While there is some scientific evidence that herbs can be used as effective treatments and preventives in humans and animals, “natural” does not always mean “benign.”

You probably know the types: Eager Ellen, who is sold on “natural” therapies, eschewing as much as possible conventional Western treatments, especially medications. She administers lots of supplements and tinctures, based on information provided by product Web sites, testimonials, and the horse owners on her favorite Internet lists. She doesn’t say anything to her equine veterinarian about what she’s giving her horse, because her veterinarian is a traditionalist and would disapprove.

Then there’s Suspicious Sally, who automatically rejects anything outside the realm of conventional Western medicine. To her “natural” means “ineffective,” regardless of the modality or whether it’s practiced by–or under the auspices of–a veterinarian.

And so it goes with herbal therapies: Overhyped here, misused there, ignored elsewhere, resulting in a facts-and-fiction soufflé that obscures how herbs can be appropriately and effectively used in equine treatment.

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