Clinical Uses in Horses: There are two natural supplements, thiamine and valerian root, commonly used to decrease nervous conditions in horses. You will need to experiment to see which works best for your horse's individual needs.
Vitamin B1 thiamine for calm nerves. Thiamin has a profound influence on the brain and mood. It is water soluble, making it safe to feed on a continuous basis in the regular grain ration or given 10 to 30 minutes before riding. It is packaged for horses and available in feed stores, so check the label of any commercially available thiamine product to determine the recommended dose.
Valerian root is also an effective herbal calmer for horses. It can be used on its own, or you may want to try one of the commercially prepared supplements for horses that contains valerian. In some cases, high doses of valerian are required. If you are interested in trying one of the products, follow the label directions for the recommended dose. If you want to use the root alone, you can purchase it from a health food store or online at Pacific Botanicals (their herbs are of high quality).
Dose: The standard equine dose for valerian is one-half ounce (15 grams) a day, mixed in the feed. Or, consult your holistic veterinarian about the recommended dose for your horse.
The United States Food and Drug Administration listed valerian as "Generally Recognized As Safe" (GRAS). Scientists aren't sure how valerian works, but they believe it increases the amount of a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA helps regulate nerve cells and has a calming effect on anxiety. A class of drugs called benzodiazepines, (Xanax and Valium), also work by increasing the amount of GABA in the brain. Researchers think valerian may have a similar effect.
Valerian root has a sharp, smelly odor and is often combined with other calming herbs, including passionflower, hops, lemon balm or scullcap to make a calming tea.
Valerian has been used for pain, gastrointestinal spasms and distress, epileptic seizures, and hyperactivity disorders.
NOTE: Use of valerian root is banned at most horse shows and horse racing events.
If you are a cat owner: Valerian root will give a cat the same sense of ecstasy as catnip. Valerian is a mild stimulant. Though it is considered to be a safe herb, it shouldn't be given to cats with kidney ailments.
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