Some commonly fed herbs and other functional foods in equine nutrition: a review

Vet J. 2008 Oct;178(1):21-31. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2007.06.004. Epub 2007 Aug 8.


Most herbs and functional foods have not been scientifically tested; this is especially true for the horse. This paper reviews some of the literature pertinent to herbal supplementation in horses and other species. Common supplements like Echinacea, garlic, ginger, ginseng, and yucca are not regulated, and few studies have investigated safe, efficacious doses. Ginseng has been found to exert an inhibitory effect on pro-inflammatory cytokines and cyclooxygenase-2 expression. Equine studies have tested the anti-inflammatory effects of a single dose of ginger, post-exercise. Echinacea has been reported to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Yucca contains steroid-like saponins, which produce anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-spasmodic effects. However, some herbs have drug-like actions that interact with dietary components and may contain prohibited substances like salicylates, digitalis, heroin, cocaine and marijuana. Horses fed garlic at >0.2g/kg per day developed Heinz body anaemia. Drug-herb interactions are common and caution needs to be taken when implementing 'natural product' usage.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed*
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Diet / veterinary*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Horses / physiology*