There’s nothing like a warming cup of herbal tea during the winter. But have you considered that your horse might also enjoy warm tea poured over or stirred into his bucket feed? Some of the medicinal effects herbal teas offer us can be good for horses too, and they will enjoy the extra warmth during the colder months.
Yarrow is a perennial herb. It is found worldwide and will grow almost anywhere. I love to make yarrow tea for my older horse, as it contains antiinflammatory and antiseptic properties, as well as astringent tannins. The silica also found in this plant helps repair damaged or worn out tissues in the body. Made into a tea, yarrow stimulates appetite and improves digestion as well as nutrient absorption.
Yarrow can be an efficient diuretic as it helps promote urine production and flow, assisting in the removal of excess fluids and toxins and helping prevent urinary tract problems caused by standing around in stalls during the winter.
To make yarrow tea, use ¼ to ½ cup of cut and sifted dried flowers, which contain some of the stems, in a quart jar. Pour boiling water over the flowers to the bottom of the jar’s rim, let the tea steep for a good hour until warm, then pour over the horse’s feed and mix in.
Ginger is a knobby root in the same plant family as turmeric and cardamom, all of which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. It’s a powerful natural painkiller as well. Ginger has been used all over the world in cooking as well as for medicinal reasons. Ginger tea is good for any tummy trouble or possible gas colic. In people, ginger ale and ginger beer help settle an upset stomach, while ginger tea is sometimes used by pregnant women for nausea.
I also like ginger tea for my horses during winter months because it has warming qualities and may help with any aches and pains they are feeling from the cold.
Slice a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger into small rounds (you can also grate it), put the pieces in a quart mason jar and pour boiling water over them. Let the tea steep until just warm, then remove the ginger pieces and pour the liquid over your horse’s bucket feed.
3. Rose hips
Rose hips only occur if the bushes are not pruned once the blossoms fade. Once the petals drop away, the rose hips will appear as small, reddish balls on the tips of stems, usually towards the end of the growing season. Rose hips have recently become a popular natural treatment for arthritis, and as a child my mom would give us liquid rose hips for our vitamin C to prevent winter colds and flu.
Rose hips are known to be a rich source of bioflavonoids, pectin, vitamin E, selenium, manganese, and B vitamins, and also contain trace amounts of magnesium, potassium, sulfur and silicon. They also offer anthocyanins (compounds with antioxidant properties), and contain carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein.
I feed cut and sifted or powdered rose hips to my horses year round for the vitamin C. Rose hips also offer naturally-occurring biotin for hoof health. When made into a tea, they have demulcent properties, forming a jelly and soothing the intestinal tract. To make the tea, use 1/8 to ¼ cup of cut and sifted rose hips steeped in a quart mason jar until just warm. Pour over bucket feed.
4. Lemon balm
I grow lemon balm in my garden, and harvest and dry it in the fall for use in the winter. Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and is known for its lemon fragrance. It makes a soothing tea often used to treat a number of complaints, including stomach problems.
When making lemon balm tea, use about an 1/8 of a cup of the dried herb in a quart mason jar, pour boiling water over the dried herbs, and let steep till warm. Pour the liquid over bucket feed and stir in well.
Peppermint tea is a favorite herbal tea for people, and also an herb I grow in my garden. It is not only tasty, but also refreshing, and is known as a healing plant. Peppermint tea can help with digestion and to prevent some forms of gas and possibly gas colic in horses. If I suspect gas colic in one of my horses, I place a couple drops of peppermint oil on his gums and his belly button area, with great results. Sometimes I will add some spearmint to the peppermint to make the tea as well.
Use ¼ cup of dried peppermint to one quart of boiling water in a mason jar, let steep, then pour the entire contents over bucket feed.
Having owned horses most of my life, it seems that more tummy troubles present themselves during the cold fall and winter months. This may be because many horses are stalled and aren’t able to move around enough to help with digestion.
I keep a pound of each of these herbs in my tack room down at the barn, and some fresh ginger in my refrigerator, ready for any time I feel my horses need an extra boost, or just a change to their bucket feed.