Herbs and Natural Parasite Control
The following post is written by Jessica Lynn of Earth Song Ranch. Stay tuned for an herbal dewormer giveaway from Earth Song Ranch later this week!
Allopathic veterinarians and most of the horse health books today say it is essential to “chemically” worm your horses either monthly or at least quarterly; none seem to suggest that horse care takers do fecal counts first to determine “if” your horse actually needs a chemical wormer.
Equine parasite management has changed over the years. It used to be that the vet would come out annually, tube worm the horse, giving a dose of the liquid wormer most often used for cattle, and that would be that (carrying with it some risk from the tubing). Fifty years ago that was really the only option available. Then things started to change, and by the mid-1970’s, we were able to chemically worm our own horses with paste wormers. In the 1970’s ivermectin was introduced, and it killed not only the adult parasites but the larva as well.
Many of the chemical wormers on the market now for home use only work on one type of parasite, and most work only on the adult and not on the larva or the eggs. So now the chemical companies suggest that you use a different product each time you chemically worm. But unless you read the label, you would not realize that many contain the same ingredients just sold under different names, labels and brands. Changing the name or the brand is not changing the effective ingredient– thus causing the parasites to become “drug immune” or “resistant” to current worming or parasite control practices.
These chemicals also get into our environment through horse urine and manure and birds who pick through the manure or even our pets, especially dogs, may be at risk from eating contaminated manure (there have been cases of dogs dying from being poisoned). These chemicals can pollute our drinking water by finding their way in to our rivers, streams and wells.
If I have to chemically worm my horses, which is rare, I pick up the manure 2-3 times per day for at least two days after, put it in a trash bag and transport it to the dump, as I do not want to poison birds, my dogs, nor contaminate my well. If and when I do need to use a chemical wormer, I will use it on the 6th night after 5 nights of using an herbal wormer during the full moon as the herbal wormer has stirred up the parasites and those that are not killed by the herbs will be finished off by the dose of ivermectin I will typically use.
There are also side effects to the horses from the overuse of chemical wormers, especially if used in conjunction with vaccines. These include laminitis, a compromised immune system, allergic skin reactions including hives, and even damage to the horse’s intestinal tract or colic.
There are five major forms of intestinal parasites found in horses; pin worms, bots, ascarids along with large and small strongyles. Most, if not all of these, are transferred between horses by eggs of the parasites being passed in manure – horses will either graze or play near droppings that have not been picked up and can ingest the eggs. Even if they roll in an area, once they have ingested the eggs, it then starts the cycle, passing them along from horse to horse. Some veterinarians now feel that tape worm may also be an issue for horses.
Keeping pastures, pens and all areas picked up on a regular basis will greatly reduce your horse’s chances of contracting parasites. If you are bringing in a new horse, do a fecal egg count test and keep them quarantined until they are “parasite free” (or at a level you would consider acceptable or not shedding, as all horses will have some parasites and that is part of the digestive process). Use either an herbal or chemical wormer or a combination of both, then dispose of their manure off site.
Herbs are an alternative approach, especially if given during a full moon cycle when parasites are most active. I’m unaware of any evidence that parasites become resistant to herbal blends or herbs. My horses have gone as long as three years without needing a chemical wormer while receiving the herbal blend I sell, monthly, from spring until the first good frost. They are in a closed herd, but I do trailer out and use a local arena with friends, so they are exposed on some level. The only time I had a parasite problem was when my horses were in a boarding situation for six months and they picked up round worms.
My little rescue mini, Annie Rose, had not been properly cared for prior to coming to Earth Song Ranch. She had been brought in from Iowa and was “loaded” – with her we had to do two rounds of PowerPac because there were more worms coming out of her then manure for days, actually for almost 4 weeks. I can tell you it was like a science fiction movie or a science experiment to see what next was coming out of her and the sheer volume was incredible. There were all shapes, sizes, and colors, from larva to adults.
This went on for up to two weeks after a round of PowerPac, and it took two months to get a clean fecal– poor little girl. She is doing well now and gobbles up her herbal wormer and has stayed parasite free for almost three years. For two months I bagged up her manure several times per day, and she was quarantined from my other horses until we knew she was parasite free.
There are good preventative management practices that should also include the following in any parasite prevention program:
- If possible, rotate animals between pastures, allowing other grazing animals such as goats, sheep, or llamas, or other farm animals to graze the area thereby interruption the life cycle of the parasites.
- Maintain a flock of free range chickens to assist with parasite, egg and fly larva control, and have the added bonus of natural eggs!
- Group horses by age to reduce exposure to certain parasites and maximize the de-worming programs for susceptible animals, i.e. foals, weanlings, and yearlings.
- Keep the number of horses per acre to a minimum to prevent overgrazing and fecal contamination of the pasture.
- Use large ground feeders or hanging nets for hay rather than feeding on the ground.
Remove bot eggs quickly and regularly from the horse’s hair coat and use a good natural fly spray to repel flies.
The Power of Nature
There are a variety of seeds and herbs that when blended together and given for five days monthly, preferably during a full moon cycle, will not only help to expel parasites the horse may have picked up, but will also assist in destroying most parasites and their larva. I have also found if you feed a concentrated garlic in either powder or granules, daily, beginning in early spring it is not only anti-parasitic but can also help repel the flying insects because it leaves a sulfur smell on their skin that we can’t detect but the bugs can. There are natural products in a pelleted form that contain garlic, apple cider vinegar and B-1 which are also helpful. One is Buggzo and I carry that on my web site as well.
Some of the herbs to consider when wanting to go more natural are Fennel seed, cayenne, pumpkin seeds, red clover and many like using diatomaceous earth. All of these, plus several others are found in our Herbal Wormer formula!
Again, stay tuned for the giveaway–it will start later this week!
Jessica Lynn is a writer and the owner of Earth Song Ranch, has written more than 25 articles on equine health for several magazines, is an equine nutritionist, & a feed and supplement manufacturer based in the high desert of Southern California. She is a regular contributor on NBC Sports Radio FM Horse Talk out of Ocala, FL, & has been involved in alternative health care for humans and animals, homeopathy and nutrition for almost 40 years. Contact Jessica via e-mail at Jessica@earthsongranch.com or phone 951-514-9700. Her web site is: www.earthsongranch.com