8 Natural Pain Relievers for Hooves

We hope you enjoy this weeks' blog from Gwen. You may be interested in these alternate views on treating laminitis. These ideas are quite different to the traditional methods of treatment. Happy reading!


Last week I wrote about Supportive Care for the Laminitic Horse. Laminitis is a nasty, horrible, no good condition of equine hooves from which many horses suffer, sometimes on a regular basis for one reason or another.

The main cause of the pain involved with Laminitis is inflammation. In fact, that is what the name "Laminitis" means ... "Lami - Laminae" and "itis - inflammation"  So, simply put, "Laminitis" means inflammation of the laminae.

I won't go into details of it all here but if you're interested you can read about Laminitis more in depth the-4-stages-of-laminitis.

A traditional route followed to help relieve the inflammation and pain is NSAIDS such as "Bute" or "Banamine" but there are side-effects that occur that can be just as nasty as the laminitis itself. (Primarily gut issues - ulcers.)

Now, I'm not a veterinarian by any stretch of the imagination however I've worked with and lived with horses for well over 50 years. That makes me officially "old" but it also means I've extensive, first hand experience with equine dis-eases of all types. I've also worked for the last 20 years with pathological hooves - hooves that are painfully afflicted with some sort of malady from full-blown penetrating founder to acute injuries. Unfortunately, I was usually called in as "the last chance" hoof care provider.

Not only am I NOT a veterinarian I am also the first one to ask - have you called your vet? It is important to be able to work WITH the veterinarian and the horse owner as a team for the best for the horse.

That being said, I did want to share some of the alternatives to NSAIDS that are so frequently recommended as a first-response anti-inflammatory and analgesic, particularly with the focus on Laminitis.

All of the below mentioned alternatives for reducing inflammation and pain can be found in FOOD!  Food that is acceptable to feed horses and, once they get a taste of them, they REALLY like! Only one of the substances mentioned is not fed to the horse but applied topically.

The list is not intended to be all inclusive; the foods, however, can be used WITH your veterinary recommendations or, used alternatively.

Alphabetically listed we have the following:

Capsaicin: a chemical found in the red pepper, genus Capsicum, has been shown to have profound effects on sensory nerves. Capsaicin is usually applied topically as a gel with a capsaicin concentration ranging from 2.5% to 8%. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/capsaicin)

According to:

2003 Jul-Aug;17(4):563-6.

Effects of topical perineural capsaicin in a reversible model of equine foot lameness.

Capsaicin has "dramatic analgesic effects" and studies showed that "the topical application of capsaicin ointment over the palmar digital nerves provided measurable pain relief for up to 4 hours after treatment." 

One can buy Capsaicin at a local grocery store or from an herbal supplier.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Journal of Nutrition, vol. 135 (6), 2005, pp. 1475-9 states "olive extract decreases levels of pro-inflammatory substances."

Olives contain two potent painkillers The first is hydroxytyrosol - a very powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects. This is a ‘polyphenol’.

Another key ingredient is oleocanthal which is chemically related to ibuprofen, though has none of the negative side effects.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil can be found at any grocery store. Be sure to buy oil that is sourced from Greece so as to be sure it is pure.


"The present Feverfew flower extract behaves as a potent pain reliever in acute, inflammatory, articular and neuropathic pain. It appears as a natural strategy potentially suitable for the treatment of different kinds of pain."

2015 Jul 15;22(7-8):752-8. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2015.05.006. Epub 2015 May 27.

Widespread pain reliever profile of a flower extract of Tanacetum parthenium.

Di Cesare Mannelli L1, Tenci B2, Zanardelli M2, Maidecchi A3, Lugli A3, Mattoli L3, Ghelardini C2.

Feverfew can be grown easily in a home garden and dried for out-of-season use. It can also be purchased from an herbal supply house.

Ginger: "Findings indicated that Zingiberaceae extracts are clinically effective hypoalgesic agents and the available data show a better safety profile than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs." (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25972154)   This means Ginger, as a member of the Zingiberaceae family, is an effective pain reliever. Ginger is also known to calm an upset gut as well as muscle pain and soreness.

Ginger has been used in traditional medicine for centuries.

Ginger can be purchased fresh or dried at a grocery store. One can also find it in bulk from a herbal supplier. 

Hops:  An extract of hops is an anti-inflammatory An extract from hops, called isooxygene, is one of the most potent natural COX-2 inhibitors and one of the most effective natural painkillers of all. It works just as well as painkilling drugs. Hops is "as effective as ibuprofen but it also doesn’t have the gut-related side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs."

HOPS are the flowers of the hop plant Humulus lupulus. They can be grown or found in local breweries as well as bulk herbal suppliers.

MSM:  MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is an organic sulphur compound that’s naturally derived during the earth’s rain cycle.  Sulphur is present in many natural unprocessed foods, but it’s quickly lost during the cooking process. It is commonly "prescribed" for arthritic and other inflammatory dis-eases.

MSM can be found in Cruciferous veggies, including:  bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard leaves, radish, turnips, watercress, eggs, garlic, legumes and nuts. Feeding fresh, raw 'salads' daily (small amt.) will help reduce the inflammation and pain associated with laminitis and can also be preventative when 'salads' are incorporated into every day diet of the horse. 

Turmeric: Curcumin, the active ingredient in Turmeric, works as well as anti-inflammatory drugs, but without the side effects. Like NSAIDs, it blocks the formation of the pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (PGE2), as well as leukotrienes as has been found more effective than Phenylbutazone [Bute] in relieving inflammation and pain. ( Satoskar R.R., et al. “Evaluation of anti-inflammatory property of curcumin in patients with post-operative inflammation,” Int. J. Clin. Pharmacol. Ther. Toxicol.: 24(12), 651-4, 1986)

TURMERIC can be found in your local grocery store but when purchasing for the use with equine would be more economical to purchase in bulk from a reputable, organic herb source.

Spirulina:  Spirulina Studies have shown that it reduces inflammation, leads to healthier ageing and may strengthen the immune system. Reducing inflammation will help in the laminitic condition and, as such, will help to relieve pain. It is a blue-green algae and also has strong anti-oxidant properties. It has been shown to increase the levels of adiponectin.. This is a hormone involved in regulating blood sugar and fat metabolism and can be very beneficial in controlling EMS and IR in horses thus diminishing the threat of laminitis. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20016733)

Spirulina grows naturally in mineral-rich alkaline lakes which can be found on every continent, often near volcanoes. One can purchase Spirulina from a bulk herbal supplier.

There are other "natural" means to help support the laminitic horse or pony without having to resort to NSAIDS. Diet is ALL IMPORTANT and should be examined carefully as to what might be counter-acting the restoring of healthy hooves.

If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact me ... contact information below.



Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications including The Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoof care for the last 20 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in NE CT and continue to offer consults for horses in need. You can email to Gwen -- gwen.santagate@gmail.com or telephone in the US (774)-280-4227 NEW PHONE). For further information please click here: www.thepenzancehorse.com

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