The EquiNatural Mission - to proactively help our clients support the healthy equilibrium, the functioning integrity and the vitality - the 'vital force' - of their horse, on a personal level, via a physiomedical* approach with natural, bioactive, herbal regenerative phytonutrients.
When we think of 'food', we probably think of protein, carbs, fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals. However, it could be that the most important foods are the thousands of medicinal compounds embedded in plants that regulate, modulate and influence the billions of chemical reactions that occur in the body every second. These compounds? Phytonutrients 😉
The number of distinct botanical species recorded in the world is impressive. 500 species of conifers, 12,000 species of ferns, 14,000 species of mosses, and a staggering 300,000+ different species of flowering plants. Through evolution, humans and animals have digested the molecular magic embedded in foods and plants for centuries to supercharge our biology. We also need to get many of them directly from nature as our bodies are unable to manufacture certain nutrients, i.e. omega-3 fats.
There are over 25,000 phytochemicals in the plant kingdom identified to date, and they’ve only recently been deemed critical for health. While a deficiency of these phytochemicals may not necessarily result in an acute disease or malnutrition, it can lead to well-known labels that we're only too familiar of, certainly in human health, i.e. heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, dementia, depression and more.
The only way to take advantage of these disease-fighting compounds is to focus on quality. Plant foods grown without the use of agri-chemicals are abundant in compounds that protect the body’s cells and fight off toxic invaders.
With every bite, we literally program the body’s biology, right down at our genome/DNA level, for health or disease. Eating healthy, species-appropriate 'food' is literally eating medicine.
The key to wellness? Simple - remove the bad, add in the good
... And would you believe, the body’s natural intelligence and healing mechanisms do the rest! We start by removing the cause (or causes) and then replacing what the body needs to thrive.
Almost all diseases (other than dominant inherited genetic conditions) have the same few causes:
toxins - both internal and external, such as pesticides, herbicides, plastics, heavy metals, etc
allergens - environmental and food intolerances
microbes - imbalances in bacteria - especially in the microbiome - as well as viruses, parasites, worms, ticks etc
poor diet - because how we feed our horses matters, more than we can imagine
stress - physical, psychological or environmental
These triggers of disease interact with the body's genes and all the basic biological networks — gut, immune system, hormones, brain chemistry. Then there's the body's natural - and very sophisticated - detoxification system, specifically the liver, kidneys and lymph nodes, or as I like to call them, the 3-Amigos. Plus there's energy production, circulation, and even the body’s structure (cells, membranes, muscles, bones).
While most vets and doctors haven't seen the power of food, mostly because they're not trained in using food as medicine, I've seen astonishing results over the last decade-plus. I've seen autoimmune syndromes disappear, shut-down horses reawaken, foundering horses gallop again, red-zone horses turn into soppy marshmallows, and metabolic syndromes controlled and even reversed, where previously grass-intolerant horses can graze again, and yes, I count my own horses here! These are not anomalies or spontaneous remissions but reproducible results based on applying food as medicine using the Institute of Functional Medicine model.
Herbalism, aka Herbal Science/Herbology, is the cornerstone of any restorative approach. Over millions of years of evolution, plants have developed an impressive array of protective phytochemicals that offer very sophisticated biochemical solutions to the same stress factors that threaten health and wellness, including every variety of microbe, free radicals, toxins and radiation, as well as physical and emotional stress.
Medicinal herbs are plants that mesh particularly well with mammalian biochemistry. Evidence supporting herbalism includes historical information from traditional use by every culture on earth, population studies of current use, lab-based studies, animal studies, and human studies. Put together, we know more about medicinal herbs than any other modality currently available.
Generally, herbs fall into 5 categories (Maurer, S. (2013). 'Sacred Plant Medicine' apprenticeship class handouts, Gaia School of Healing and Earth Education) :
Nutritive herbs - food-like herbs with no known side effects, and can be used daily, i.e avena sativa, chickweed, dandelion leaf, nettle
Nourishing tonics - gentle herbs that help to nourish and normalise an organ or body system over time; can be used daily over a long period of time, i.e. ashwagandha, burdock, hawthorn, marshmallow, mullein, plantain, rosemary
Stimulating tonics - stronger tonic herbs that are more stimulating to an organ or body system (not the same as CNS stimulants), i.e. astragalus, dandelion root, echinacea, ginger, ginkgo, liquorice, tulsi
Acute-use herbs - moderately active stimulant herbs that work to adjust a body process due to their narrower therapeutic range, best for acute use and limited to 2-weeks' use, i.e. andrographis, artemesia
Low-dose herbs - strong herbs with potentially dramatic effects, can be toxic if used incorrectly, i.e. arnica, belladonna, bloodroot, foxglove, lobelia, poke root. NB - we don't use any of this herb group in our blends.
Herbalism is the practice of using plants and fungi to support health, whether through offering nutrients, vitamins, minerals, or other constituents that act on body systems, organs, and/or the body as a whole. While the botanical definition is 'a plant without a woody stem', herbalism uses the leaves, flowers, buds, stems, roots, bark, berries, seeds, rhizomes - any plant or part of a plant, including mushrooms.
Our EquiNatural herbal blends fall into two categories - our C.A.R.E. Immunity Programme & our Tonic Blends
Our range of regenerative, phytonutrient herbal blends are primarily organised into two categories (for individual herbs see our Individual Items/Herbs page).
* Our C.A.R.E. Immunity Programme - Cleanse, Activate, Restore, Energise
Fed when either a full-body requirement or specific system needs a deep clean/reset due to a chronic, ongoing condition, to restore optimal health. To quote Juliet Getty of Getty Nutrition, "The only way to fix your horse is to help him return to his natural state." Or as a preventative, "Perfect practice makes perfect prevention", as the saying goes.
The herbs used in our CARE Programme are primarily immunostimulants, immunomodulators and immunoregulators, working synergistically with proprietary cleansing and purifiying herbs indicated for the particular system.
See our Immunity page for more info.
* Our Tonic maintenance blends - regenerative nutrition
I'm often asked what a 'Tonic' herb is, so here's an explanation. While our C.A.R.E. range is about strengthening/resetting, our Tonic range 'tones' a system to function comfortably and effectively - it's more about preventative maintenance.
Here's how. Imagine, if you were to lift weights with your right arm for 8-weeks but not your left, your right arm will be more tonified. This means it’ll work more efficiently, there'll be less stress, and it won't fatigue as quickly.
'Tonic' herbs have been used for centuries as everyday foods – they have long-term, gentle, slow-acting benefits for a wide range of supporting actions in the body, usually enhancing immune function, mental clarity or muscular strength, and with the ability to maintain consistent stamina throughout the day and promote longevity – even improving libido 😉
All these characteristics pulled together perform the action of tonifying - they’re gentle, they're rejuvenative, they act over a long period of time, and they’re non-toxic, so no side effects.
Certain herbs also have an affinity for certain parts of the body - certainly in Ayurvedic and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) it’s well recognised that you can take a tonic herb on an ongoing basis which will strengthen either a particular system or the overall body. Adaptogen's are an excellent example – they have gentle benefits on the endocrine and nervous system, helping the body 'normalise' it's stress response to respond more appropriately, physically and emotionally, to recover quickly and suffer less damage during the stressful event.
Then there's nutritive herbs that can have digestive system benefits due to their defined nutritive value - vitamins, minerals, special starches, sometimes protein value, to help the body assimilate nutrition.
Many herbalists call tonic herbs 'herbs for healthy people', as in, why wait for when health is broken? Tonic herbs simply sustain health on an ongoing basis.
I've taken great care over the years to source the best quality human-grade, Certified Organic, Fairwild and Wild-Harvested botanicals, in order to harvest the most nutritionally diverse and bioactive phyto-constituents that are scientifically recognised for supporting the individual biological health, and regenerative nutritional requirements, of our horses. See our Quality chapter for more information on quality management, certification documents, and what organic certification means (and why it matters).
The individual chapters in our Herbal Nutrition section are intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from my own studies and research for over a decade, together with clients' experiences and my own personal experience from over 5-decades as a horse carer.
They are simply to enlighten and suggest a more appropriate, naturopathic approach to maintain & support a healthy lifestyle for our horses. The information here is not intended to replace veterinary advice, and I would encourage anyone to make their own equine healthcare decisions based upon their own research.
All information in these pages can no doubt be freely found on the world wide web. Opinions are my own, unless otherwise noted, and when quoting I will always endeavour to provide the source links.
* Physiomedical - the doctrine or practice of the use of herbal nutrition. Origin mid-19th centrury, earliest use found in the 'Physio-medical Recorder'