Horsey Superfoods: Nutritious Nettles! December 22 2018, 0 Comments

Equine Herbal Nutrition | Benefits of Nettles for Horses

Rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium, horses love this wonderful, nutritious plant. Stinging Nettle grows abundantly throughout the world in moist environments with phosphorus and nitrogen rich soils. In North America, it grows particularly well in the Pacific Northwest where there is heavy rainfall.

Plant parts and uses

The root, leaves and stems are used for medicinal purposes; you can either dry or boil the nettle leaves and stems to remove the “stinging” quality of the plant or you can create an alcohol tincture of the root. The leaves contain polyphenols that create the powerful antioxidant and analgesic properties of the plant. Stinging Nettle is best known for its effectiveness in cleansing the kidney and anti-inflammatory assistance with osteoarthritis. Leaves and stems are commonly boiled or dried and put in teas, salads, and soups.

Most common uses for horses

Nettles can be very effective for providing horses relief from allergies, osteoarthritis, laminitis and other metabolic conditions. Moreover, due to the rich nutrient profile of the herb, it’s also a healthy forage to add to his daily diet. Nettles have a compound that balances sugar in the blood and prevents insulin “spikes”; so can be very helpful for an insulin resistant horse or a horse with laminitic episodes. Also, due to its strong anti-inflammatory effect, it’s a great treatment for arthritic horses and horses with allergies, such as hives or reactions to midge bites. Horses generally enjoy the taste of dried nettle; you can chop down a good amount of nettle, let it wilt for at least four hours, and then feed alongside hay.

CAUTION: Some horses are allergic to nettles and will get a “nettle rash”, be sure to test a small amount of nettles with your horse before feeding in large amounts.

Home Grown

You can grow Nettles from a seed directly in the garden. Plant the seeds in an area with rich, wet soil just before the last frost away from other herbs. Note that nettles are very invasive so they need to be controlled. It’s best to harvest Nettles in the first few weeks of spring and take only the tops of each stem so that you get the most tender of leaves. Also, leaves gathered after the plant flowers may be harmful for the kidneys. Be sure to use gloves so you don’t get stung. You can then dry or boil 1 cup of leaves in two cups of water, let steep for 10 minutes, and you have your Nettle tea!

This is a re-print from the Herb Blurb Column I am writing in Equine Wellness Magazine, one of the largest publications in North America focused on natural and alternative therapies for horses.