Echinacea: an aid on fighting infections in horses

Keeping the equine immune system healthy to help the horse fight off infection and disease is one particular area where herbal remedies, such as the Echinacea flowers, leaf and root have generated a lot of interest and support.

The Echinacea is a plant endemic in North America, with purple or white flowers, which grows to approximately 3 feet tall. It is also known as coneflower for its conic-shaped flowers that make it a favorite ornamental plant and has been used for centuries for humans as a treatment for colds, flu, and general infections.

The subject of more than 350 scientific studies, Echinacea has proved useful both in tissue regeneration and as an anti-inflammatory, at least in studies on humans.

Echinacea increases the disease fighting capability of the body by raising the response that naturally occurs when the body fights off any kind of infection. It can be used as preventative medicine or as a treatment for diseases.

A proven success in horses

The Equine Research Centre in Canada has recently done extensive testing of Echinacea in horses, feeding them with Echinacea for 42 days then fed no Echinacea for the same period of time. Blood samples were taken and subjected to a complete screen every seven days. The Echinacea increased the horses' level of white blood cells, lymphocytes (involved with the immune response) and hemoglobin (oxygen carrier). It also increased the activity of the neutrophils (cells which consume foreign particles in the blood).

One of its significant features is the enhanced stimulation of white blood cells into areas of infection and is a proven immune system stimulant, which means echinacea can be used as a preventative measure where infections are locally present.

If for example, an infected horse or pony is introduced to a yard, a course of echinacea will benefit not only the infected horse but also the remaining horses in the yard, where it will boost their antibody levels and act as a preventative to cross infection. Echinacea can also be used in case of:

  • skin wounds and other infectious conditions
  • where a cough or equine flu is present
  • where the immune system has been depressed
  • to help boost recovery after illness

Is it toxic?

Echinacea has been found to have very little side-effects. Massive doses (many times the human therapeutic dose) were given to mice with no ill effects. If your horse is on any other medication, then check with your vet prior to feeding. Although, be careful! Corticosteroids medicaments can counteract the effect of this plant, and the Echinacea may increase allergic reactions in some horses with respiratory or skin allergies. Like all herbs, you should introduce them slowly and stop immediately if you have an adverse reaction.

If used continuously for a long time, the echinacea starts to lose its effect. So, it is recommended to use for no longer than 4 to 8 weeks followed by a one week rest period. After the rest period, the Echinacea's effect should be optimal again. Feed your horse about 30-50 grams of dried Echinacea a day, or as a liquid extract which is more concentrated than the dry.

Our Echinacea liquid extract is in an organic cider vinegar base which is highly nutritious in itself and made from the Echinacea purpurea roots, which is the part that has the highest concentration of active principles. This is a faster acting formula than the dried leaf and can be syringed directly into the mouth or added to feed.

Check out our range of Echinacea supplements for your horse here.