Stress, Your Horse's Adrenals & Adaptogen Herbs
Chronic Stress and Your Horse’s Adrenals - How Adaptogen Herbs Can Help
We all experience stress every day and our horses are no exception. As a result, our bodies strive to adapt in order to stay balanced and healthy. As prey animals, horses have strong senses so they can detect danger from a great distance away, and they’re designed to quickly drop into fight or flight mode. But some horses, due to chronic stress, can get stuck living in the fight or flight state, which weakens the adrenal glands, depletes the body’s nutrient stores, and compromises the whole immune system.
Effects of Chronic Stress
Chronic stress can occur for many reasons -- limited turnout, solitary living, harsh training methods, an intense travel schedule, being a rescue, poor diet, injury lay-up, chronic illnesses and more. When left unchecked, stress taxes the adrenal glands, leading to increased cortisol production and other hormonal imbalances. Additional affects include dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, central nervous system disorders, lowered immunity, muscle weakness, anhidrosis, moodiness and more. Ultimately, stress threatens homeostasis, which is the body’s steady state of equilibrium, characterized by normal body temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar, pulse rate, etc.
Adrenal Health is Key
In order to maintain homeostasis and avoid the negative effects of stress, adrenal health support is critical. The adrenals are small glands that sit atop the kidneys and are integral to the equine endocrine system. They help regulate over 50 different hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, as well as, electrolytes, blood sugar, blood pressure, etc. They’re also the open/close switch for all elimination channels, which means proper adrenal function is critical to your horse’s ability to detoxify and rid his body of harmful waste materials.
Why Adaptogen Herbs?
While it’s common to reach for magnesium supplements to manage a stressed or anxious horse, adaptogenic herbs can support his body on a deeper level by nourishing the adrenals. The term “adaptogen” was coined by scientist Nikolai Lazarav in the 1940s, but these herbs have been trusted for thousands of years and have been used in various combinations. Adaptogens can increase your horse’s resistance to stress, reduce anxiety and depression, support metabolic function, and improve energy and focus. By helping to normalize cortisol levels and supporting the HPA-axis, adaptogens can be particularly helpful for Cushing’s disease and insulin resistance.
Which Adaptogens are Best?
Many adaptogens can be used for horses, but some of our favorites are holy basil, ashwagandha root, rhodiola rosea, schisandra berry, astragalus root, Reishi mushroom, jiaogulan, and valerian root. Certain adaptogens are better for relaxation and sleep, while others support energy and focus, so you should seek a combination that will best suit your horse’s unique needs. Overall, adaptogenic herbs nourish and rebalance the adrenals, strengthening the entire immune system. For success, be sure to faithfully supplement your horse with adaptogens -- and feel good knowing you’re offering your horse ancient remedies that can restore him physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Published in Equine Wellness Magazine, annual issue 2022
Are you looking to try adaptogens with your horse?
Check out our Adapt. Signature Blend! Available with chaste tree berry herb for horses with Cushing's disease. We also use adaptogens in our Allergy Blend and Cushing's Support Herbal & Superfood Blend.