Valerian - Nature's Most Powerful Calmer?

I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to using horse calmers I'd usually reach for chemical and magnesium based ones. I never would have even considered researching or trying out a natural, home grown plant based one - mainly because I kind of feel that plants probably just aren't 'strong' enough to deal with a 500kg+ horse! Valerian Root, or Valeriana officinalis of to give it it's scientific name, is rapidly gaining popularity amongst horse owners due to it's powerful calming effect on horses.

Valerian's dried and powdered root is a commonly used over the counter herbal sleep aid for humans. The active ingredients, that bring about the calming effect, are found in an oil within the root. Once consumed it acts quickly on the nervous system - many people saying the effects can been seen within an hour! Horse owners tend to like the fact that while strong, it will not act as a tranquiliser. The horse will simply become less 'reactive'. The horse will be alert and be fully aware of what is going on but is much less likely to over react and be explosive in a situation. You are still able to ride, travel and do whatever on your horse - but with less jitters and nervousness.

Valerian is also used in the human world and has been hailed a ''herbal wonder plant'' as it can treat a whole host of problems. It can be used for anxiety, depression, stomach ache, joint pain and menstrual cramps. It may be worth trying if you have a moody mare as not only will it help with uterine cramping and tenderness, it will also relieve some of her pain issues as well.

Valerian root can be quite powerful stuff but the potency of the root will vary from plant to plant and season to season and even. This can make determining the right dosage a challenge.

Valerian is not suitable for mares who are in foal or lactating. It should only be used for brief periods only (ie. should not be fed as a low dosage over a long period of time). Please check with your vet before giving it to a horse that is on any medication as it can interact with some medicines and be harmful.

More is not better when it comes to Valerian root. Over feeding it will have the exact opposite effect to what you are looking for. Over dosing can cause some horses to become hyper and runny poos. To find out how much you need to use for your horse it may be a bit of trial and error ... it is much easier to start off with a tiny amount and feed more if needed.

Valerian is so effective that it is a prohibited substance by many of the equine competition regulatory bodies (such as the FEI) so should not be used in affiliated competitions. It normally takes 24 hours to leave their system. I feel it's a great and natural way to help out stressy or young horses at lower level shows. I'd much rather use something to just to take the edge off them rather then completely sedating them.

There are many products on the market now containing Valerian which may be worth trying if you want something handy and packaged. These products will contain the active ingredient in different amounts so it's worth checking the label. I would also consider growing some of your own Valerian if you have the time and space. It is a small plant so wont take over, but it is a bit of a smelly plant - think along the lines of used gym socks! The leaves can also be used as a milder and kinder calmer - many people make it into a tea with chamomile before bed :)
Hilton Herbs: Calm & Collected
£22.00 for 1 litre
Progressive Earth on Ebay is worth checking out if you are interested in buying some Valerian.

I'd love to try some of this out, and have a horse in mind who I can test it on. From looking online, it seems like Valerian isn't too hard to grow so may be worth planting some in the garden next Spring. So I'll report back then and let you know how I get on ... :)

1 comment:

  1. I used to use Steady Neddy (can't remember who made it) and it was brilliant when they had valerian in it. Then valerian was deemed illegal (rightly so, to be fair) so they took it out and it was useless. I'd use it again in a heartbeat if I needed it and if I was certain of the dosage.