All about Herbs & Tea

 feeding herbs

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Horses are herbivores, herbs are natures bounty for them. In today’s modern world horses cannot roam at leisure and pick out special herbs and grasses. We can help by adding some of what they are NOT getting in their diet by feeding herbs.



This grass is classed as a herb because of its deep rooting. It is a rich source of calcium, also contains chlorine, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and sulphur. It is high in protein, but this is a natural protein, and it is also a powerful natural diuretic, blood cleanser and nutritive. It contains eight digestive enzymes which stimulate the digestive system, enabling the proper assimilation of the nutrients provided. It is a very good ‘balancer’ to feed with oats, although it is a complete feed in its own right.


These are a well known plant and any of the older generation of trainers/stud grooms would send the lads out to pick dandelions for the horses’ lunch. They are a very good source of calcium, copper, fluorine, magnesium, potassium, sodium and sulphur. The whole plant, if possible, should be pulled and fed. The roots look after the liver, stimulating it and cleansing; they are bitter, so also work to promote appetite and digestion. The leaves are the diuretic, flushing and toning the kidneys, hence the French name for them ‘pis en lit’ or ‘pee the bed’!


Meadowsweet grows on the road sides, usually where there are ditches and moisture, it grows prolifically in Ireland, it is a tall plant with beautiful white flowers that look similar to cotton wool balls. Apart from having the most beautiful aroma, and will, if hung to dry in your barns, perfume them, it is a brilliant anti-inflammatory. Cut the plant when the flowers are in bloom, hang them in bunches from the beams of your stables where hopefully they will dry, and once dried just run your hands down the stems and all the leaves and flowers will fall into what ever receptacle you have, make sure its airtight and then you can feed it over the winter.


Good old common nettles, everyone complains about them growing everywhere. But they are a very important herb: the richest source of chlorophyll in the vegetable kingdom, they are rich in minerals including iron, lime, potassium, sodium, sulphur and contain much protein. They can be either cut or wilted or boiled and both juice and nettle added to feed. Old fashioned hay tea was made by putting a wedge of hay into a container and covering it with boiled nettle juice. Nettles are a very good blood cooler/cleanser and they are helpful in cases of arthritis, spots or nettle rashes which are usually caused by too much protein the diet – in fact they are just a good spring tonic for both man and beast.


This is another herb as useful externally as internally, It is one of the most efficient infection fighters in the ‘natural’ medicine chest. It can be used as a poultice, especially if it is mixed with slippery elm, the drawing power is incredible, and it can be used internally to fight infection especially in the kidneys and bladder.

Yucca {Yucca Filamentosa}

The medicinal parts of this plant are the leaves and roots of non flowering plants. Yucca's main claim to fame is its high saponin content. It contains steroid saponins. Many have claimed to have success with using yucca to help arthritis type problems, but I have found it to be only somewhat reliable. Yucca is better indicated for the liver. Yucca can lead to stomach upset, cramps and pain. I cannot take yucca myself as it gives me a chronic stomach pain the entire time I am using it. I feel that the other herbs available will work better and are safer with fewer side effects than yucca.

Devil's Claw {Harpagophytum procumbens}

The medicinal part of this plant is the dried roots. Devil's claw will work well on arthritis type conditions. Harpagophytum, which is one of its active compounds, is a very good appetite stimulant and it has antiphlogistic (inflammation reducing) and analgesic (pain relieving) effects. The one problem with Devil's claw is that it does stimulate gastric juice secretion and shouldn't be over used if stomach or duodenal ulcers are present as it could aggravate these conditions. This herb should not be used on pregnant horses.

White Willow Bark {Salix Species}

The medicinal part of this tree is its actual bark. The bark is usually ground up into a powder form to be easily fed to the horse, or one may make an herbal extraction from the bark itself. Salix nigra is American willow and this is where our modern day aspirin was first discovered. The glycosides in white willow consist of salicylic acid, salicin, and salicortin.

The effectiveness of white willow depends on the proportion of salicin present, but in general terms, white willow bark works very well as an aspirin or 'bute' replacement with no side effects such as those associated with aspirin. Many have concerns that white willow will have similar side effects that are associated with an overdose of aspirin, but one must keep in mind that the white willow bark contains many other compounds that help to balance this herb, whereas today's aspirin is super concentrated and can cause stomach complaints and ulcers.

A few other herbs that many may not be aware of that may help and are usually used in herbal combinations are: Meadowsweet herb, Burdock root, Chamomile flowers, Rosemary leaf, and Celery seed.

Meadowsweet Herb {Filipendula Ulmaria}

This will be a difficult herb for most folks to find, because the part of the plant that contains the highest amount of salicylaldehyde is in the flower heads, but the body and leaves do contain a small amount. Most often Meadowsweet herb is used for colds, coughs and bronchitis and does help with minor digestive problems. This herb also has some analgesic properties and may help with minor aches and pains in the arthritic horse.

Rosemary Leaf {Rosemarinus Officinalis} and Celery {Apium Graveolens}

Rosemary contains a high percentage of volatile oil along with many active constituents. Rosemary will help with circulation and thus aid the arthritic horse. Celery seeds and roots are usually used as a diuretic but also have anti-inflammatory actions as well. A small amount of each of these herbs could benefit the arthritic horse.

Chamomile Flowers {Matricaria Chamomilla}

The medicinal parts of the Chamomile plant are the whole flowers. Chamomile flowers have been used for centuries to help with a large assortment of medicinal conditions, most notably digestive upset, loss of appetite, the common cold and to help heal wounds and burns. But Chamomile does have anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties and will help ease some of the arthritic horse's aches and pains. Chamomile flowers contain a high percentage of volatile oil, one of which is chamazulene. Chamomile also contains many flavonoids and a compound called hydroxycoumarins. The main active constituents are the flavonoids and essential oils. This combination has antiphlogistic and antispasmodic effects. The anti-inflammatory effect is caused by the chamomile flavones.

Burdock {Arctium Lappa}

The medicinal part used is the root of the common burdock plant. Yes, this is that rather nasty looking huge plant with those sticky burrs that get into horses manes and tails! Burdock is a very good blood purifier, antiseptic and diuretic. I always like to use a good blood cleanser/purifier when treating horses with arthritis conditions. Burdock root contains a bitter glycoside called arctiin, a bitter principle Lappin, and inulin which is a polysaccharide, but shouldn't be confused with insulin, which is not the same thing. There are also flavonoids, mucilage, resin, oils, lactones, tannin and an un-named antibiotic substance.


Rosehips, the bulbous part of the dog rose flower that remains after the blooms have dropped, called the hips, is very high in Vitamin C and is one of the best sources for natural iron, calcium, biotin, pectin, phosphorus, tannin and Vitamins A B1, B2, C, E K and P, just to name a few.

Health benefits associated with Rosehips include being a mild purgative to help gently move the bowel and an astringent to help reduce mucous and fluid in the body. 

Rosehips are a natural diuretic, blood purifier and tonic that can be used to strengthen and invigorate the body to give a general feeling of wellbeing.

In horses Rosehips have been specifically used to improve the growth of hooves, assist in the rehabilitation of kidney and adrenal function and as a preventative for ‘tying up’.

Tea or Tisane for horses? Why not?

Make a tea by adding hot water and adding this to their grain once it is cooled. Simply pour one quart hot water over tea, cover  and let steep for about 20 minutes or until cool. 

You can also make Sun Tea by placing the jar of tea in the sun for 4 hours​​

Benefits of Tea

  • Chamomile
Helps to lower stress and calming effects, The cooled tea is also very soothing when used as a wash for inflamed skin​
    • Dandelion

    Helps to flush out toxins, blood cleanser, helpful for adjusting to season change​

    • Raspberry

    Excellent for diarrhea and upper respiratory conditions, beneficial for moody mares​

    • Rosehips

    Provides and easily assimilated form of Vitamin C, Rosehips stimulate and strengthen the immune system, beneficial to your horse coat and hooves. Rosehips are also very beneficial for Arthritis pain​

    • Peppermint

    Can be used to encourage fussy eaters, or for those horses prone to colic. great for horses who do not travel well to help dispel nervousness.