Essential oils and COPD
COPD is largely what I call a "Oman made" disease. With increasing numbers of horses kept in for months on end sometimes with little or no turn out, COPD has become increasingly common. It is basically an allergic reaction to dust, fungal spores and other airborne irritants and is aggravated by life in poorly ventilated stables, lack of fresh air and dusty foodstuff and bedding. Having said that, it is also possible for horses to be allergic to pollen and show distressed breathing patterns when turned out. I tend to think that increased pollutants in the air and the number of horses living in semi-urban environments is a contributing factor.
If caught in the early stages COPD can be effectively managed... however the longer the condition goes unacknowledged the more sensitised the lungs become, leading to a more acute problem and increased discomfort for the horse.
Management of the disease involves removing the causes of the allergy,using dust free bedding and feed, making sure your stables are well ventilated and providing as much fresh air as possible. Keeping your horse fit also helps, especially in mild cases, but don¹t overstress the airways with wild gallops, lots of steady hacking is the best solution.
Essential oil therapy can be useful in the control of this condition with the most useful oils being:
Peppermint (mentha piperita): stimulates and opens the airways
Spearmint (mentha spicata): same as above but milder, sometimes old horses or those with weak immune systems prefer this.
Hay: is anti-allergenic and is useful in this condition working on the homeopathic principle of like cures like.
Meadowgrass or Flouve (anthoxanthum oderata L.): similar to above sometimes horses prefer one, sometimes the other.
Clary sage (salvia sclarea). Anti spasmodic, deepens the breathing.
Great mugwort (artemesia arborescens): a great anti-histamine, it is also anti-inflammatory. Do not confuse it with Mugwort (artemesia vulgaris) which is toxic.
Frankincense (boswellia carteri) : slows and deepens the breathing.
Eucalyptus globulus: opens up the airways, anti-allergenic.
Eucalyptus citriodora: kills fungal spores and can be useful as a spray in the stable.
Garlic (allium sativa): kills airborne bacteria, can prevent secondary infection
Hyssop officianilis var decumbens: anti-spasmodic, it has a long history of use for the respiratory system. (only use Hyssop var decumbens as othervarieties are slightly toxic.)
Allowing the horse to choose its own oils and not applying them if they show no interest becomes doubly important in a horse with a sensitive respiratory system. If they do show interest in the oils dilute 5 drops in 5 mls of oil and allow the horse to decide if it wants it applied orally, topically or as an inhalant, see "Safe use of essential oils" for more about how to offer oils to horses. If topical application seems appropriate you can rub the oils around the trachea or see if the horse wants to rub his muzzle into it. Do not make a steam inhalation in a nose bag as this can trigger an asthmatic attack.