Seasonal Allergy Herbs
Plant medicine can offer support for your horse during allergy season.
Allergies are caused by the body’s immune system having a hypersensitive reaction to a substance that it normally would not have. An allergen or substance can be anything: dust, mold, bug bites, pesticides, pollen, medications, or even the food your horse is eating. It is important to eliminate or reduce the allergens from your horse’s environment. The use of herbal supplements can bring balance, support and nutrition to an already overstimulated immune system.
Commonly used Herbs for Seasonal Allergies
Cat’s Claw, Unicaria Tomentosa, balances the body’s allergic response and has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties. This is an herb that is helpful for inhibiting the allergic response, reducing inflammation in the gut and the astringent property helps to stop diarrhea. Cat’s Claw is a cool, dry herb with a bitter taste. Avoid using this herb if your mare is pregnant.
Elecampane, Inula Heleniu, is a neutral, slightly moistening herb 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).
Eyebright, Euphrasia spp., with its cool and dry properties, is an astringent and decongestant to the sinuses, helping to dry up excessive mucous, soothes red, itchy eyes and has anti-inflammatory activity. Eyebright is best used as a fresh tincture as the dry herb loses its medicinal activity. Avoid using this herb if your horse has no mucous drainage or a dry cough.
Marshmallow Root, Althaea officinalis, is a soothing anti-inflammatory demulcent for your horse’s hot, dry inflamed mucous membranes. The flavonoids and polysaccharides in marshmallow offer anti-inflammatory and emollient properties. The cooling moist nature of Marshmallow relieves dry coughs and stimulates healing of mucous membranes throughout the body. Avoid using this herb if your horse has a wet cough with mucous. Also give this herb 2-3 hours before or after pharmaceutical medications as it can interfere with absorption.
Mullein Leaf, Verbascum Thapsus, has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, expectorant and mild pain relieving properties. Mullein is a bland, neutral to cool herb that helps to clear phlegm and ease wheezing. If making a tea with the leaf, be sure to strain out the fine hairs, as those can irritate your horse’s throat.
Osha, Ligusticum porteri, with its warm and dry properties, helps to dry up excessive clear/white mucous caused by allergic rhinitis and is also helpful for shortness of breath caused by allergy induced asthma. This pungent herb has antibacterial, antihistamine and pain relieving properties. Due to its warm and dry nature this would not be a good herb to use if your horse has a dry cough. It is also not to be used if your mare is pregnant.
Rosehips, Rosa gallica, are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial , astringent and a source of Vitamin C. The sour tasting Rosehips have a cool dry energy that can support your horse’s immune system.
Spirulina, a blue-green algae cultivated in fresh water is packed with nutrition and is considered a complete protein. Spirulina is a strong anti-inflammatory and can substantially reduce allergy symptoms. It takes 4 weeks to see results, so best to start the month before your horse usually has allergy issues.
Omega-3 fatty acids, are essential to reduce inflammation in your horse’s body. Consider adding flax or chia to your horse’s diet to help balance the immune system.
As with all herbs, less is more. Start with less than the recommended dosage and slowly work up to the full dosage over a few days. Some of these herbs don’t taste very good and might be more palatable if mixed with a small amount of your horse’s favorite treat, such as applesauce.
Allergies can be complex in their nature, requiring patience and perseverance to bring balance to your horse. Working with a veterinary herbalist, nutritionist or holistic vet can help you make sure you are focusing on the whole horse.