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What you need to know before giving your horse essential oils for dietary (internal) use

When used responsibly and with an understanding of how they work, many essential oils are very safe for horses to ingest. In fact, horses have ingested essential oils as part of whole plants since the beginning of their existence. In this article, we will discuss safety, dosage and application of using essential oils internally for horses. 

Essential oils come from plants

Remember that essential oils are extracts from plants. (Read this article to get caught up if you are not sure where essential oils come from and how they are extracted.)
There is nothing new about horses eating essential oils and their bodies know how to utilize them. 
However there is a certain responsibility we have when we remove the oils from the plants and with that give them in more concentrated amounts. As always purity is so important for the safety of your horse and potency is important to get the results you are looking for. Please read our purity article if you haven't done so yet.

Essential oils safe for internal use

First a list of what oils you can use safely internally should be observed. Essential oils with GRAS and FA Status are generally deemed safe for consumption if they are PURE. In the USA, the FDA issues these designations and they stand for ‘generally recognized as safe for human consumption’ and ‘flavouring agent’.

This is a list of common oils that have this status, but there are more oils than this that are safe and have GRAS and or FA status.

BasilBergamotBlack Pepper
CardamonCassiaCelery Seed
CilantroCinnamon BarkCitronella
Citrus (all)Clary SageClove
CopaibaCorianderFennel
FrankincenseGeraniumGinger
GrapefruitGreen MandarinHawaiian Sandalwood
HelichrysumJuniper BerryLavender
LemonLemongrassLime
MandarinMelissaMyrrh
NeroliOreganoPalmarosa
PatchouliPeppermintPetitgrain
Pink PepperRoman ChamomileRose
RosemarySandalwoodSage
Siberian FirSpearmintTangerine
Tea TreeThymeTurmeric
VetiverWild OrangeYlang Ylang

Dosage for internal use

When deciding how much to use remember you can always add more drops but never take them away. Smaller doses and more frequent administration is always best when discovering what your horse needs. Always work within label recommendations and advice given by a qualified veterinarian for each situation. 

Before giving essential oils internally, take into consideration the overall health of the animal, its size, age and general tolerance to oils used aromatically and topically. Plus you must think about the specific oil you are using, its chemical makeup, the potency and the possible interactions with other medications your horse may be on. Finally you must think about the action you are trying to achieve. Is this a chronic condition? An emotional support? Possibly an acute situation? All of these factors should be taken into consideration when using essential oils internally. If you are at all unsure, please start slowly, consult your veterinarian and keep reading and increasing your knowledge.

How to give essential oils internally to your horse
Giving essential oils internally can be done in 3 ways:

  1. You can create a pouch in the bottom lip. Gently pull the bottom lip away from the gums and drop the oils directly into the space. Horses seem to tolerate even hot oils like oregano this way. Humans on the other hand would be very uncomfortable if they were to drop a 'hot' oil like oregano under their tongue.  
  2. You can mix the oils in with a measured amount of feed or in a bucket of water (being careful of the quality of plastic of the bucket). 
  3. You can apply the essential oil to the top of the tongue. If your horse does not lick the oil directly off your hand, you can add the essential oil to the tiniest amount of molasses or sugar. 
The best way depends on your needs and desired outcome. If for instance your intention was to help create a general sense of calm, giving essential oils in the water or feed would be an appropriate method. If you were looking to help assist a gastrointestinal issue drops in the mouth (and topically on the belly) are a far better method as you know exactly how much you gave and when it was consumed. If you would like to also assist with respiratory issues, application to the top of the tongue is more effective than under the tongue. 

How ingested essential oils work inside a horse's body
When oils are consumed in feed or drink they are transported through the intestines to the liver via the portal vein. The liver then metabolizes some of the oil and it is excreted. The remaining molecules are released into the bloodstream where they can travel to any part of the body creating a systemic effect. They are so tiny they can even cross the blood brain barrier into the brain itself. 

Now, if you want an even faster effect, place the oils under the tongue as described above. In this way, you can bypass the metabolism of liver and go straight to the bloodstream. The sublingual area is rich in blood vessels known as capillaries. Much of the oil is absorbed immediately via the capillaries and transported throughout the body. 

If you get the oil on the top of the tongue then the oil will also be transported to the nasal passages. This will work the same way as aromatic use. If you missed our article on how to use essential oils aromatically on horses, read the article here. We have another article on the science behind using essential oils aromatically. Click here to read it. 

Applying essential oils on top of the tongue is a great method for dealing with various congestions in the head. However it might be a bit hard for you to get the oil onto the tongue. You can drop your oil onto a tiny bit of sugar or in a drop of molasses and they they can then lick it off your hand. Remember to not use much carrier product (ie sugar) as you want the oil to be able to react with the tissues in the mouth and not simply be swallowed into the stomach.

Safety cautions for internal use
It is important to note that when using oils internally you can not wipe them off or remove the source of the aromatic use. Therefore it is so much more important to be aware that horses (and people) can develop a sensitivity over time. This is very, very rare but it can occur. Be aware of your horse's behaviour, and know it can change with prolonged or aggressive use of oils. 

Essential oils are meant to facilitate an easement of symptoms, whether they be emotional, mental or physical. They are not meant to provide a counter action to a root cause. Using them internally for this purpose is irresponsible. For example, your horse has a sore back, there are a few oils you can use, internally and topically, to help alleviate this and make them more comfortable right now. However, it is important that you still find the underlying cause. Maybe the saddle does not fit anymore or your horse needs a chiropractic adjustment from a slip or fall that might have shifted something. Maybe the horse needs you to help them to engage their stomach muscles. Maybe are you riding differently and causing the pain. The list goes on and on. 

Essential oils are a gift from the earth. Use them and use them wisely, within their proper jurisdiction, and experience the benefits you are providing your horse with.

Do you have any questions about giving your horse essential oils internally? Please email us at hello@oilsforhorses.com or comment below.
As always, feel free to share this article with your friends and don't forget to follow us on social media!

With love,
Amanda and Daniela
www.oilsforhorses.com
hello@oilsforhorses.com

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References

Melissa Shelton DVM, The Animal Desk Reference II Essential Oils for Animals (Melissa Shelton, September 2018)
Carole Faith, Essential Oils for Horses A Source Book for Practitioners and Owners (J. A. Allen, 2002)
Nayana Morag, Essential Oils for Animals (Off The Leash Press, 2011)
Peter Holmes Lac MH, Aromatica Volume 2 (Singing Dragon, 2019)
Modern Essentials 8th Edition (Aroma Tools, 2016)
dōTERRA, Essential Oil Specialist course 2020

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