California Riding Magazine • February, 2013

Taming Inflammation
Herbs can help body keep
inflammation in check.

by Dr. Thomas Schell

Inflammation is like most good things: too much can become a bad thing. The body has good intentions when it produces the swelling, heat, redness, pain and loss of function we know as inflammation. However, when the inflammation is ongoing it is no longer helpful and may be destructive.

All those hours of cold hosing your horse's swollen, injured leg are designed to prevent the inflammation from continuing to the point where it is destructive. Often, other methods may need to come to the rescue to tame the inflammation for such problems as a puncture wound in the foot or arthritis, laminitis or insulin resistance.

So what good is inflammation if we are always trying to get rid of it? It does cause our horses pain so that they show a sign, such as limping, to let us know something is wrong. But also the inflammatory response destroys bacteria in a wound. In an acute injury the inflammation works like a fire. It's hot and restricted to the injury site where it performs its cleaning job.

Once the injury is healed, the fire dies out. However, in a chronic condition the fire is more of a smoldering pile of embers, flaring up intermittently, but still constantly emitting heat. The cause of the constant inflammation is likely diet, exercise, environmental influences, medications, behavior, genetics, vaccines or a combination thereof.

During an acute condition, the body increases the release of the pro-inflammatory chemical messengers called cytokines. These trigger the perception of pain and prompt blood circulation and cellular function to work in a way that aids recovery. However continual release of the cytokines fuels the fire that damages tissue, causes ongoing pain and leads to loss of function.

Therefore controlling the inflammatory response becomes our goal. To accomplish that control we have the choice of administering prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), injections or herbal solutions.

Actually, 80 percent of prescription medications are derived from or are modeled after herbs. Science, however, has discovered that when we try to replicate or enhance the effects of herbs, we run into detrimental responses. While NSAIDs are quite effective short term, long term and frequent use can cause serious side effects. In my opinion, as a veterinarian, if a medication is designed for use every six months and yet is being used weekly, the problem is not being addressed.

Through research trials and centuries of application in medicinal cultures, various herbs have shown considerable promise in controlling inflammation long term, with minimal side effects, and a more broad approach to treating clinical problems and diseases.
Curcumin is one of the most heavily researched anti-inflammatory herbs. It is also an antioxidant that decreases oxidative stress.

oswellia serrata appears to reduce inflammation. Natural compounds vitamin C, vitamin E and co-enzyme Q10 help to modify the oxidative stress component of inflammation. Flax seed, alfalfa, various medicinal mushrooms and spirulina blue-green algae help to provide natural sources of antioxidants, essential fatty acids, protein or amino acids, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, and various minerals to help support an overall healthy immune response and
cellular function.

Inflammation is a complicated process and prescription medications often tackle only one component of the cascade of events.
Herbs may not be as quick acting as traditional medications, but the results can be superior in the long run. If we can control or modulate the inflammatory process through the use of various herbs, then we can reduce pain, improve recoveries and boost our equine companions' quality of life.

Author Dr. Thomas Schell is a graduate of Ohio State University and is board certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in Equine Practice. He is also certified by the College of Integrative Veterinary Therapy in Chinese herbal medicine. Dr. Schell's clinical research led to the establishment of Nouvelle Veterinary in 2008 and the creation of the equine, canine and human supplements Cur-OST®, an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant formula which controls pain, improves mobility and supports a healthy immune response.

Supplement Storage
Herbal formulas require special care.

The beauty of herbal products is the health and healing power found in their purity. However, this same quality makes the approach to their care and storage different than storing a bottle of pills on the tack room window sill and checking the expiration date six months later.

Herbs are essentially plant extracts that contain many vitamins, minerals, proteins and various co-factors that can contribute to the horse's overall health as well as modify many physical conditions. Their level of purity subjects them to deterioration and degradation over a shorter time period than most prescription medications.
First, many herbs are considered 'hydroscopic,' meaning they will absorb moisture from the environment, which predisposes them not only to degradation, but also to mold formation.

Secondly, many vitamins and antioxidants are susceptible to heat, which causes them to lose their originally-intended efficacy. This is a common problem in the preparation of various herbal formulas as well as diets. Some products may be a pelleted form, which requires heat and preservatives (binders) to create. Though the formulas have high levels of nutrients, the heat of the pelletizing process may actually render many of the nutrients inactive.

To protect herbal supplements, at Cur-OST® we recommend:

All herbs should be stored in moisture-proof containers sealed with air tight lids;
They should be kept in a cool, dry and, ideally, darker location to minimize the impact of heat;
Herbs should be administered in their raw or natural form, including powdered form. Ideally, herbal formulations should only be prepared for a month at a time or less due to the inevitable impact of the barn environment on the product;
Small batches are better. The more product made available more than 30 days in advance, the more product that can go bad or degrade to a stage where it does not help your horse;
To minimize bacterial contamination, minimize amount of handling or dipping into the container. Dedicate a separate scoop for each particular formula to prevent cross contamination between products.

Article provided by Nouvelle Research.