Garlic has been used medicinally for about 5000 years. This well known plant, of which the bulb is used, is widely cultivated. With many of us supplementing our horses with garlic it is important to understand both the pros and cons of feeding garlic to our beloved horses.
Garlic has several actions:
• Antibiotic – treats a bacterial based condition.
• Expectorant – assists in the break up and moving of mucous and phlegm.
• Antihistamine – reduced inflammation caused by pollens, dusts and other allergy producing substances.
• Antiparasitic – removed parasites such as intestinal worms which colonise your horse’s gut.
In human research, it has to reduce blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. Eating garlic releases strong aromatic compounds which are excreted through the skin and acts as a fly repellent.
The uses of garlic are many. This herb is very beneficial for horses with allergic coughing, and bronchitis. It is a useful addition to antibiotic treatments in cases of infection. The blood-cleansing action makes regular use of garlic a good preventative measure for horses prone to laminitis and sweet itch. A poultice of crushed fresh cloves can be used for infected or dirty wounds.
Although garlic can be fed fresh at the rate of up to five cloves per day, most horses prefer a proprietary powder, mixed into the feed at a rate of up to 50 g per day.
Garlic can be detrimental to your horse’s health if fed long term. Research has shown that long term use of garlic can decrease your horse’s red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen around your horse’s body. Each red blood cell carries four oxygen molecules.
When your horse has low numbers of red blood cells it is called anaemia. Symptoms range from mild to severe and with normal dosage of garlic it is often difficult to tell. However, long term used of garlic can affect your horse’s stamina, energy level, and resistance to disease.
Garlic should be used for the short term treatment of a condition, not as a regular supplement.