Using Natural Supplements for the Equine Immune System
By now you have been following this blog series for a few weeks and understand what I am talking about when I refer to "Natural Supplements". You also have learned what herbs, essential oils and "other" things we can use on the equine digestive system and the equine nervous system. If you have not read those installments, I encourage you to, just click the links to be redirected. This week we will be discovering what Natural Supplements we can use for the Equine Immune System. Everything you put into or onto your horse is used or not used by his body on a cellular level. What your horse doesn't need from foods and topical substances need to be evacuated from the body. A healthy equine immune system is able to do this via the liver, kidneys, blood, lymphatic, digestive system, skin, etc. The immune system is also the body's defense against disease. It is one of the most complex systems in the horse, consisting of an elaborate set of cells and cell mediators that respond to external factors such as stress, exercise, stage of life, and challenges from pathogens.
Part of the process that enables the body to transform nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy is called oxidation. During the "burning" of fuels, a few unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals are formed. A balance between free radicals and antioxidants is necessary for proper physiological function. If free radicals overwhelm the body's ability to regulate them, a condition known as oxidative stress ensues. Free radicals thus adversely alter lipids, proteins, and DNA and trigger a number of diseases.
When the immune system is compromised and not working efficiently, Natural Supplements for the immune system can:
- Fight free radicals
- Support the normal detoxification processes
- Maintain normal fluid balance in the blood and tissues
- Support a normal stamina and endurance
- Help reduce effects of normally induced environmental stress
- Support a normal appetite and healthy weight
Before you look to any supplement to "fix" or prevent a health issue, always START WITH A VISIT FROM YOUR VET. Work with your vet to find out what the issues are and to develop a plan. One that includes Natural Supplements.
Herbs For Equine Immune System- As herbivores, it is natural for horses to seek out and eat herbs, such as comfrey, red clover, garlic, dandelion and nettle, which have healing properties in their seeds, flowers, roots, stems or leaves. Generally speaking herbs are used for chronic, long-standing problems and often can allow your vet to reduce the amounts of pharmaceutical drugs they use on your horse. Before you use any herbs with your horse you should first:
- Check with your veterinarian first to be sure you're not dealing with a problem that needs conventional treatment.
- Feed the recommended amount, not more. Some plants used in herbal formulas have toxic properties.
- Buy only formulas designed for horses; horses and people react differently to many herbs.
- Look for the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal. Members of this group agree to follow certain standards in manufacturing and labeling.
- Garlic- helps fight off infection
- Red Clover- great for horses recovering from illness
- Rose Hips- loaded with vitamin C which supports immune system.
- Echinacea and Calendula- stimulating the production of white blood cells.
There are many great herbs that can help support the equine immune system but these are the ones I like. You can also check out pre-made blends from reputable manufacturers that include these herbs.
Essential Oils for Equine Immune System- When using essential oils with your horse remember to let your horse choose the oils which will help him/her best though. Before you use an oil, hold the open bottle (or some oil dabbed on a cotton ball) close to the horse’s nose so he can sniff it. His reaction to the oil will let you know whether you should use it or not. There are two basic ways you can use essential oils with your horse–
- aromatherapy and
- topical application.
Essential oils are terrific for immune issues that involve skin and inflammation. Remember to use caution and to let your horse decide which ones you should use.
- Cedarwood Essential Oil- Antifungal, antibacterial, antiseptic. Excellent treatment to prevent hair loss and treat itchy skin.
- Chamomile- Soothes skin and conditions coat. Strengthens skin tissues and promotes healthy hair growth.
- Sage- Anti-oxidant and antibacterial.
- Tea Tree Essential Oil- Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antifungal, antioxidant, immune-stimulant.
To see what blends of essential oils Horse Hippie carries click here The last category of Natural Supplement we will look at for help with the Equine Immune System is whole foods, vitamin and minerals. "Other" for Equine Immune System- Using whole foods and vitamins can trigger the body to eliminate toxins and to trigger cells to boost the immune system.
- Vitamin E- Anti-oxidant. A horse would need to graze 12 hrs/day to get enough Vitamin E naturally. So supplementing can have a direct effect on the immune system by supporting the manufacture and function of cytokines--the chemical signaling molecules of the immune response.
- Rice Bran- Full of Vitamin E- see above ^
- Flax Seed- omega 3 fatty acids in the diet are helpful in reducing inflammation in the tissue. Fatty Acids also support the manufacture and function of cytokines.
- Pure Bentonite Clay- detoxifies your horse of heavy metals and chemicals.
- Bee Pollen- has the ability to correct body chemistry and eliminate unhealthy conditions.
- Apple Cider Vinegar- boosts immune system by flushing toxins from body.
- Spirulina- blue/green algae that boost anti-bodies. Spirulina needs to be in the horse’s system for about four weeks before you will begin to reap its benefits.
When we talk about the equine immune system we are usually worried about a horse that is already sick. But the immune system also helps horses defend against disease. It helps horses eliminate toxins and pathogens so that the equine body functions at its highest level. Using Natural Supplements is a great way to support the important functions of the immune system for a healthier horse.
Thanks for stopping by! Check back soon for my next blog post about using Natural Supplements for the Equine Musculoskeletal System Health.
Peace and good rides, Laura
The Horse Hippie