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Can J Vet Res. 2007 Apr;71(2):145-51.

Pilot study investigating the ability of an herbal composite to alleviate clinical signs of respiratory dysfunction in horses with recurrent airway obstruction.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, Ontario Veterinary College.


Recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), known previously as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is a debilitating respiratory condition that significantly contributes to lost training days and illness in racehorses. Herbs are becoming increasingly popular for the prophylaxis or treatment of the clinical signs of RAO despite a paucity of research on efficacy and safety. We evaluated the ability of an herbal composite containing garlic, white horehound, boneset, aniseed, fennel, licorice, thyme, and hyssop to reduce the clinical signs of RAO, hypothesizing that the product would safely reduce signs and would improve the inflammatory cell profile within the lungs. The composite was fed to 6 horses with symptomatic RAO for 21 d in a crossover manner. Ventigraphs were used to record respiratory rate and intrapleural pressure; the proportion of inflammatory cells in fluid aspirated from the trachea was determined. Blood biochemical and hematologic screening was conducted to identify possible adverse effects. Treatment with the composite did not result in statistically significant changes in any of the parameters evaluated. A trend to a decrease in respiratory rate (P = 0.1) and an increase in the proportion of macrophages (P = 0.1) was observed in the horses receiving the herbal composite compared with placebo. These data indicate a potential for the herbal composite to safely reduce the elevated respiratory rate in horses with RAO. Future research with a greater number of horses is warranted to further characterize the effect of this product on horses with RAO.

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