Allergies are a common complaint, especially during the warmer months. The typical treatment involves antihistamines or steroids. And these drugs often give good results. In fact, I would likely do the same for my horses if they were suffering. Allergies are miserable! Coughing, runny eyes and nose, incessant itching—the torment is tough to watch, and you want a solution, fast!
But these drugs do not cure anything. They simply help the symptoms. Instead, why not try to improve the diet so your horse’s allergies subside—perhaps at first, in addition to the medications you are using. Over time, your horse may respond so favorably that drugs are no longer needed!
Why does your horse have allergies in the first place?
It often has to do with the constant bombardment of chemicals that impair immune function, along with missing nutrients, such as essential fatty acids and vitamin D, which leave the immune system too weak to fight off the allergens from the environment, insects, and even feedstuffs.
The goal is to bring your horse’s overactive immune function back into balance.
This can be accomplished by feeding key nutrients and specific herbal preparations. In my reference book, Feed Your Horse Like a Horse[i], I have a section called “Dr. Getty’s Fighting Formula,”[ii] which includes antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, beta carotene (as vitamin A) as well as vitamin D, the B vitamins, and prebiotics. Choosing a vitamin/mineral supplement that provides these nutrients offers a good foundation.[iii] Though not mentioned specifically in this book, offering colostrum is a state-of-the art addition to the diet to protect and balance immune function.[iv]
Several herbs have been proven successful in alleviating allergy symptoms.
You may wish to consult with a practicing herbalist to get a complete list of relevant herbs, or consider formulas that contain some of the following:
- Spirulina – heavily researched to improve allergy symptoms in horses.[vii]
- Burdock root – helps the tissues remove toxins to reduce inflammation.
- Rosehips – highly bioavailable source of vitamin C and bioflavonoids.
- Stinging nettle – relieves runny nose and eyes, as well as itching.
- Milk thistle – helps the liver to remove toxins.
- Spearmint and peppermint – reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the lungs as a natural antihistamine and expectorant.
- Basil – treats nasal and bronchial inflammation.
- Quercetin and other bioflavonoids work with vitamin C as a natural antihistamine.
- Orange peel – loaded with compounds to reduce the histamine reaction.
- Hawthorn berry – potent antioxidant.
- Grape seed extract – relieves congestion symptoms and acts as an antioxidant.
- Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) – medical use is extensive including bronchial dilation and improved circulation.[viii]
- Turmeric – relieves pain and discomfort from lung and nasal congestion.
There is no substitute for a wholesome, nutritious diet. While pharmaceuticals may have their place in extreme allergic reactions, choosing natural remedies will not only relieve symptoms but they will help the body heal.
[i] Getty, J.M. 2010. Feed Your Horse Like a Horse, https://gettyequinenutrition.com/products/feed-your-horse-like-a-horse
[ii] Dr. Getty’s Fighting Formula, Feed Your Horse Like a Horse, Chapter 16 – Immunity Issues, pp 294-297. https://gettyequinenutrition.com/products/feed-your-horse-like-a-horse
[iii] Consider Su-Per Antioxidant (Gateway Products): https://gettyequinenutrition.com/products/antioxidant
[iv] Getty, J.M., Colostrum – An Exceptional Superfood! https://gettyequinenutrition.com/pages/colostrum-an-exceptional-superfood
[v] Getty, J.M. Fat is fat, right? Check your omegas! https://gettyequinenutrition.com/pages/fat-is-fat-right-no-check-your-omegas
[vi] Omega 3 supplements can be found in Dr. Getty’s Free Shipping store: https://gettyequinenutrition.com/collections/omega-3-supplements
[vii] Kellon, E., 2006. Use of the herb Gynostemma pentaphyllum and the blue-green algae Spirulina platensis in horses. Third European Equine Nutrition and Health Congress, Gent, Belgium, March.
[viii] Kellon, E., 2006. Use of the herb Gynostemma pentaphyllum and the blue-green algae Spirulina platensis in horses. Third European Equine Nutrition and Health Congress, Gent, Belgium, March.
Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is an independent equine nutritionist with a wide U.S. and international following. Her research-based approach optimizes equine health by aligning physiology and instincts with correct feeding and nutrition practices. Dr. Getty’s goal is to empower the horseperson with the confidence and knowledge to provide the best nutrition for his or her horse’s needs. Learn more at www.gettyequinenutrition.com.