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Herbal and Natural Remedies
by Kristin Hermann
The Chronicle of the Horse, 1988

Nature's medicines are sprouting into the horse product market: healing salves, vitamin supplements, and even natural sedatives for an uptight horse. At first the natural wave consumed the human marketplace, but now horses can also enjoy a reunion with earth's precious products.


Comfrey is one of the newest selling herbal cosmetics for horses, and has been donned a miracle herb. But despite its revival, comfrey has been around the horse industry for centuries. Gypsies fed it to their horses to keep them fat and healthy. When a horse was sold to a farmer and dropped weight while fed alfalfa hay, the farmer would be furious thinking he was taken by the gypsy. The reason was comfrey, used as hay, has more protein then alfalfa. It is also the only land plant with vitamin B-12.


At the tack stores comfrey is found in healing ointments, cold wraps, poultice and hoof oils. Apparently the cosmetic industry has discovered the healing qualities of comfrey. Charles of Ritz cosmetics for women has a moisturizer available whose only ingredient is allantoin, a derivative of comfrey.


This herbal plant derived its name from confervere, a Latin word meaning 'to heal'. Its generic name, symphtum, is Greek for 'to grow together', derived from symphyto, meaning to unite. Uniting is precisely what comfrey does and why its new acclaim as a miracle healer is endorsed. Known as a cell proliferant, the allantoin from the mucous plant speeds healing.


For a home remedy of comfrey for wounds, scraps and hooves, mix powdered comfrey root or leaves (the roots are more powerful because they contain a higher quantity of allantoin) with warmed, cold-processed oil (any type of oil will work, but cold processed is a preferred quality).


Leave the comfrey in the oil and take the container to the barn. With a small paintbrush apply the solution to any wound or place where the hair is scraped off. In less than one week there will be new hair growth the cell proliferators go to work immediately. With the use of comfrey little or no scarring is left, depending on the wound.


Comfrey is edible for people too. It can be eaten like cooked spinach, or raw in salads. Comfrey leaf and root tea is recommended for people with ulcers and broken bones.


Herbal remedies are wonderful to have in the medicine chest or at home. Goldenseal, of the buttercup family, is excellent for open wounds. It stops bleeding and acts as a disinfectant. In 1939 it was among the most important drugs in the European trade market to treat infections for people. It is also used in a powdered form, and can be kept in a jar in the barn.

Alfalfa, one of the world's most widely cultivated crops, is so well known among the horse set that one would never consider it as a special plant but it is. Alfalfa is an Arabic word that means 'father of all foods'. Alfalfa roots grow up to 28 feet deep, and are capable of absorbing tremendous amounts of nutrients in a proper balance provided by the original supplier. Organic farmers utilize alfalfa for fertilizer by rototilling the plant into the soil after it has absorbed those deep nutrients.


Alfalfa sprouts prepared for humans are a special treat for horses. Not only are they crunchy and as fresh and juicy as green grass, but they are also enormous in vitamin content.


Yucca is another up-and-coming horse product that seems to relieve joint conditions such as ringbone and arthritis. This cactus plant has claim for reducing the swelling of arthritis and is considered a cortisone substitute.


A mixture of pure yucca, comfrey and kelp is probably one of the finest herbal supplements available, not only for the aging horse, but as preventative measures for the younger equines, and even owners.


One of the first natural plant products to submerge the tack store shelves and health food stores has been aloe vera. Used for ointments, hoof dressing and shampoos, this plant extract is about to be considered old hat, or conventional. Its major properties are as a skin softener and balm for burns.


Trytophan is not a plant, but still a natural remedy. Trytophan is an amino acid (an isolated protein) that humans have been using to relax and to sleep (warm milk, a night time insomnia relief, is high in trytophan). But, trytophan is wonderful for hot horses, too.


A herbal paste of trytophan and the herb valerian has been prepared as a quick release from nervous tension before a show or trailering. It is sold in the tack stores along with a herbal stimulant for draggy horses. Trytophan can also be prepared at home like comfrey ointment, bought at a health food store or less expensively through mail order.


Attempting to rely on herbal products is not a secure position for the modern horse owner; however, one must realize that originally all medicines were derived from natural sources. Statistics state 50 percent of all prescription drugs are either directly derived or synthesized from natural plants.

See also, the Clarion Call Herbals page, where Kristin has highlighted the herbal feed supplement Equine Pasture Blend.

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