Planting Herbs for Horses
Herbs are one of my favorite things to supplement for many different equine conditions. For example, I’ve fed chaste tree berry for Cushing’s symptoms, slippery elm for gastric ulcers, turmeric for arthritis, a Chinese herb called jiaogulan to increase circulation after a ligament injury (to name a few). But, last winter, I got a brilliant idea–why not just plant some herbs in my pasture so that my horses can have access to them when they are needed? Duh!
Of course, uncultivated pastures may already contain several beneficial herbs already. Many times, what we think of as ‘weeds’ are actually herbs that can have medicinal value for horses and other animals. For example–did you know that the good old dandelion is actually beneficial for the liver, gallbladder, and digestive tract? We need to get away from the idea that our pastures should be perfectly manicured and weed-free. It’s much better for the horses if they’re not, actually. (Of course, an overgrazed pasture full of true weeds isn’t healthy either though. . . )
But I encourage you to pay attention to what may already be growing in your horse pasture and find out if some of the ‘weeds’ are actually beneficial for your horse. And of course, you can also plant additional herbs for your horses to eat as needed. (This is called zoopharmacognosy, and it is super interesting.)
Here are the herbs I bought:
Spearmint: Both peppermint (which I couldn’t find) and Spearmint have an antispasmodic effect on the digestive system. Mint may help to expel gas and also works as an appetite stimulant as well.
Rosemary: This herb has anti-inflammatory properties and is used as an anti-bacterial and anti-microbial herb. Rosemary leaves have an internal vermifuge effect and will come through the pores of the skin to make the horse less appealing to external parasites. Because of this, it can also be used in a homemade insect repellant.
Parsley: Parsley is natural diuretic (promotes production of urine). It also works on the adrenal glands, is beneficial for optic and brain nerves, as well as the whole sympathetic nervous system. Can benefit horses with coughs and arthritis, too.
Chamomile: Anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-killer) which acts as a sedative and relaxant.
Stinging Nettles: Though they sound a bit scary, stinging nettles actually provide an abundance of minerals including iron, lime, potassium, sodium, sulphur, as well as protein. Nettles are a very good blood cooler/cleanser and they are helpful in cases of arthritis. Nettles can also aid in hemorrhaging, anemia, laminitis, sweet itch, allergies, milk production, appetite, coat and skin.
Thyme: Thyme is very beneficial for the lungs and is particularly useful for coughs. Also helpful for digestive issues.
Comfrey: Speeds the healing and growing of cells, good for coughs since it soothes and heals the inflamed tissue of the respiratory system.
Marshmallow: Marshmallow root is commonly used for digestive disorders and the leaf can benefit respiratory or urinary problems as well.
Milk Thistle: This herb is valuable in the treatment of any liver disorder.
Of course, there are many more herbs that you can plant, but those are a few. I would like to find some echinacea, too. If you plan to plant herbs in your pasture as well, just make sure you do your research to make sure they are indeed safe. Also, be sure to read the package directions for planting. Some herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, and spearmint need to be started indoors.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how my herb ‘garden’ turns out. Will keep you updated.
Sources and Further Reading: