When your horse is coughing, focusing on the quality of the cough can help you determine the best way to bring balance. Is it a wet cough with excessive mucous? Or is it dry with little to no mucous? Once you determine the type of cough, then you can choose herbs to dry or moisten your horse’s airways.
For horses with a wet cough use herbs that dry dampness, such as:
Garlic (Allium sativum) is a hot, dry herb that is antibacterial, an antioxidant, dries excessive mucous and has vasodilative actions. Best used in small amounts in a formula, avoid use in dry cough or hot lung conditions, or GI inflammation such as gastric ulcers. Dosage: Vinegar Tincture 1.5 – 6 ml; up to 3 times daily.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is another hot, dry herb with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, circulatory stimulants and expectorant properties. Avoid in horses with heat signs, yellow/green thick mucus, or fever. Dosage: 1/8 – 1/2 tsp. of ground root; up to 3 times daily.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a cool, dry, bitter, pungent herb with anti-inflammatory, astringent, antibacterial, antioxidant and expectorant actions that when used as a cool tea or tincture will help to dry up over secretion of mucus. Also think of using this herb if there is infection present. Avoid use in pregnancy or lactation as it can dry up milk. Dosage: 1/2 - 1 tsp. of dried herb; up to 3 times daily
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is a warm, neutral herb that has expectorant and antispasmodic properties that will help calm a cough. Avoid use if your horse has a fever or if your mare is pregnant. Dosage is 1-2 tsp. of dried herb; up to 3 times daily.
For a dry cough consider moistening herbs such as:
Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) offers soothing relief to horses with dry coughs with its cool, moist and bland properties. Avoid using in if your horse has a cold/damp cough. Dosage: 1 tsp. of ground root, add up to 8 oz. of warm water, allow to sit until slimy; up to 3 times daily.
Red Clover (Trifolium pretense) has cool, slightly moist energy with a sweet, mineral rich flavor that can help dry coughs. It has a history of use as an alterative, lymphatic tonic and due to its mineral content is osteoprotective. Dosage: 1-2 tsp. of dried flowers; twice daily.
Aloe vera juice (Aloe barbadensis) (from the inner leaf gel) offers cooling and moistening to dry membranes. Most horses love the bitter taste of this herb. Dosage: 30 ml up to 3 times daily.
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) is a slightly cool, neutral, bitter herb that is useful in wet or dry coughs when combined with other appropriate herbs. Horehound is indicated for chesty nonproductive coughs. Dosage: 1-2 tsp. of dried herb; twice daily.
For either a wet or dry cough, Elecampane is good choice, however its bitter flavor makes it hard for some horses to tolerate.
Elecampane (Inula heleniu) is a neutral, slightly moistening herb with a bitter flavor that is used to help diminish allergic rhinitis symptoms and coughs with pain in the ribs and chest. Elecampane also has antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activity. Due to elecampane’s neutral energy it can be used if your horse has a dry cough (no mucous) or a wet cough (mucous). Dosage: 1/2 - 1 tsp. of dried root; up to 4 times daily.
If your horse’s cough worsens, please consult your holistic veterinarian as there can be other underlying causes of coughing. The most effective way to help you and your horse towards wellness is choosing herbs or herb formulas based on their energetics and your horse’s constitution. Often a holistic approach of looking at your horse’s environment, diet, work load and emotional well-being can offer answers to addressing your horse’s cough.