Echinacea is a group of flowers in the daisy family and the flowers, when in bloom, look similar to daisies – only pink, as you can see above. The plants grow in North America, and have historically been used by many tribal communities for medicinal purposes ranging from treating colds and flus to being used as a painkiller. It is said that Native Indians began using echinacea medicinally after seeing sick and injured elk seeking out the plant!
In recent years, Echinacea has found its way into many equine supplements, which is no surprise given the myriad benefits it is known for.
General benefits of echinacea include:
- anti bacterial properties
- Boosts immune system
- anti -inflammatory properties
- analgesic/ pain relieving
Research conducted at The Equine Research Centre in Ontario, Canada in 2001 found a number of additional benefits to feeding Echinacea. The horses in the study were supplemented with Echinacea for 42 days and the noticeable results were evident from day 28 onwards. The findings of the study included:
- increase in size and number of red blood cells
- increase in haemoglobin levels
- increased number of lymphocytes (a type of immune cells)
- increased activity of neutrophils (another type of immune cell) against pathogens
Echinacea is a fragrant and enticing herb, not just for humans but also for horses – not surprising when one considers how many health benefits it has to offer. Interestingly, alkamides in Echinacea mean that when consuming the herb it provides a tingling sensation on the tongue. Some horses find this unappealing so it is advisable to feed echinacea combined with other herbs or at least well mixed in with a hard feed.
Echinacea is especially useful for horses at times when their immune system is likely to be compromised, such as:
- moving yards
- change of season
- following illness or injury
The perfect time to introduce Echinacea to your horses diet is duringt he shift from the Summer months into Autumn and also at times when their immune system is exposed to stressors.
Have you do you feed your horse echinacea? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!