their, ummmm, anus). The stewards would sniff under the tail of the winners to determine if this had happened. Ginger is a warming essential oil and will wake up the senses if you waft this essential oil under your unambitious horse’s nostrils.

The Horse’s Olfactory System

In the case of stimulating and invigorating essential oils, the locus ceruleus is the part of the brain triggered which releases noradrenaline. Other essential oils that will have some relationship here include cardamom, juniper, lemongrass, lemon and peppermint.

The compelling power of odours on the psyche has been recognised since the earliest of times Aromatic woods, gums and herbs were burnt in ancient temples to drive out evil spirits who had often been perceived in making those around them tired and lethargic. An ancient Egyptian perfume was said to “lull to sleep”, while the Ancient Greeks documented certain odours to improve mental alertness and concentration.

The Romani gypsies across Europe would often rub herbs together to release the scent under a horse’s nose to have a desired effect.

We have all individually been influenced by a perfume, for better or worse.

Essential Oils are not for the competition circuit

These are just examples of how you can use essential oils to “wake-up” your equine companion. However, you do have to respect ‘where your horse is at’ when you do this. Always have your veterinarian check your horse for any other medical reasons as to why your horse may have become lazy. Are you making his training and time with you interesting enough for him as well? Don’t forget to have some fun time with your horse and really enjoy your time together.

If your horse has a career as a race horse or is on the show circuit, do not breech any codes of conduct or competition rules. These ideas are to assist you with training and spending time with your horse; they are not to be used to stimulate your horse during competitions nor are they to be used when a horse is exhausted from not being prepared adequately for such a competition.

Along with rosemary, other essential oils such as peppermint and eucalyptus are stimulating but also contain camphor. Some associations list these as prohibited substances and will test for their presence because they can be used to screen the presence of other banned drugs. However if another competitor reports you using these essential oils at a competition you may find yourself being called before a committee for disciplinary action, and in some of these cases, testing is not required.

To get your desired results

Simply take the time to offer your horse a selection of any of the essential oils listed. Don’t push the bottle up his nostril, simply waft each bottle about six inches away from his nose. He will be able to assess if this is an essential oil that will help him with his lack of ambition. If it is, he will lean towards the bottle, deepen his breathing, and maybe even give you a flehmen response by curling his top lip to trap as much of the essential oil in his nasal cavity as he can.

He may decide the essential oil you offer him is not to his liking. If this happens he will turn his head away or even try to walk away from you.

Note each of his responses and this will also give you a guide as to why your horse may be a bit lazy to your requests. Also note how his choice changes each time you spend time with him, as his responses will not always be the same each time. He may have a strong attraction to one essential oil for a week or so; other days he may change his choice on an hourly basis.

The more you explore these responses, the more you will begin to understand your own horse’s individual needs, and your own relationship will take on a fuller dimension. Over time you will find your horse will become a more willing companion as this develops further.

First published Natural Horse Magazine Volume 5 Issue 3 – 2003 written by Catherine Bird