Herbs for Health



Herbal Barks for Horses

By Shari Frederick

HHH: Herbal preparations may include various parts of an herb including the leaves, seeds, stems, roots, bark, and sometimes even the whole plant.
There is a synergistic interaction among a plant’s active constituents as well as among various plants.

Slipper Elm
Slippery elm bark, with a sweet aromatic fragrance and no bitter taste, is a favorite among horse caregivers. It has many uses.

HHH: No two horses are the same; treat every animal individually, as a whole being, based on his condition.
Treat the horse for both the cause and the symptoms, aiming for harmonious balance in all systems including the physical and mental. Total well being is the final goal. Herbs can help the horse (especially older arthritic horses) be much more comfortable, live longer, and be more active. The range of dose varies from horse to horse and herb to herb. Be aware that any horse can be sensitive to any herb or product.

HHH: Choose a type of preparation that best suits your horse's (and your) needs while providing potency and effectiveness.
Dried powder barks (roots and woods) are readily added to feed, as are liquid extracts. Use dried herbs in winter if fresh is unavailable or impractical. Teas and extracts offer quicker absorption and action than dried herbs. An infusion is a tea using the more delicate parts of the herb (leaves, flowers, seeds, and stems) steeped in boiling water to extract soluble qualities of the herb. A decoction is a tea made from boiling the tougher parts of the herb (bark, root and hard seeds) to extract their nutrients and qualities. One can administer a decoction via a drench or syringe, although some horses may prefer to drink from a feed bucket. Solutions can also be used topically as a spray or soak, or to moisten feeds or warm bran mashes. Serve the softened bark which remains after the boiling process, and the liquid (tea), to your horse. Never serve old tea to your horse.

HHH: There are only a few herbal barks commonly used with horses.
Among herbal barks still found in use with horses are slippery elm bark, maritime bark, wild cherry bark, white oak bark, white willow bark, pau d’arco inner bark, and prickly ash bark. A variety of barks are available in the horse's natural environment, and horses have been known to safely help themselves to others in their areas.

HHH: Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) is a very common herbal bark used with horses.
Generally prepared to a finely ground powder, quality slippery elm has a sweet aromatic fragrance and no bitter taste. This bark contains important minerals, along with large amounts of mucilage and some tannin (astringent, used to draw out irritants, arrest bleeding). Used internally, it soothes inflammation allowing your horse's mucosal linings to heal, and is also great when combined with diuretics for treating urinary tract problems. It is very valuable for scours and for treating colic, allowing ulceration and colitis to heal and settle. Slippery elm is also known to relieve flatulence. There are no known cautions; it can even be mixed with mother’s milk and given to day-old foals. Slippery elm, plus expectorants, can be used when treating upper respiratory problems.
* Try adding distilled aloe vera with slippery elm for inflammation.
* Check out Meadowsweet Acre Herbs Anti-Ulcer Powder, which contains slippery elm and other herbal supports.
* Riva's Remedies now includes slippery elm in its popular Para+Plus formula.
* The popular Glenbrook Farms stomach ulcer support formula Stomach Balance contains slippery elm bark and other herbal supports.
* Try adding 1/3 cup of slippery elm mixed with chamomile tea to make a soothing slurry which can be added to bran mash or mixed with your horse's feed twice a day.

HHH: Prepare slippery elm bark as a decoction for use in a “drawing” soak, or as a paste for a poultice.
A poultice is an extremely effective healing aid to draw out toxins, bring heat to an area, and/or to hold herbs in place. It is used in treating equine injuries and infections, including hooves. Poultices are usually applied directly to the skin, although they can be applied over a cloth barrier.
* When combined with castor oil to make a paste, slippery elm bark can be placed on gauze and wrapped carefully as a bandage, poultice, or compress over the area to draw out undesirables and clean wounds.
* Slippery elm is a good poultice base to which various essential oils (such as lavender, eucalyptus globulus, tea tree, and others) can be added for poulticing hooves.

HHH: Historically, white willow bark (Salix alba) is documented as a medicinal anti-inflammatory.
White willow bark contains salicylic acid, known to relieve pain and fever, and is a natural anti-inflammatory. It is also useful in a bone and ligament treatment program to naturally reduce inflammation, stiffness and soreness to allow a more even exercise program during recovery without inappropriately masking pain.
* Try adding 10ml white willow bark extract to a rheumatic or arthritic horse’s feed twice a day for a few days.
* Check out Meadowsweet Acre Herbs formula Arthritis Aid, which contains white willow bark and other herbal supports.

HHH: White willow bark is usually ground up into a powder which is easily fed to horses; an herbal extraction may also be made from it.
Treatment may be aimed at improving circulation, speeding up the body’s ability to heal itself, and helping to prevent scar tissue. White willow bark is known as an antiseptic, analgesic, tonic, and astringent. The proportion of salicin present can affect results, but it works generally well as a 'bute' replacement with no side effects such as those associated with aspirin.


HHH: White willow bark contains well-balanced ingredients.
The balance of combined ingredients found in white willow bark poses almost no ill-effects on the gastro-intestinal tract. Aspirin, even in tiny doses, can cause ulcers, blood-vessel fragility and irritation to the digestive system.
* Glenbrook Farms Founder Blend, Horsprin and their most popular Joint Flex formulas all contain white willow bark and other herbal supports.

HHH: White willow bark can be used in an external hoof-oil preparation for general healing and hoof health.
* Mix with linseed (flaxseed) oil and other herbal supports, and apply as needed. Use as a hoof-problem preventative, or to improve circulation of the hoof.

HHH: Wild cherry bark is a time-tested cough and lung remedy.
Wild cherry bark (Prunus serotina) has a multitude of uses including expectorant (helps remove excess mucus from the upper respiratory systems), astringent (blood/secretion-constricting), sedative (helps calm a nervous individual and relieve tension throughout the body), nervine (helps tone and strengthen the nervous system), antispasmodic (helps relieve or prevent cramping or spasms, including diarrhea and gas), and digestive bitter. Wild cherry bark is primarily used for irritating coughs, bronchitis and asthma.
* Check out Riva's Remedies Bronc-Aid formula which contains wild cherry bark along with other herbal supports.

HHH: An excellent equine astringent is white oak bark.
Note: Oak acorns can be toxic if consumed by horses.
White oak bark (Quercus alba) is known for its astringent qualities and ability to strengthen capillaries. It has been used topically for sores and internally for diarrhea, hemorrhage, leucorrhea, bleeding and ulcerated gums.
* Try using a spray bottle to apply astringent herbs solution to remove debris without forcing dirt deeper into the wound.
* Marijke van de Water B.Sc., DHMS of Riva's Remedies calls white oak bark a “great astringent with an affinity for ligaments and tendons. It contains a fair number of nutrients as well.”
* Check out Riva's Remedies Happy Foot formula which contains white oak bark, along with other herbal supports.

HHH: Maritime pine bark (Pinus pinaster), when applied to your horse's skin, increases the flow of blood to that area.
Note: Use with caution, on a small test area first - redness, irritation, and/or mild blisters may appear.
Maritime pine bark is a healing anti-inflammatory that can be used long term for chronic cases such as with old arthritic horses. It is an antiseptic and diuretic. It assists in toxin elimination through perspiration and promotes and protects peripheral circulation. Put through a garden mulcher, mixed with alcohol (or organic apple cider vinegar) and water, it produces the super antioxidant pine bark extract.
* Extracts and extract combinations made by a professional herbalist can be added to feed at 10ml twice a day, for a few days to a week, until symptoms subside. Pine water (made from needles, as a tea) was traditionally given to horses with a chronic cough.
* Try pine bark extract (chest and immunity mix, or allergic rhinitis mix) in feed. Seek an experienced equine practitioner before using tar or turpentine internally.

HHH: Pau d’arco (Tabebuia impetiginosa), often included in herbal tonics for horses, promotes red blood cell production and generally makes horses feel better.
Pau d’arco inner bark relieves pain, stimulates the appetite, and encourages new cell growth. It can be used to treat many problems such as wounds, fungal infections (including the mouth, stomach, intestines, anus, vagina, nose, ear, skin, and systemic), bacterial infections, cancer, and anemia.

Shrei Fredrick wit Horse

* Glenbrook Farms Super Immune Up contains pau d’arco with other herbal supports; they carry powder and cut bark as well.
* Check out Meadowsweet Acre Herbs Pau D’arco Tree Bark Powder (from the Brazilian Rainforest). It is also included in their Cushings Aid, Sarcoids Be-Gone, and Super Immune Boost formulas.
* Consult a veterinarian to determine proper dosage and length of treatment, which will vary depending on the problem being treated; 10-15 days is generally recommended for best results with disease treatments.

HHH: Prickly ash bark is known to increase circulation in the leg of the horse.
An old-time remedy for toothaches, prickly ash bark is similar to cayenne; it stimulates circulation, and is used for cramps in the leg, varicose veins and varicose ulcers.
* The Glenbrook Farms Happy Hoof formula contains prickly ash bark and other herbal supports.Hoofprint


About the author:

Shari Frederick BS, NMD, LE began her love of horses in 1975, showing quarter horses at the Fort Worth, TX stockyards. As a nutritional educator in over 15 countries worldwide over the past 25 years, she is a staunch supporter of "Truth in Labeling" for ALL manufacturers. Shari has a regular column in Equine Times and is a Safety-Certified Riding Instructor from the AAHS. She and her horse have proudly served as the Bugler for annual cattle drives at the legendary (Texas) YO Ranch for over 15 years!