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In Traditional Chinese Medicine, disease prevention begins with a protective layer around the body called wei qi (pronounced way chee) or defensive energy. From a western perspective, wei qi can be compared to immunity. When wei qi is robust, our immunity is strong.
What is Immunity?
The immune system response is how your horse’s body recognizes and defends itself against pathogens, bacteria, viruses, and foreign, harmful substances. The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues and organs, including the thymus, spleen, lymph nodes, stem cells, white blood cells and antibodies.
Three herbs, eleuthero, astragalus and rhodiola, used separately or together can benefit immunity for horses and riders alike.
Eleuthero (Ci wu jia in Chinese), is considered an immunostimulant. Eleuthero is associated with an increased production of white blood cells, increased activity of macrophages and interferon.
White blood cells (leukocytes) are cells of the immune system involved in defending the body against foreign materials and infectious disease.
Macrophage literally means “big eater.” Macrophages engulf and digest pathogens like infectious microbes, viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells. They are the garbage cleaners of the immune system.
Interferons are a variety of proteins that signal an alarm response to the presence of pathogens. They are messengers allowing for communication between cells and trigger the protective defenses of the immune system.
Eleuthero is often labeled as Siberian ginseng; however, it isn’t a true ginseng. The name evolved as a marketing gimmick to give an expensive sounding label to a relatively common and inexpensive herb. Eleuthero is somewhat mild and works best when combined with other herbs.
Astragalus (Huang qi) is a most versatile herbal tool with an impressive list of applications. Astragalus is widely used in Chinese clinics and hospitals.
Astragalus is an immunostimulant, increasing both specific and non-specific immunity. Astragalus also increases the number of white blood cells and has antibiotic properties against streptococcus and staphylococcus. Clinical studies have shown it to be effective in the prevention of colds and respiratory infections, especially helpful during the cold and flu season.
Astragalus can be used alone or in combination with other herbs.
Rhodiola, (Hong jing tian) is also known as roseroot, arctic root and golden root. Rhodiola is traditionally used in Mongolia, Tibet, and Siberia to prevent illness and lung problems during the cold northern winters. It has been extensively studied and is widely used in the Soviet Union.
Rhodiola is now considered an adaptogenic (helping the body cope more effectively) and tonic (providing a restorative effect) in modern herbal medicine.
WHERE TO FIND HERBS
Immunity enhancing herbs are widely available on the internet from herbal suppliers, in local herb shops and health food stores. However, due to the popularity of tonic and immunity building herbs, some lesser quality and counterfeit products are out there. Consult a qualified herbalist or shop at a trusted store when selecting herbs.
HOW TO USE
Use only well-powdered herbs directly moistened with a little water or tinctures. An adequate amount for the average 1,000 pound horse is 1 or 2 tablespoons of powdered herbs.
Gloria Garland is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist and the author of the Equine Acupressure Therapeutics Workbook Series. She lives and rides in Oakhurst, California, near Yosemite National Park. Whole Horse Herbs™, her line of herbal formulas, was developed to bring complementary herbal supplements to the equine community. She teaches hands-on classes, empowering horse owners with accurate, useful information and equine health care tools. www.wholehorse.com , 559-683-4434.