I have begun using herbs more and more with my horses, and one that I have used (with success) is a Chinese herb called Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum). Many people call it J-Herb, for short. I wanted to share when and how this herb might be benefical for your horse.
Jiaogulan is an adaptogenic herb which means it improves a horse’s (or person’s) ability to deal with stress. It does this by regulating the hormone, cortisol–increasing or decreasing it as needed.
J-herb has been known for its positive effects on human cardiovascular health for some time. Research has shown that this herb supresses inflammatory nitric oxide pathways, and at the same time, induces nitric oxide production in the blood vessels. The latter effect helps to keep blood vessels dilated and blood flowing efficiently. For horses, Jiaogulan can be beneficial if they have Cushings disease (PPID), laminitis, or respiratory problems, among other things.
With Cushings horses, feeding 1-2 tsp of Jiaogulan has been said to block some of the negative side affects of the drug, pergolide (which is the standard prescribed drug for Cushings) and increase energy levels in the horse.
For laminitic horses, J-herb can help to address circulation problems and make the horse more comfortable. It is not, and should not be considered a “cure” for laminitis–only something to help alleviate pain.
For respiratory problems such as Heaves, Jiaogulan acts as a bronchodilator, helping to decrease resistance in the airway. It is often given in combination with another herb known as Spirulina for this condition.
Personally, I used a combination of Jiaogulan and AAKG ( L-Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate) for my horse, Lee Lee, when she had a suspensory ligament injury a few years ago. I learned about both of these products in Dr. Eleanor Kellon’s equine nutrition course entitled, Nutrition as Therapy. (Most of the research with J-herb and horses has been done by Dr. Kellon, by the way.)
If you are thinking of giving your horse Jiaogulan or any other herb, always check with your vet first. J-herb should not be given in conjunction with bute, banamine, or vasodilating drugs. Dr. Kellon’s book, Horse Journal: Guide to Equine Supplements and Nutraceuticals, gives more detailed information about J-herb as well as a number of other supplements. I refer to this book quite a bit!