By: Larissa Cox
During the month of September, I will be focusing on calming supplements for horses. I will be explaining some of the more common used supplements, the history and use of each. Hope you enjoy Calmers of September.
One of the oldest medicinally used herbs, Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis), was commonly used in medieval times to treat a wide variety of conditions earning the name of “all-heal.” While us humans find the pungent aroma of the root powder very unpleasant, cats and rats are quite enamored of it and one version of the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin lured rats to their deaths not only with his music but also by enticing them with valerian! This herb was widely used during the first and second World Wars to prevent shell shock in troops and to reduce civilian stress during the many air raids of WWII.
Valerian, a herbal remedy, has become increasingly popular due to it’s ability to relieve many stress-related symptoms. Insomnia, nervous tension and anxiety, mood disturbances, pain, headache, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, palpitations have all been reportedly treated with valerian with success. European research has verified valerian’s facility for encouraging restful sleep in both the ability to fall asleep as well as sleep quality and lowering blood pressure. It seems to help to calm the excitable and over-active mind as well as relaxing muscle spasms. In addition, valerian is non-addictive.
This root is one of the most widely used herbal nerviness for calming horses. When correctly applied and dosed, it can relieve anxiety and excitability without reducing the horse’s mental faculties or their physical ability to perform. Some experiments have actually shown that valerian increases coordination and concentration abilities.
Valerian should not be the “quick-fix” for your horse’s nervous problems, but it can be helpful for treating stress-related issues. However, please note that valerian is considered a banned substance by most equestrian competition associations, so this herb cannot be used before or while in active competition. As valerian has a very strong aroma, there may be a need to slowly build up to the appropriate dose for your horse and should be introduced gradually to the horse’s feed. Too much valerian can have a laxative effect, so please do not administer this herb to horses prone to loose manure without consulting your veterinarian. Do not administer valerian to pregnant mares or in combination with any form of pharmaceutical tranquilisers without consulting both your veterinarian and equine herbalist.