medical writing and editing for the animal health community
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Using herbs in horses is a no-brainer for me. Horses are herbivores; they are designed by nature to live on a diet of plants. Although horses and other herbivores do occasionally eat animal-source items, generally they do so by choice only in situations of nutritional deficiency, when their needs are not being met by their vegetarian diet. ... When an adequate quantity, quality, and variety of plant material is available, horses choose—and thrive on—plants.
So, plants are the principal nutrient source for horses. The neat thing is that many plants also have medicinal properties. Not only do we humans know that, animals seem to instinctively know it, too. (In fact, we may have learned much of it from them.) Self-medication is a specific behavior that biologists have only lately begun to study but that indigenous people and herdsmen have known about for as long as humans and animals have been living together. Both wild and domesticated animals have been observed to select specific plants and even eat soil, clay, and charcoal when ill, injured, parasitized, or otherwise unhealthy. I have witnessed this behavior many times in my patients. In fact, I rely on it when I’m unsure of what to provide an animal for nutritional or medicinal benefit.
Herbs as food and medicine
Taking a metaphorical leaf from nature’s book, in my veterinary practice I use herbs for two primary purposes: as food and as medicine. Of course, there’s a great deal of overlap there, because it’s as Hippocrates advised:
“Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine thy food.”
In fact, I suspect that one of the ways medicinal herbs aid in healing is by providing nutrients which have been lacking in the animal’s diet. Certainly, there’s more going on biochemically (and, I believe, energetically) with the more potent medicinal herbs. But for me the line is very much blurred between nutrition and medicine.
Still, to keep it as simple as possible, I’ve divided the recipes in this book into two general categories:
* herbs as food (chapter 2)
* herbs as medicine (chapter 3)
You may be tempted to jump straight to the second group of recipes, especially if your horse has a current medical problem. But please give the first group of recipes a good look, too. When we eat well, there is less need for medicine of any kind, whether herbal, homeopathic, nutritional, or pharmaceutical.
Although I use each of those classes of medicine in my veterinary practice, time and again I’ve found that simply changing the horse’s diet can be enough to correct whatever medical, performance, or even behavioral problem I was called out to treat. Whether horse or human, our bodies are designed to be self-maintaining and self-repairing, and that’s the way they function—provided that they have all the nutrients they need to do so.
By the way, this book is primarily about herbs for horses, but I do use herbs in other herbivores and in dogs and cats as well, both nutritionally and medicinally. Where appropriate, you’ll see notes on suggested use of the blend for dogs and cats.
More on herbs as food
Here’s my philosophy on feeding horses: Regardless of age, breed, occupation, dollar value, performance level, or health status, horses do best when fed a diet that is as close as possible to what nature has provided for them—a wide variety of plants that changes with the seasons.
“As close as possible” will mean different things for different horses and in different circumstances, but the fundamentals are the same for all. While the typical performance horse is required to do far more than his wild or feral counterparts, his physiology is the same. He is still a horse, and he will do best when fed a diet to which the horse’s digestive system and metabolism have adapted over the millennia.
the horse’s natural diet
The horse's natural diet consists of many different grasses, legumes, and various other meadow and woodland plants. Naturalists estimate that wild or feral horses may browse from at least 50 different types of plants, depending on what’s available in that location at that time. The variety comes not just from the range of plant species available, but also from the variations in plant types, parts (roots, stems, bark, leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds), and constituents with the different seasons.
One might argue that wild or feral horses eat this way because they must, simply to survive. There certainly is a “make do” element to the way wild or feral horses live in most parts of the world. But having practiced both conventionally and holistically during my veterinary career, I can attest to the health benefits gained by attempting to replicate that variety in the way we feed domesticated horses. ...
Copyright © Christine M. King, 2011. All rights reserved.
Chapter 2: Herbs as Food - 8 nutritive blends
Chapter 3: Herbs as Medicine - 7 medicinal blends
Chapter 4: Glossary - ingredients defined
Chapter 5: Sources - trusted US sources for ingredients
“Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine thy food.” That’s what Hippocrates advised, and that’s the basis for the herbal recipes contained in this book. These are the herbal blends veterinarian Dr. Christine King developed and uses in her practice. Most of the recipes are designed for horses and other grazing animals, but some can also be used in dogs and cats. Some of the blends were formulated primarily for nutritional purposes, others primarily medicinal, but all are safe, palatable, easy to use, and road-tested. Now with this recipe book you can make them for your own animals.
the Anima Herbal Recipe book
notes & recipes by Dr. Christine King
Anima Books, 2011
softcover, 8x10 in., 50 pages
Available at Amazon.com.
Please note: this little book simply comprises the recipes for the herbal blends I use in my practice. Its value therefore lies in the instructions for making these veterinarian-formulated blends yourself, rather than having to buy them premade.