Natural Solutions for Pain
By Loryhl Davis and G. Currie-Robertson
As an herbalist, people have often asked me, “what can I do for the pain of arthritis, migraine, injuries, etc?” It is no different with horses. They suffer from the same pain that we do, and from the same causes: arthritis, injury, overwork, sprains, strains, wounds and all the rest.
In traditional allopathic medicine, the answer is to suppress the symptoms. For humans, we take Advil, Oxycodone, Motrin, Aspirin, etc. For horses and other animals, we reach for Bute, Banamine, etc. While these drugs are a quick answer in acute situations, they are not an effective solution for the chronic condition. They do not work at the root of the problem.
If an animal is suffering from long-standing pain, the first thing that should be looked at if the diet. Is the feed too high in protein for the type of physical activity or workload the animal is doing? Over use of high protein overloads the kidneys to the point where they slough off toxins into the muscles and joints. Also the carb over load, or processed, specialty feeds are also highly suspect.
Is the feed high in toxic preservative, or unnecessary or synthesized vitamins, processed carbohydrates, contaminated fats or oils, pesticides or herbicides? Many people have found with themselves or their children, as well as their horse, dogs, or cats, that when they take them off these over-processed and toxic junk foods, in most cases the health improves, sometimes dramatically. In an older animal, a horse, for example, that is stiff and sore from arthritis or overwork, there can be an obvious improvement from dietary change alone.
Making the effort to observe a healthy, whole food diet is worth it. Food that is additive free and grown in healthy soil accompanied by plenty of exercise, fresh air, sunlight and pure water will reward your horse with abundant health, especially if the animal has access to free choice natural herbs and minerals. This is possible even in a confined space by wither setting up a separate feeding tub containing a good, natural selection of herbs and minerals or by adding natural, whole supplements to their feed.
So many areas where the high performance horse compete do not have a source of pure, unadulterated drinking water. This if often true even fro the pleasure horse. For example, in New Jersey, legally allowable levels of arsenic are the highest in the country. Every year, the legal level has been raised to accommodate more arsenic in the water.
Incidentally, Tom’s River, New Jersey, has the highest level of childhood leukemia in the country. In Union Beach, New Jersey, you will also find the highest incidences of breast cancer in the United States. Most of this can be traced to polluted water.
In addition to this, there are eight toxic dumps in the New Jersey, one of the smallest states in the union, which incidentally, also has the heaviest population per square mile. This adds up to some very undrinkable water for man and beast being passed off as potable.
I am gratified to mention the fact that more and more owners and trainers of the competitive horse are meeting this challenge. They are purchasing portable, quality, water filtration system for their stables so that no matter where they go, there is clean water avaible for themselves and their horses. Arthritic pain, the aggravation of other health issues and the compromising of the immune system can be noticeably lessened an even eradicated by providing pure, clean water.
Water is not just for the easing of thirst. Water is the earth’s greatest cleanser and solvent. It washes the body both inside and out. Adequate, clean water is absolutely essential for the effective functioning of the brain and nervous system. The synapses of the brain slow or fire erratically with out enough water in the system.
When the domestic horse, fenced in and unable to fend for itself, has only poor water and toxin laden foods from which to feed, the organs and glands plus the hormonal, lymphatic and electromagnetic systems of the body are weakened and can not do the continuing work of repair. Hence the muscles, joints, ligaments and sinews do not get what they need to stay in the supreme health they require in order to withstand the extreme demands made on them.
The filters of the body can only do so much when the onslaught in constant. For example, the liver is a major filter for the blood, but its work doesn’t stop there. It also has the job of manufacturing new blood cells. Furthermore, it is also the seat of emotions. A horse that has been subject to abuse, violence, chemical overdose or neglect couple with the stress of the high adrenaline lifestyle of track and other competitive equine sports may exhibit more pain than a horse that is treated with kindness and consideration. Emotional pain is often the forerunner of physical pain. Even sprain, strain and broken bones contribute to toxic levels in the liver.
The abused horse will manifest its pain in many ways: behavioral problems, nervousness, irritability, as well as physical complaints. These conditions build up as the horse ages. As in all living beings, how events and situations affect one, may not affect another the same way. Each creature is different. Paying attention day by day to your horse’s body language and behaviour will tell you much regarding the state of its health. There are many warning signals long before the animal begins exhibit a health problem.
However, one needs to keep a strong hold on common sense. I have seen owners and trainers too numerous to mention, who make their horse sick by their own neurotic behaviour and their fretting over conditions of little consequence. Be alert, but for goodness sake, relax about it, too. Remember, the horse is living, breathing creature with spiritual, mental, emotional and physical needs and wants. It has its own intelligence and will let you know when its needs are not being met. The horse, like us, has a desire to be healthy and happy, even while being required to work. A good horse enjoys the work that is asked of it. These animals no more want to be idle than healthy human wants to be idle. So, no guilt trips over asking it to work, whatever that entails, but also, be fair, be kind and do all you can to provide everything it needs to be healthy and happy.
Another area of concern is the hoof. A horse’s feet are sometimes a source of constant pain. When the horse has been kept shod all of its life and has not been given the opportunity to run barefoot as much as possible, discomfort with feet, legs, shoulders or hips often show up. Much had been written about this subject and I suggest the reader investigate the Horse’s Hoof, KC LaPierre, Equine Institute of Podiatry, Jamie Jackson, Martha Olivio, or the correct Strasser Trim method. Just to mention a few sources that will give you correct information about how to trim a horses hoof so that it is balanced and healthy.
When problems begin to manifest, and all the above has been investigated and found to be with in reasonable limits, take the time to observe others in the vicinity who may be affecting your animals. People with chronically bad attitudes can easily influence a sensitive horse, even if that animal doesn’t belong to them. The loud, careless behavior of someone’s teenager, perhaps accompanied by raucous music, who is helping at a neighboring stable, may create a great deal of stress that you, personally, are quite unaware of. Look around, study everyone and everything. Learn to read body language and not just your horse’s body language. Taking the time to quietly observe others that are within your horse’s environment can sometimes pay handsome dividends in easing your horse’s health problems.
Sometimes, in the case of serious or chronic illnesses that are not responding to treatment, when the pasture has been investigated, we have found plants of the nightshade family or other noxious plants. A horse will knowingly ingest these substances, but if beneficial plants are in short supply, the horse will end up eating the wrong plants to satisfy his hunger or his need for the trace elements these plants provide. Your horse pasture should contain a wide variety of plants, including bushes and trees, but you should know what they are. Bring in an expert horticulturist, if necessary. Know what your horse is eating if you’re having to deal with constant health problems.
There is another source of trouble for the horse that is fighting illness or disability, and is not recovering with what seems to be adequate care upon inspection of the pasture, we have sometimes found hydro towers or heavy power lines running through it. The powerful emanations from these lines wreak untold havoc on the sensitive electromagnetic and hormonal system of living creatures. Your sick horse needs to be removed from such an environment. It is even suspect whether fodder raised under these lines has true value as a healthy feedsource.
Poor water and toxin laden foods cause the organs, system, muscles and joints to become overloaded with certain chemicals. Let’s take, for example, synthetic vitamin D3. Here we have a toxic systemic effect similar to the ingestion of the nightshade poison solanine. Solanine is a major contributor to arthritic conditions, muscle soreness and stiffness, calcification of bone and joint, diminished mental capacity and inability to focus.
After all else has been taken into consideration, have you checked out contaminants from nearby sewage, waste fills or factories. Have nearby industrial sites been tested recently? How much toxic residue is escaping their sites as fouled water or polluted air?
Harsh, unhealthy living conditions are not conducive to healthy athlete or even the pleasure horse. I have been to barns where the horse is treated as nothing more than a commodity, a machine to be used and tossed aside as soon as something wears out it is too costly to fix.
If you have correct or remove as many causative factors from the above categories and problems still persist, you will need to inquire into corrective measure. There are a number of things that work to calm and relax your horse, which in turn can do much to ease pain. Brushing, acupuncture, T Touch, Pressure Point Release, Cold Lazer, Chiropractic and massage are a good start. There are good instructions available to make the massage of your horse a corrective measure, as well as a calming influence.
Now we come to the use of herbs. They are often disguised as common weeds. However, they should be the first stop in your pilgrimage to return your animal to robust health. In the use of herbs to support the alleviation of pain, all systems and functions of the horse need to be considered.
Among the First Nations Peoples, the use of a Sage smudge is of great benefit. With an eye to the fire prevention, build a small fire of hay grass in a fire proof container, such as an old pot or aluminum plate. Let them smell or look at it first, so they arnt afraid. Many horses will take in a deep puff of the smoke from the sage or sweetgrass. When it is burning well, drop a small handful of sage in the middle. If you only have dry sage, place a large handful on top of the flames. You want to snuff the flames but allow enough burn to create heavy smoke. Pass or blow this smoke around and under the horse, allowing it to breathe in the vapors as well. This has a remarkable calming and healing effect. Walk around the horse in a clockwise motion, speak to him, and tell him what your concerns are the healing you want to take place so they can go forward in competition or whatever needs doing for them. This often works as a real influence in letting go fear, anger, distrust, nervousness and more.
There are many other plants that can be used as an effective smudge and also as an effect aid to relieve insect irritation. Motherwort, juniper leaves, cedar leaves are only a few that can be mentioned. Research the uses of whatever herbs, bushes and trees grow in your area.
With the competitive horse, a chunk of fresh ginger about the size of the first joint of your thumb, chopped small and added to their food daily, has shown to be extremely beneficial. This work to assist the immune system but studies in human have shown the long term effect of daily use also eradicates most arthritic pain and iflammation.In our herbal formulas at Herbs of the World, we use ginger . Free Flowin is an excellent natural pain and arthritus aid.
One of our most widely used formulas Garli N Roses, contains garlic, rose hips and oregano. Oregano contains some very strong anti-oxidant chemicals. Oxidation is part of the inflammatory process,; the sloughing off of dead, inflamed tissue into the system along with associated pain.
Oregano has many other beneficial properties as well: immune booster, volatile oils that are effective3 against insect irritation, fungus, airborne bacteria and the beautification of the hair and coat. Oregano combined with high quality garlic, become a dramatic combination.
Garlic…let me count the ways it benefits the health! Some trainers and owners won’t feed it to the horses because they do not want the garlic odor on the horse’s breath or they do not want the odor in their barn. Besides a noticeable reduction in the fly population, we see an improved function of the immune system and cardiovascular health, excess mucus reduction and better circulation and healthier blood. The reduction of pain and arthritis symptoms must be strongly noted. Garlic, we believe, is essential in the life of the heavily competing equine athlete. Even pleasure horses, particularly older horses, live longer, healthier lives, and are more pain free when garlic is a part of their daily ration.
St John’s Wort is another effective herb that is commonly known today for its use in assisting the relief of depression and behavior problems. Anciently, this herb was widely used both topically and internal for arthritic symptoms and pain. As an external poultice for sore and inflamed joints, mixed with garlic, turmeric, cod liver oil or olive oil, it can be excellent for the relief of the pain and swelling of arthritis. It is even effective for bruising from injury.
Devil’s Claw root, also known as Nature’s Bute, is another well known and effective aid in the relief of pain from arthritis, bruises and strains. It is an excellent anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic, especially when combined in proper amounts with Myrrh and Yucca. Devil’s Claw Root is used to effectively bother internally and topically. Our formula Yucca, with Devils Claw and Myrrh is an researched, proven and time tested blend.
Older horses respond well when Tumeric is added to the daily diet. Anything that works to aid in building and maintaining a healthy immune system will also work to lessen the pain of arthritis and help in the healing of injuries. Some of these herbs are Schizandra berries, Astragalus, Sioberian Ginseng and Eucommia dark. White Willow bark is excellent for pain, Rue for tendon problems, Comfrey, in safe and compatible amounts in short term use, is very good for broken and bruised bones. This is also Free Flowin formula.
The homeopathics; Arnica, Rhus Tox, Bellis Perrennis, Silicea, etc., are all very useful for pain and aiding in the healing of broken bones, torn muscles and other athletic injuries.
Many of our formulas, which are designed to nurture the nervous system, also assist in alleviating arthritic pain. The reverse is also true; formulas designed to alleviate pain and arthritis may also calm the nervous horse due to the properties which encourage the body to product dopamine, the chemical that the brain releases to cause to feel good. Cannon Blast is race track proven to help the body repair, broken and bruised bone and tissue.
Every synthetic drug on the market today was originally synthesized from a natural source, either plant or animal. However due to synergistic action of the natural plant combined with the effects of little known trace elements they contain, the natural plant in its complete form is much preferred to its synthesized substitute, due to easier assimilation and no side effects. Herbs have been used as long as we have existed. They are compatible to the workings of the living body, whether animal or human. They work to build the body up, rather than the dubious effect of symptom suppression that may rather work to break the body down. It has been our experience that the timely and generous use of certain herbs can not only alleviate pain, but often correct the underlying cause. Most people today are very interested in looking for alternatives to drugs, study herbs, take the time to learn about them.
Herbs of the World is here for you, not only as a source of proven herbal combinations that work to support the good health of your horse, but also as caring consultants in your journey toward greater understanding and better health, both for you and those magnificent animals, the competitive horses, that are in your care. .
This article is informational only and in no way replaces professional veterinary advice or treatment. Always consult with you veterinarian and equine herbalist before using herbal formulas.
Loryhl Davis has been a practicing Herbalist for 24 years. Many pf her formulas have been used successfully by horses competing in the top levels of racing, cutting, barrel racing and show jumping, including the Triple Crown. She has written articles for and been featured in: Pet Tribune, Thoroughbred Times, Mid America Harness News, Goodpony Journal, Victoris Magazine and Sidelines Polo Magazine. She is presently working on a book on alternatives for farm and stable. Loryhl also has a dull line of formulas for small animals, including birds. She lectured for 4 years for Equitana USA and has lectured for EqWest, Herbal Green Pages, Herb Growing and Marketing Network, South Florida Trail Association and numerous other organizations across North American, China, European and some First Nations herbal knowledge in the formulations she has developed.