Chamomile - The Calming Herb
Chamomile, Anthemis noblis or Matricaria chamomilla, depending on the species you select, is an herb that can assist you with your horse. Lets explore the use of the herb, the homoeopathic remedy which only contains the vibrational qualities of the original plant, and the essential oil made from the distilled flower.
Chamomile the Herb
Chamomile is a hardy perennial herb that was often used in Europe as a pathway plant or strewn along walkways due to its aromatic properties in the Middle Ages. It was an herb that was employed in a garden to help ailing plants in its midst, and nine times out of ten it would see a drooping plant recover when a chamomile plant was placed close to it.
The carminative properties of chamomile have been documented over centuries and in one veterinary text I have from 1886 refers to the use of Anthemidis Flores for its carminative and stomachic properties.
Today we can use chamomile with our horses for complaints that are exaggerated by nervousness. A very effective and simple method of using chamomile that I have found is in the form of making up a bucket of 'tea' with the human tea bags and using it to dampen the hard feed. This is one of the simplest ways to use chamomile with your horses.
You can add the dried flower heads by the cupful to feed during times of duress, however it is not wise to rely on this long term as Chamomile has been shown to be toxic to the liver with long-term use. It is best not to give chamomile for more than three months at a time and when you do to give your horse's system a month's rest from the additive at the end of three months. Some horses can develop an intolerance to chamomile because of its effect on the liver, and if your horse gets itchy skin while on chamomile, take him off it.
Many commercially prepared calming blends do contain chamomile and at some levels of competition a certain amount is allowed, as in some countries chamomile is a field herb. However with more stringent rules constantly being introduced you do need to take care as to how much and when you give your horse chamomile.
The best application for using chamomile as a calming herb with a difficult to handle horse is in your preparation for competitions. It can be used as a tool to take the edge off a situation so that when your horse is facing a difficult situation he will simply accept it as part of the norm. It is not wise to become reliant on herbs; simply see them as a way to assist you to overcome a block in training, or in another instance to help with muscle soreness when you are working your horse in a different way. Some associations are now stating that the use of calming herbs is unsportsmanlike, so please check the rules that govern your sport before using chamomile close to a competition.
Chamomile is an excellent herb to include in your horse's feed when you are stepping up his training or moving into a different style of riding. It has a high level of magnesium and can help the body ease away muscle spasm or soreness when the new routine has been introduced.
Another application for the herb is pouring a cup or two over the feed of a horse prone to nervous colic. This is very useful when there is an obvious change in seasons. It is also a useful pain reliever when there is inflammation in the body somewhere and can be used as a poultice for painful bruising or muscle injuries.
A tea made from the dried flowers can be useful in bringing out the "blond" in a flaxen mane. The tea can also be used to wash out wounds or to wash stubborn skin conditions, especially those that are hot and irritated.
Chamomilla the Homoeopathic
When giving a homoeopathic to your horse you are often following principles that seem at odds to other therapies; here we are giving the tiniest dose possible to achieve the maximum response. It is important if you decide your horse needs a homoeopathic remedy that you do not administer any other herbs, drugs or feed within twenty minutes of giving the homoeopathic.
Chamomilla is a useful remedy when your horse has a slimy green diarrhoea; you can give a dose of 30C as soon as you notice this and re-dose again in 12 hours if you have not noticed a change in the condition. Do not ignore these symptoms and do call your vet for an opinion.
Its primary use in first aid remedies is with children who are bad tempered when teething. With your horse, if his teeth are sore and causing him to resist the bit in a strong and forceful way, you can administer Chamomilla to ease his discomfort and then call your dentist to address the physical aspects.
It is also a remedy to consider with a horse who suffers a false pregnancy or has inflamed or painful teats. This is a remedy to consider with any horse that develops a thirst and becomes irritable and restless. However the best way to use homoeopathics is with the guidance of a homoeopath, as homoeopaths are trained to recognize all the signs as the symptom picture and match it to the appropriate remedy. While Chamomilla may help your horse, there may be an even better remedy you are unaware of.
Chamomile the Essential Oil
Roman chamomile is a very versatile essential oil. It is the one I will use with every difficult horse. If a horse is putting on a temper tantrum, chamomile's calming properties will ease any hysterical or unruly behaviour. It promotes peace, easing worries and removing agitation.
The strong analgesic properties relieve dull muscular aches and stubborn spasms. It will also relieve overworked and inflamed muscles. It is useful for the horse competing in a multiple-day event. At the end of each day, chamomile will help calm the muscles and help the horse relax overnight for the next day. Chamomile has been mentioned as unsportsmanlike with some associations because of its calming properties. It does not contain the constituents that show positive in most prohibited substances tests, however this may change, so all due care should be taken if you are competing at a level where you will be swabbed.
Dry, flaking skin will respond well to chamomile and with chronic conditions use jojoba oil as your base carrier oil application as it is able to moisturise the skin deeply.
Consider chamomile when your horse has suffered repeated infections or is always lethargic. In a weekly blend it will stimulate the production of white corpuscles to aid the body's defences against low-grade infections and fortify your horse's immune defence system.
If your mare becomes unmanageable when she cycles, chamomile would be beneficial in her daily care a few days before. It is calming and also regulates the hormonal activity in the body.
Recently I was giving a talk at a college and we used a horse for the demonstration for selecting essential oils. This horse was very non-committal about any of the essential oils offered except for Chamomile. He constantly showed his interest in chamomile, and this suggested to me that he had some muscle soreness somewhere. We un-rugged him and found some massive spasms in his back and the back of his shoulder on the offside (it was his right nostril that kept inhaling the chamomile essential oil).
As you can see, Chamomile can come in many different forms and each can be used with your horse at various times.
When using any of these recommendations remember they do not replace veterinary care and always use common sense with natural therapies.
About the author:
Catherine Bird is a Sydney-based qualified Aromatherapist, Medical Herbalist and Massage Therapist specializing in treating animals. Her clients have included the NSW Mounted Police, Olympic level competitors, and horses in all disciplines as well as backyard pets. She is the author of "Horse Scents, Making Sense with Your Horse Using Aromatherapy", and "A Healthy Horse the Natural Way" to be released by New Holland Publishers in March 2002. She offers the Equine Aromatherapy Correspondence Course worldwide. For more information see www.happyhorses.com.au, and http://communities.msn.com/HealthyHappyHorses, or email Catherine directly at email@example.com.