Horse eating in a field of herbsSpring! Everything’s full of energy and vigour and new life, bounding around enthusiastically like a foal. It’s time to shake off the sluggishness of winter and get ready for summer fun.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Spring belongs to the element Wood, which also rules the Liver and Gallbladder meridians, so this is the best time of year to pamper and support the Liver.

In nature, many of the plants that grow now help cleanse the liver and/or the blood and lymph, for example: dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), greater celandine (Chelidonium majus), and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis).

Wild roaming animals have access to nature’s liver cleansers, unfortunately most of our horses don’t. Luckily, we can offer dried herbs and essential oils to our horses, and give them back this vital health support.

Essential oils are a safe, natural way for you to give your horses a chance to self-select the secondary metabolites they need for health, just as nature intended. They are easy to use if you follow a few simple guidelines.

At this time of year I use essential oils that support Wood element, here are a few of my favourites:

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is uplifting and sunny and cleanses the air, cutting through stagnant energies to release pent up emotion. It has a profound anti-depressant effect, and relieves tension and irritability, all symptoms of an upset Liver. It also helps clear tumours, balance hormones and is often chosen by mares after foaling.
Carrotseed (Daucus carota) regenerates liver cells, helps repair damaged skin, rebuilds poor quality hooves and nails, and encourages the production of healthy tissue in smooth muscles. I often use it where an animal has had, a high worm load as it is vermifuge and helps repair damage to the stomach lining.
Juniperberry (Juniperis communis) cleanses the liver and breaks down uric acid, purifying the blood. Juniper’s sharp pungent fragrance dispels negativity and has been used since ancient times for spiritual purification, it is especially powerful at clearing out and protecting our psychic space. Together with grapefruit, this is one of the most effective liver tonics.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is particularly good at supporting the energetic ‘get up and go’ side of the Wood element and Spring, it stimulates the liver and circulation, dispelling stiffness and giving a feeling confidence and strength, at the same time keeping you grounded and focussed.
Peppermint, (Mentha piperita) stimulates circulation and liver function, and is energetically invigorating, bringing things into focus.
Seaweed (Fucus fesiculosa) draws toxins from the liver, cooling and nourishing the body with a good dose of bracing Atlantic water. It is very useful for those prone to laminitis.
Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi )is energetically cleansing and uplifting, dispelling blockages that lead to frustration and irritability, especially for overweight, food obsessed horses.
Sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) helps to balance Liver imbalance, which can lead to angry outbursts, pushing yourself too hard or depression and lethargy. Energetically this oil is very happy and positive helping to move built up stress and frustration, encouraging a more easy going attitude.

Choose an essential oil you think your horse might need. Hold the open bottle tightly in your hand so your horse can come towards it and smell. If he seems to like the offered oil dilute 3-5 drops in a teaspoon of cold pressed sunflower oil. Offer him the diluted oil and let him sniff it or lick it off your hand. Never force him to take the oil or rub it on him unless he clearly indicates that you should. Be very passive and patient and watch your horse, he knows instinctively if it is the oil he needs and if it is not (i.e. he is not interested in it) it can be harmful for you to apply it.

Used correctly, essential oils are a great way to get your horse mentally and physically prepared for spring.