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Volume 15, Issue 3-Feed Facts and Fancies
Boswellia Serrata and the Management of Equine Inflammation
By Stephanie Krahl
Managing your equine partner’s inflammation, especially that of a senior horse who has chronic pain, can be challenging. Some level of inflammation in the body is needed in order to stay healthy, but more often than not it persists and leads to chronic disease. Chronic inflammation is commonly referred to as “The Silent Killer” because it has been linked to an array of conditions such as cancer, allergies, diabetes, arthritis, etc.
Combating Your Horse’s Inflammation in a Clever Yet Strategic Manner
Good horse care practitioners use supplementation to reduce and combat the damage inflammation causes. You have to be clever and strategic in your approach to reducing inflammation in order to balance the goal of alleviating your horse’s pain with not compromising the healing mechanism of the body. For example, although non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can assist in reducing inflammation, your horse pays the price for their use due to the risky side effects. This type of approach is neither clever nor strategic but is simply a short-lived band-aid that can put unnecessary stress on your horse’s body.
NSAIDs - Side Effects and Toxicity
NSAIDs are commonly used in the equine industry for treating inflammation and chronic pain. Although there is an exception to every rule, I intentionally choose not to give my horse toxic substances, such as NSAIDs, because one common side-effect is ulcers. In addition to causing stomach bleeding, they also deplete trace minerals such as selenium and zinc as well as important B vitamins needed to naturally reduce inflammation. It’s important to weigh out your options. These drugs have issues with toxicity as well as side effects that contradict their intended value.
A Common Challenge When Addressing Equine Inflammation
A common problem for most horses is poor digestive health - such as inefficient nutrient assimilation and ulcers. If you compromise the digestive system, it’s downhill from there. Giving a drug to your horse that degrades digestive health usually results in the detrimental cycle of having to give another drug for the side effects of the initial drug. I speak from experience - you don’t want to go down that path. If you can’t get high quality nutrients into a compromised horse, then it’s often a losing battle. Even some common herbs used as an approach for reducing inflammation, such as devil’s claw, may cause digestive upset.
The first principle to adhere to before choosing a product for managing inflammation (for the short term or long term), is to take digestive health into consideration. Without it, your horse will experience less than ideal results from any anti-inflammatory substance you choose for her.
Naturally Decreasing Inflammation - A Guiding Principle
Did you know your horse’s diet is key to fighting inflammatory reactions? The next principle to consider is evaluating your horse’s diet for foods that can cause inflammation such as processed supplements, commercial feed stuffs, food stuffs high in sugars, and rancid/poor quality fats. The quality of the food you give your horse is the most important first step to reducing inflammation. Other causes of inflammation include excessive stress on the body through unnatural workloads, and the intentional use of excessive toxic substances that have a cumulative effect on your horse’s system over time.
When you naturally decrease chronic inflammation using an appropriate diet for your horse, and a whole-istic approach to equine health, your horse’s body will work with her in order to heal and rebuild. With all that being said, choose substances for managing inflammation wisely and strategically. In other words, don’t make choices for your horse based on clever advertising or pressure from external influences. It’s important that you come to your own conclusions. Don’t listen to the experts. Listen to your horse first and the experts second. You know your horse better than anyone.
Suppress Your Horse’s Inflammation Using this Ancient Superfood
Although there are many wonderful food substances that can assist in managing inflammation in your horse, one such food is an herb and a superfood (foods that have a dozen or more unique properties) shown to have extraordinary healing and anti-inflammatory capabilities - boswellia serrata (frankincense).
Boswellia is a moderate to large branching tree native to India that has a long standing history in Ayurvedic medicine. The gum resin secreted by the boswellia tree has many pharmacological uses, particularly as an anti-inflammatory. For thousands of years it has been used extensively in Ayurveda to manage a wide range of conditions - such as joint pain and gastrointestinal irritation. Much like other special foods, this time-tested Ayurvedic herb is one of many that are being rediscovered in our present-day culture.
Researchers discovered in the late 1970s that boswellia provides notable anti-inflammatory effects. It has been shown in studies to reduce inflammation by blocking the pro-inflammatory enzyme 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX). Through its action in blocking 5-LOX, boswellia demonstrates effects that may help combat cancer, atherosclerosis, and asthma. Clinical studies reveal that boswellia also relieves the symptoms and discomfort of arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Boswellia’s Extraordinary Health Benefits
This unique superfood has the ability to help with a wide range of health conditions that include but are not limited to:
Although each of these conditions I’ve listed seems different from each other, they all share one thing in common - inflammation. The primary cause of virtually every major disease is inflammation and oxidative stress (free radical damage). It’s important that your natural horse care program promotes a healthy lifestyle that decreases and potentially eliminates these two causes of disease. I like to think of it as “stacking the odds in my horse’s favor.”
Some benefits of sustained use of boswellia for horses are:
The amount of boswellia to feed will vary depending on your horse’s size. You can start with 4 teaspoons/day (2 teaspoons twice/day) of 100% pure boswellia serrata for an average size horse. As with any food substance you choose for your horse, sourcing and quality matters. Boswellia may interact with some medications so consult your veterinarian if you have a concern. I tend to not mix boswellia together with other supplements used to treat joint diseases such as glucosamine or chondroitin because it may decrease boswellia’s effectiveness. However, it does work synergistically with other herbs such as turmeric, ginger and ashwaghanda.
Not a Silver Bullet but a Silver Lining
Boswellia has a long standing history and has been heavily researched and proven effective on multiple levels against fighting inflammation. It’s used as a safe and effective remedy for a number of conditions. Unlike NSAIDs, the long-term use of boswellia doesn’t cause stomach irritation or ulceration.
As with any approach to your horse’s health care, there’s never a silver bullet solution. You don’t simply say, “Feed this herb or food and everything should magically get better.” It’s important to always address the underlying cause of any health issue. For example, one of the main causes of arthritis is digestive concerns. Therefore, search for solutions that work with the body’s healing mechanism and not against it. If it’s chemically manipulated in a lab, it’s not the best choice. Solutions to health issues can be found when you continue to use approaches that move toward Mother Nature, not away from her.
If you would like more information, I’d recommend digging into some of the resources I’ve provided that point to countless studies about this exceptional superfood.
About the author:
Stephanie Krahl is a natural horse care specialist, co-founder and CEO of Soulful Equine® and author of the book Guiding Principles of Natural Horse Care. She teaches horse guardians about natural concepts that help their horses THRIVE. When she's not with horses Stephanie loves watching movies, reading, and going to the gun range. Connect with her at: www.soulfulequine.com
Boswellia Information and Resources
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