Muscle Remedies

Several remedies can prove useful in an acute situation

Horsepower. It's what catapulted the four-wheeled GTO, the 'muscle car' of the 60's, around. That's horsepower of one kind. Horsepower of the original kind is what propels our four-legged friends around. What makes horsepower? Muscle does.

The powerful muscles in the hindquarters drive the horse and his burdens forward, upward, side to side, and backward; the hindquarters are his engine. Where would the horse be without muscle? Without functioning muscle, a horse would be little more than a statue.

The importance of healthy muscle is easily realized the moment we dismount in the middle of an endurance race because our horse has tied up. Or when our horse stumbles from weariness and we land face first in the dirt. Good management practices will go a long way in preventing these occurrences, but there are times when we are confronted with a problem that involves the muscles in spite of all our best efforts. What can we do to avoid such situations?

The needs of the horse

Understanding the needs of the horse is important. A fit horse on a substantial grain ration must be fed much less grain if the work is lessened or stopped to avoid azoturia. Azoturia, or "Monday morning sickness", is a muscular condition so named because work horses, typically fed well and worked hard all week and given Sundays (or the entire weekend) off without a reduction in grain, got sick upon returning to work Monday morning. Upon starting back to work after a day or more of rest on full rations, a horse can cramp up in severe pain, usually in the hindquarters, rendering the horse unable to move.

One explanation is that the conditioned horse on full ration, but not worked, will accumulate carbohydrates in the muscles forming excess lactic acid. When worked, the rapidly accumulating lactic acid waste in the muscles cannot be removed by the body quickly enough because the blood vessels clamp down. This in turn causes a drop in the intercellular pH, which results in hard, cramped muscle. While in this state, muscle tissue can be damaged if the animal is forced to move beyond reasonable limits.

The kidneys are also affected; when the damaged muscle cells unload their contents into the bloodstream in quantity, the huge job of filtering it all out can cause kidney damage or failure. Myoglobin, a protein pigment in the muscle cell, is also filtered out and causes the urine to appear very dark. It indicates that significant muscle damage has occurred in the system, and that the kidneys are being overburdened with excess waste product.

Therefore, grain should be fed according to the work regimen and reduced when the work is reduced. Nutrition is a most basic need. Tailoring the diet to the horse according to his physical makeup and individual workload is paramount. Optimum grazing, pure water, nutritious hay, and salt are the foundation, with preservative-free whole grains and additional natural supplements such as minerals and herbs as needed.

Also, a horse that is expected to work hard and perform well must be gradually conditioned and kept fit to do so. An unconditioned horse just can't perform and will suffer injury if he is pushed. A horse must also be ridden properly and with respect, and his tack must fit well. His feet must be correctly balanced and maintained, and his teeth must be regularly checked and properly maintained, to keep him in good working order.

Every horse also needs and deserves as much turnout time as possible, even if he is ridden daily. A few hours under saddle and 20+ hours in a stall can predispose horses to all sorts of problems. Free time in fresh air - to think and act like a horse, romp, roll, and stretch out - is essential for all-around good health.

Giving a horse a remedy in water via syringe.

If all the horse's needs are met, there is little room for muscle problems, or any problems. But what if we find ourselves in a muscle-problem situation? What can we do in an emergency situation until the veterinarian arrives?

Homeopathic remedies are powerful remedies, fast-acting and ready when we need them. Homeopathic remedies can be of great help in such situations as tying up or azoturia, muscle spasms or twitching, and weakness and trembling. In acute situations such as these, a homeopathic first aid kit (see NHM Volume 1, Issue 2, Do It Yourself!, Homeopathic First Aid Kit) can be a life saver. If your horse tends to have recurring muscle problems, it points to a chronic problem for which homeopathic constitutional treatment is advised.

Acute vs. chronic

According to Henrietta Beaufait, DVM, of Albion, Maine, "There is a difference between acute and chronic disease. Acute disease is a series of predictable events; we know why they start, we know where they're going, and they happen the same way in every animal. Homeopathy helps the animal, via the vital force and immune system, to move along the healing path to a healed state again more quickly and with less pain. In a healthy individual, the whole process in an acute situation is predictable and it will run its course, and the individual will generally feel better in a few days anyway. Using homeopathy just speeds up the process a little bit," she explains.

"In some acute situations, however," cautions Dr. Beaufait, "the natural progression of things may lead right down the road to shock. Shock is not good, but we can use homeopathy to help the body steer away from shock and steer towards healing. Several of the remedies are nice because they do that; that way the healing begins before the natural progression can get really serious," she says.

"Chronic disease is NOT predictable because it is totally dependent on the makeup of the individual involved. Chronic disease usually takes a long time to develop and a long time to heal, and the path to healing is very unpredictable because everyone is different." Dr. Beaufait explains, "The path to healing depends on the roadblocks in the healing path, and every individual has different roadblocks along the way." This is often referred to as 'layers of disease' among homeopaths and constitutional treatment is described as peeling away the layers of disease, much like the layers of an onion, to get to the core of health.


Treating acute problems homeopathically

Ken Harshman, DVM, of Chinook, Montana says, "With an acute problem you want to look at the most outstanding symptoms of that presentation; you don't necessarily evaluate the whole symptom picture. If, upon treating the acute problem, the animal does not improve significantly, then you may have to look at the deeper symptom picture to find a remedy that is going to move it. But in most cases, the keynote symptoms are the guide."

With homeopathy, the rule is to give one remedy one time and wait. Dr. Harshman says, "Use one remedy, wait, watch, and evaluate. That is critical. You've got to give the remedy a chance to work. If the case continues to deteriorate, you don't have to wait a long period of time before you repeat or move onto another remedy, but you really need to take the time to assess and monitor changes in the animal's symptom picture. If there are signs of improvement, step back and let the body do its work. Wait until there is a stop point in its action and then repeat the remedy, or if the symptom picture changes, move onto a different remedy. The specific features of the selected remedy must correspond with the characteristic symptoms presented by the horse. This is the basis to homeopathy - like cures like."

For acute muscle problems, Dr. Harshman says, "Four common remedies come to mind - Arnica, Bryonia, Belladonna, and Rhus tox. These are basic acute-problem remedies that have an affinity with muscle, but there are others."

When looking at the disease picture of azoturia, one usually sees a horse with a painfully cramped, rock- hard hind end, who can hardly move. If the horse urinates, it is dark reddish-brown in color from the lactic-acid breakdown of the muscle. Tying up is a form of this disease and the cramped-up hind end is the usual symptom. Other symptoms of these diseases may include fever, restlessness, sweating, muscle trembling, and cramps in other parts of the body. The lack of vitamin E and selenium is considered contributory and treatment often includes these nutrients.

Useful homeopathic remedies

Arnica Montana - from Leopard's Bane - an excellent remedy for bruising and trauma involving the muscle groups; its symptom picture also includes stiffness and sensitivity to touch. Arnica has an affinity with the blood vessels, hastens the recovery of bruised tissues, and reduces shock; it is a good post-surgery remedy.

Belladonna - Deadly Nightshade - Belladonna's picture has an inflammatory component to it; any time the muscles are hot, inflamed, or sensitive, or if fever is associated with the problem, Belladonna is a good choice. Its remedy picture includes congestion of blood, often around the head - eyes, gums, dilated pupils, sensitivity to touch, vibration. The horse may bite.

Bryonia alba - White Bryony - has a picture of reluctance to move. All movement is painful and there is no relief from movement; you can't walk them out of it. The horse does not want to move and is very stiff. He prefers to lie on the affected side because pressure on the affected areas brings some relief; if one muscle group on the right hip were tying up the horse would want to lie on it. Restlessness occurs, but it is an internal restlessness; he may do some shifting around, but stays in one place. The Bryonia symptom picture has swelling or inflammation in the joints with lack of lubrication, thirst for drinking a large quantity, and there may be a lack of chest moisture so that it is painful to take a breath.

Rhus tox - Poison Ivy - similar to Bryonia in its main picture in that the horse is reluctant to move at first, but there is relief from movement. Once he does move, he works out of it. There is a strong restlessness associated with Rhus tox. There is anxiety, shifting around, changing position but he can't stay comfortable for long. Rubbing often brings relief.

"There are other useful remedies when fine-tuning the picture," says Dr. Harshman. "Hepar sulf or Hypericum may be indicated if there is a lot of intense pain. In most acute cases, though, if you use a more common acute remedy you'll get some benefit, even if not total resolution. And that's what we're really looking for in these situations - something to knock the edge off until help arrives. If you happen to hit the exact remedy and get total resolution, it is so profound that you'll become a real advocate of homeopathy," says Dr. Harshman. "One remedy at a time is the right way to use homeopathy. One dose and be patient. Generally when treating an acute condition the 30c potencies are given."

Other remedies that may match the symptom pictures of tying up, azoturia, muscle cramps, weakness, spasms, and twitching include:

Aconitum napellus - prepared from Monkshood - a very good acute remedy for any conditions of sudden onset and in the very early stages of disease. 'Suddenly' is the keynote, and Aconitum usually has fear associated with it.

Bellis perennis - made from the Daisy - its main action is on muscular fibers of arteries and venous congestion; useful when muscles cause a halting type of gait suggestive of pain and discomfort. In comparison to Arnica, Bellis is more indicated for deep muscle bruising. Bellis is similar to Arnica; they are botanically related botanically, both being Compositae.

Berberis vulgaris - made from Barberry root bark - Its picture involves tenderness over the sacral and pelvic regions with stiffness of associated muscles and rapid alternation of symptoms - thirsty to not thirsty, and pains move from place to place. Weakness and heaviness of limbs; venous engorgement in the pelvic region; urine contains mucus and has a reddish tinge. Liver and kidney dysfunction are involved in its picture and there may be jaundice.

Magnesia phosphorica - magnesium phosphate - muscle cramps and spasms with colicky pains and pawing or kicking at stomach; involuntary twitching of the legs occurs. Relief from warmth, pressure and friction.

Cuprum metallicum - copper - violent symptoms, sudden severe attacks of spasms and cramps that come and go; eyes are often turned upward and are fixed and staring, protrusion and retraction of the tongue alternate and there may be foamy saliva; jaw contractions occur; head may be drawn to one side. Muscular cramps and stiffness with spasms producing jerking and twitching. Pulse is generally slow.

Thallium acetas - metallic salt - a rare metal left after the distillation of selenium - muscular incoordination; painful paralysis followed by muscular atrophy; hair loss and inflammation of the muscle tissue; salivation; peculiar and inconsistent movement/gait, may be trembling; slow and difficult breathing, weak pulse. 

Gelsemium sempervirens - Yellow Jasmine - weakness and muscle tremors, muscles lose power, varying degrees of motor paralysis; incoordination; nervous, fearful; contraction and twitching of eye muscles, drooping eyelids. Profuse clear watery urine, difficult to pass because of bladder muscle paresis. Slow, labored breathing, weak pulse, weakness of all kinds.

Curare - Arrow poison - muscular paralysis without involvement of the central nervous system. Paralysis of single parts occurs and there is reduced reflex action.

Selenium - the element - weakness and fatigue from exertion, especially in hot weather; involuntary urination (dribbling of urine when walking, after stool, after urinating), scanty and red in the evening, with coarse sediment like sand; deep respiration, perspires easily, hair loss, itching ankles

Silicea - flint or quartz; sand -Silicea will be helpful after a muscle problem episode because it hastens the absorption of scar tissue and the formation of healthy tissue. This helps muscles and other tissues to keep their pliability while repairing. Its picture includes pitting or cavities in bone, fistulae, abscesses and pus drainage, weakness in the spine, loss of power in the legs, and ill effects after vaccinations. Symptoms are improved by warmth, aggravated by drafts. Silicea also stimulates the expulsion of foreign bodies.

Rescue Remedy® - though not a homeopathic remedy (it is a liquid Bach flower essence), this is an important and useful mixture to have on hand for any emergency or stressful situation - fear, panic, severe mental and physical stresses, anxiety, and tension - for both human and animal.

Stephen Tobin, DVM, of Meriden, Connecticut uses homeopathy in his animal practice. When treating acute problems, he advises, "If you're not sure of the remedy, or you are just going on one symptom, you're better off using a low potency [6 or 12 X or C]. You can give this potency more often if it's needed. It has a wider spectrum - a broader picture, and you don't have to be as exact. It's hard to say if it would cure the problem, but it should palliate it. Palliation is different from cure; it is making the situation better for a while rather than resolving it forever. If the problem is something that just started, then I prefer acute remedies. When I don't know how long a horse has been having a problem I have to look at the case in a different manner," explains Dr. Tobin.

From a chronic perspective

Once the horse is through the crisis and is back to a reasonable state of health, homeopathic constitutional treatment can be very helpful in limiting the susceptibility to future muscle problems. Says Dr. Beaufait, "Homeopathy fits right in when treating chronic disease because it stimulates the animal to go back down the right path by gently stimulating him in the same way that the disease process stimulated him in the first place. And that's different for every individual. Once you restimulate him gently and he reacts to that gentle stimulus, it carries him through an alternate healing path and everything else heals up along with it.

"If you have an animal that looks like it's in an acute situation but does not respond - like a person who gets the flu and is not over it in 10 days like they should be, and it lingers 4-5 weeks and they still feel terrible - that is truly a chronic problem," she says. "It's not predictable anymore. So you have to try to gather all the symptoms that you can and match it to a homeopathic remedy as close as you can. The more symptoms you've got, the closer match you can get. Then the remedy stimulates the healing process to begin in the body's own way. It's very individualized."

Says Dr. Tobin, "I look at not only the problems the horse currently has but also his personality, characteristics, fears, likes and dislikes, etc. I may not see specific details of the particular problem, but looking at the whole picture I can find something for that horse. I look at muscle problems - cramped, knotted, perhaps everywhere, perhaps trembling, does movement aggravate or relieve, the color of the urine, etc. -  but to do a workup I need to know more. You can go to a repertory and find the symptoms of concern, and you'll find maybe 50 remedies listed, so you have to look at other things. It's much better to look at the horse's personality and quirks and find a remedy by looking for strange, rare and peculiar symptoms," he says. "But the remedy still should cover the symptoms of concern. Then if it is successful, the muscle problems resolve themselves along with whatever other problems the horse might have."

Any horse can benefit from homeopathic treatment, whether there be an acute or chronic problem. Having remedies on hand is a great help in an acute situation, especially if one takes the time to familiarize oneself with their uses before an emergency develops.


Natural Horse Magazine thanks Henrietta Beaufait, DVM, Ken Harshman, DVM, and Stephen Tobin, DVM, for their help in preparing this article.

Henrietta Beaufait, DVM, operates a homeopathic practice in Albion, Maine for large animals. After 18 years of conventional practice, she enrolled in Dr. Pitcairn's professional course in 1998 to pursue a more natural path and is currently in the process of achieving her certification. She is also a member of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy and is in the process of receiving her AVH certification. She is available for phone consultations and farm calls.

Henrietta Beaufait, DVM

RR2 Box 640

Bog Road

Albion, ME 04910

207- 437-2133

Ken Harshman, DVM, provides phone consultation services for the homeopathic care of animals from his home in Chinook, Montana. His practice involves all species of animals but emphasizes companion animals and horses. He is a certified member of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH) and serves on the Certification Committee for the Academy.

Ken Harshman, DVM

Natural Health

PO Box 371

Chinook, MT 59523


Stephen Tobin, DVM, operates a large and small animal holistic practice in Meriden, Connecticut where he uses predominantly homeopathy, nutrition and herbs. Dr. Tobin is a former president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), a noted speaker, a member of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH), and author of numerous articles on homeopathy and natural care. He is available for phone consultations and he makes farm and house calls.

Stephen Tobin, DVM

26 Pleasant St.

Meriden, CT 06450



For more information:

The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH)

751 N.E. 168th Street

North Miami Beach, FL 33162-2427



National Center for Homeopathy

801 North Fairfax St., Suite 306

Alexandria, VA 22314


Homeopathy is the practice of:

·        like cures like - a substance that can cause disease symptoms in a healthy individual can be used to cure those disease symptoms in a sick individual. An onion, which causes irritated, runny eyes and nose, is useful in treating colds with burning, watery eyes and runny nose.

·        treat the individual, not the disease - homeopathy does not require an exact diagnosis to treat disease; the symptoms are the indicators for a remedy, not a disease name. Homeopathy is highly individualized and the symptoms are what guide one to the correct remedy.

·        the minimum dose is the maximum - the homeopathic remedy is given to stimulate the vital force into action so the body will begin to heal itself. This is ideally accomplished by one remedy, given one time, using the least amount of substance. The remedy may be repeated, but only if needed again to restimulate the vital force.

·        administering highly diluted, energetic remedies - homeopathic remedies are not herbs or supplements; they are remedies made in a special way from innumerable natural substances, including substances that are poisonous in the original crude form. Making homeopathic remedies involves a specific process of repeated dilution and succussion (a hard shaking action) of the original substance, making them safe medicine (even if made from poisonous substances).They literally have no substance left in them (in all but the very low potencies) yet have plenty of healing capability in the form of energy. This energy is what stimulates the vital force into healing action; the body is not forced into action. Drugs and other crude medicinal substances actually manipulate the body and can indiscriminately affect the whole organism. With homeopathy, the body does the healing, so it is done where and when it is needed.