Sweet itch: natural remedies to treat your horse

Treat your horse's sweet itch the natural way with advice from Hilary Page Self, medical herbalist and director of Hilton Herbs. 

According to Hilary, there's research and anecdotal evidence to show that herbs can be used to help minimise the symptoms of sweet itch in horses.

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“Sweet itch is a very difficult condition to treat,” says Hilary.

“Most horse owners end up managing the problem with a combination of things such as a midge rug, organising turnout to avoid peak midge times and topical products and feed supplements.”

Useful herbs to consider include the following, but remember to consult your vet before making any sudden dietary changes.

Steamed Linseed

Steamed linseed has been known to alter the fatty-acid profile of the horse’s hair and reduce irritation.

Linseed is a rich source of the essential fatty acid, Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA), and research suggests that foods rich in ALA could reduce inflammation and improve the clinical appearance of sweet itch.

Brewer’s Yeast

Brewer's yeast contains a range of B vitamins and amino acids that are said to help reduce the horse’s allergic response to the Culicoides midge.

Brewer’s yeast also makes the blood unpalatable to midges and is vital for hair growth and the production of cell membranes.

Buckwheat

Buckwheat contains high levels of flavonoids and anti-oxidants, such as quercetin, which acts like an anti-histamine and an anti-inflammatory.

Silica

Silica is a major component of hair so the rich silica content of diatomaceous earth is what helps stimulate hair growth, hair strength and hair quality.

“Always bear in mind that just because a substance is deemed ‘natural’, it doesn’t mean it can be used excessively," says Hilary.

“Respect the instructions for use in the same way you would with conventional medication. Ensure that all herbal supplements and healthcare products are sourced from suppliers who can guarantee top-quality ingredients and expert formulations.

“These suppliers should be able to provide detailed information on product use and there’s a legal obligation on manufacturers to clearly state ingredients on the packaging.”


Does your horse suffer with sweet itch? 

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Don't miss the latest issue of Your Horse Magazine where we take an in-depth look at this condition, including what the best treatment options are and whether or not a vaccine is on the horizon. 

Don’t miss the latest issue of Your Horse Magazine, jam-packed with training and veterinary advice, horse-care tips and the latest equestrian products available on shop shelves, on sale now. Find out what’s in the latest issue here.