Does your lady equine get cranky and irritable when she’s in season? These herbs will give her relief from hormonal fluctuations.
We’ve all heard the talk. “Mares are difficult to handle when they come into season.” “Mares are moody and cranky.” “Mares have unpredictable temperaments.” It’s not so different from the typical derogatory comments we hear about women. And mares aren’t so different from us, either. They benefit from a soft voice and a gentle touch as much as we do. And the following herbs can provide very effective relief from hormonal imbalances.
Chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus)
Chaste tree has been used for centuries around the world to combat erratic hormonal behavior. It was even used by monks to tame their testosterone derived desires. The wonder of chaste tree is that it will bring down any hormone that is too high, and raise any hormone that is too low. It regulates the pituitary gland, which in turn regulates all the other glands in the body. Irregular heats, missed heats, and overpowering seasons can all be ameliorated with daily doses of chaste tree. Begin it in the early spring, one to two months before your mare’s regular season begins, and you will see a difference from the beginning. If you are trying to breed your mare, take her off chaste tree during the actual heat. Conventional dosage is up to one teaspoon of the dried berries with your horse’s feed each day.
European angelica (Angelica archangelica)
and dong quai (Angelica sinensis) These can be used in conjunction with chaste tree or on their own to help balance irregular heats and reduce unpleasant symptoms caused by hormonal imbalances. These warming, strengthening herbs have a balancing action on the female hormonal system, although they do not have hormonelike effects themselves. Both angelicas contain coumarin compounds, which help relieve muscle cramping and painful menstruations while strengthening the circulatory system. Dong quai can sometimes cause photosensitivity, so use with light-colored mares is not recommended. As with chaste tree, do not use these herbs during pregnancy or mating. Although angelica is not an anticoagulant, horses on blood thinners should not take it because it may decrease the ability of the body to metabolize prescribed blood thinners. Use one to two teaspoons of the dried herb daily.
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) and hops (Humulus lupulus)
Both these herbs have estrogenic effects and can be used to calm anxiety and reduce irritability in a mare (or any other horse for that matter). Horses especially love the taste of red clover tops – a few every day can make a world of difference. We regularly seed a small area of our own pasture with red clover and see our mares self-medicating throughout the summer months. Our mares are all noticeably calm and well behaved during training sessions. Use one to two tablespoons of red clover or hops each day.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), stinging nettle (Urtica diotica), white willow (Salix alba), and meadowsweet (Filipendia ulmaria)
If a mare in heat behaves sweetly when you visit her, but becomes a grump when you try to ride her, chances are she’s actually uncomfortable. Just like humans, mares can suffer from bloating, cramps and general achiness when they’re in season. These four herbs are good for combating aches and pains – they are all anodynes, or pain relievers.
Thyme and stinging nettle are both highly anti-inflammatory and cleansing to the body. They are perfectly safe to use long term without any side effects. White willow and meadowsweet are natural sources of salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. They are much gentler on the stomach than aspirin, and can also generally be used long term without causing any harm to the body.
If you are breeding your mare, I would suggest using stinging nettle over the other three herbs. Nettle is a safe, nutritive herb that can be continued throughout pregnancy. It’s so beneficial to the system that a horse really can’t have too much. For regular administration, one to three tablespoons each day is suggested. Thyme, willow and meadowsweet can be given daily — up to one tablespoon. Avoid willow and meadowsweet if your mare is especially prone to ulcers or digestive upsets.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiac)
Motherwort ameliorates the nervous system to create a calmer, less hormonal mare. If your horse is famous in her barn for being unpleasant during heats, give motherwort a go. It will gently strengthen her circulatory system while balancing her seasonal PMS. Give up to two teaspoons of motherwort daily.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla or Matricaria matricarioides)
Chamomile is calming and anti-inflammatory. It’s also an emmenagogue, which means that while it soothes your mare’s nerves, it will also help alleviate any discomfort she is experiencing. If she seems to be missing her heats, chamomile can help encourage her season. Although not suggested for use during pregnancy, you can resume feeding your mare chamomile while she is nursing to promote lactation and help relax both the mother and foal. Give one tablespoon daily.
Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)
This herb has been used for centuries in Europe as a woman’s tonic, and is well known for its ability to benefit the uterine system. It is strengthening and regulating, and has been used extensively to enhance fertility. It has even been used to shrink fibroids.
Red Raspberry (rubus idaeus)
This is another wonderful uterine tonic herb. I use the leaves regularly with pregnant mares, and took it myself in conjunction with nettle throughout both my pregnancies. The leaves contain fragrine, a potent alkaloid that strengthens the uterus and entire pelvic region. They are also very calming to the nervous system, and can be used throughout a heat to encourage fertility and sweeten your mare. You can give one to three teaspoons daily. In the first four months of pregnancy, limit daily intake to one teaspoon, and increase gradually after that.
You can’t fight Mother Nature. But you can use some of the herbs she’s given us to help your mare feel more balanced!
Herbs tend to be cumulative in effect, which means they can take anywhere from several days to a few weeks to show optimal benefits. Once your horse has been on an herb for a month, you can often drop back to a lower maintenance dosage, which is generally one-half to two-thirds the previous dose.
Medicinal herbs are potent healing tools. As you would with any conventional medicine, always check your horse’s current medications and feed ingredients for possible interactions when beginning any new herbal regime.
Maya Cointreau has over 15 years of experience in herbal healing. She is a Reiki Master and has studied both Russian and Native American healing methods, in addition to traditional Western naturopathy, homeopathy, herbalism and aromatherapy. She has written several books on alternative healing, including Equine Herbs & Healing and Natural Animal Healing. You can find her books and more herbal healing info at earthlodgeherbals.com.