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Herbal DeWormers and Your Horse

16 August 2011 No Comment

Herbal DeWormers and Your Horse
By: Patti Duffy-Salmon

There has been a lot of discussion lately about herbal dewormers and your horse. I would like to start this article by first saying that I feel there is still a place for chemical dewormers and your horse. I just don’t feel that chemically deworming your horse every 8 weeks, or worse yet, giving your horse a daily dewormer is the best route to take at this time. I know that MANY of you out there will probably disagree with statement, but being of an alternative mind, I feel that sometimes traditional practices and alternative practices can meet half way. Oh course, there is ALWAYS the exception to every rule, and if your horse is having problems that could be linked to heavy worm infestations, then by all means deworm the horse with chemicals. You may even have to repeat the dosage and that’s fine too.

Once a horse has reached a healthy state of existence, and has no worm issues, and your veterinarian agrees with this statement, then it is probably safe to start alternating between chemical and herbal dewormers.

An anthelmintic will destroy or expel worms from the digestive system. Many of the most effective Anthelmintics shouldn’t be used due in part to their high toxic properties. Anthelmintic herbs fall into four very different categories.

Vermifuges- which are herbs that expel worms from the body
Vermicides- which are herbs that destroy worms in the body
Taenifuges-which are herbs that expel TAPEWORMS from the body
Taenicides-which are herbs that may kill TAPEWORMS in the body

The difference between expelling and actual killing the parasites can depend on the herb used, dosage given and how often it is administered.

There are many anthelmintic herbs available, but again, due to their very toxic nature, I will only discuss a few of them here. And these herbs should not be randomly used and feed to any animal or person unless properly mixed and prepared by a qualified herbalist. Also, most, if not all of these herbs should not be given to a pregnant horse.

I think one of the most noted anthelmintics is Wormwood {Artemesia absinthium) Please do get Wormwood or Wormseed confused with either other.

**Wormseed {Artemisia Cina} which is in the artemesia family and
**American Wormseed {Chenopodium ambrosioides}

These two herbs should never be ingested.

Wormwood is a pretty common perennial herb found through out the country. Wormwood is extremely bitter and this is due to the volatile oil, which contains Absinthol or Thujone. The herb also contains a bitter glycoside absinthine that is a narcotic. The oil of Wormwood is extremely potent and a tiny small dose can cause coma and death in an adult person. So when I speak of Wormwood, I am referring to the DRIED PLANT MATERIAL and not essential oil. The essential oil is extremely concentrated and should NOT be used.

Wormwood is an excellent anthelmintic and also an effective tonic for the whole digestive system.

Pumpkin seeds and Melon seeds are rich in nutrients and also help to remove large quantities of uric acid in the urine. They also contain an amino acid-cucurbitin which gives these seeds their anthelmintic actions. Pumpkins seeds are noted for expelling tapeworms from the body. It most be noted that one should never ever used pumpkin seeds that have been packaged for planting. These seeds have been treated with insecticides, fungicides and sometimes-powdered fertilizers. One most never use these seeds for human or animal consummation. Use only certified organic seeds.

Hyssop {Hyssopus oficinalis} is another common perennial herb. The entire plant is medicinal but the most medicinal parts are the flowering tops and leaves. Hyssop’s therapeutic actions are due to its essential oil, which has anthelmintic properties.

Garlic {Allium Sativum} has been used as an anthelmintic for centuries. Garlic has antibacterial, antimycotic and lipid-lowering effects which have been scientifically proven. There has been much information written lately about the possibility of garlic being toxic to horses. When fed in the proper recommended dosages, Garlic is perfectly safe to feed. I have been feeding it for years with no known side affects. Over feeding can cause gastric upset so care must be taken with the dosage. Raw garlic cloves are the most medicinal because they do contain the highest amount of oil compared to dried garlic products. But most horses won’t eat whole raw cloves due in part to its extreme bitter and hot taste, so feeding garlic granules is the next best thing.

Rue {Ruta Gravelens} Rue should be used with caution. In the proper dose, it is a very effective anthelmintic. Rue contains many alkaloids, quinazoline alkaloids, quinoline alkaloids, Furocoumarins and more. Rue contains a very high level of volatile oil which has been used as an abortive through the centuries. One should NEVER feed Rue to a pregnant horse.

Two herbs that should be mentioned are Male Fern and Tansy. Both have been used as Anthelmintics throughout the centuries, but both are extremely toxic.

Tansy {chrysanthemun ulgate or tanacetum vulgare} is the MOST toxic of the known anthelmintic. It contains potentially harmful substances if not used in the correct dosages. It contains a very high level of the essential oil Thujone and small amounts of Borneol and Camphor. This level of Thujone has been found to be a strong uterine stimulant in both animals and humans and should never be used with pregnant animals. The essential oil is so extremely toxic that even a half-teaspoon can be fatal. Please do NOT USE this herb on yourself or your animals.

Male Fern {Dryopteris Filix-max} is another very toxic anthelmintic. Male Fern rhizomes have been used through out the ages to rid the body of tapeworms, liver flukes and other nasty parasites. Male Fern can cause severe liver damage, cardiac and kidney damage as well as paralysis and visual disorders. The side effects and risk far OUTWEIGH any anthelmintic benefits the plant may have. Due to its MANY risks, I do not recommend any internal application of this herb. I only mention it here because it is still listed in MANY books as an anthelmintic, but not one that I would recommend at all.


There are even more herbs that has anthelmintic properties. Herbs such as Fennel seed, Feverfew, Hops, Horehound, Sage, Southernwood and Vervain, these are not strong and are fairly safe to feed.

I have heard of many prescribing Black Walnut as an anthelmintic for horses, but I would never ever advocate the use of this herb/tree in equines. The main toxic principle is juglone, which is a growth inhibitor is carried in the roots and bark of the tree. Most horses just show an allergic reaction to the shavings and most do not have to even ingest the material to get sick. Due to the whole allergy problem, the danger of laminitis and respiratory difficulties, and allergy related symptoms, I feel that one shouldn’t even take the chance of feeding a horse any part of the Black walnut tree, be it nut / bark / or root. Different products may contain different parts, some claim to use the husk of the nut, some claim to use the hull of nut, and some the bark of the tree and then some use the inner bark. No part of the Black Walnut is safe enough for me to recommend it.

In closing, I hope this article has enlightened many to the use of alternative dewormers and their properties.

If interested in purchasing our Worms Begone please go to: Our Store

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