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Detox for horses

The Natural Way - specialized in itching and skin complaints and the natural treatment of horses with sweet itch, mud fever and CPL. 

For one horse, a detox is a panacea, for another it is a supportive step in the right direction or just detrimental to health. Phew, it could go in many directions! What then is wisdom? Because 'if it doesn't help, it doesn't hurt' really doesn't apply here.

In this article I discuss what exactly a detox or cleansing treatment for horses is, what advantages and disadvantages are associated with it and how you know whether your horse needs it or not.

First, we will take a look at wild horses to better understand their ingenious system and learn how nature regulates this process itself.

Also read: The sense and nonsense of detoxing


Konik horse in nature reserve

Konik horse © Laura Cleirens


  • Wild vs. domesticated horses
  • Wastes
  • Organs of the big clean-up
    • Liver
    • Kidneys
    • Pancreas or pancreas
    • Lymphatic system
    • Skin
  • When to detox, and when not?
  • Choice stress
  • Alternative therapies
  • Natural support with herbs
    • Stinging nettle (Urticia dioica)
    • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
    • Juniper (Juniperus communis)
    • Cleaver (Galium aparine)
    • Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
    • Marigold (Calendula officinalis)
    • Artichoke (Cynara scolymus)
  • What else?
    • Zomereczeem lotion - The Natural Way
    • Mok olie - The Natural Way
    • Movement!

Wild vs. domesticated horses

Wild horses have a well-functioning built-in detox, just like every healthy horse has. In the winter period, when it gets colder and less food is available, the herd of horses fasts and loses weight. The horses have less food available, but more energy left - which normally goes to digestion - and with this they get to work: the big cleaning is started! The waste products in the fatty tissue are broken down and in early spring the herd looks for young plants and herbs that have a supporting and stimulating effect in the cleaning process.

Our domestic horses are more likely to be stuffed with feed in the winter, causing them to consume too many nutrients (and therefore also waste), have too much energy left (and cannot use enough energy), exercise less, etc.

The ideal recipe to develop complaints during early spring such as sweet itch, mud fever, laminitis, insulin resistance (IR),...

This is where the detox treatment comes into play, because it stimulates the organs that need to be cleaned - the liver, kidneys, pancreas and lymphatic system.
Choose a detox treatment that stimulates all these organs and has a prebiotic effect to support the intestinal flora. BUT only do this in collaboration with a holistic veterinarian, nutrition expert or therapist. This can have disastrous consequences when the body and organs are already overloaded, so that it can no longer get rid of waste products.


By waste we mean the toxins/residues of deworming, medication, vaccinations, food, water, air and soil pollution, flavors and fragrances, pesticides, fungi, toxic substances, poisonous plants, etc.

Removing waste products is important to ensure that your horse maintains good resistance and does not become ill. A cleansing treatment or detox removes the toxins that have accumulated in the body. A healthy horse regulates this process all by itself and does not need any support.

However, not every horse is able to sufficiently remove these waste products itself. Some organs can become overloaded, such as the intestines, liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs and lymphatic system. These organs keep the horse's body clean by excreting sweat, urine, manure, exhalation, etc.

When your horse cannot remove sufficient waste products itself, complaints arise. You probably recognize the horses with dirty eyes that show tears, yellow discharge or even become infected. In addition, nasal discharge, hoof ulcers, hives, swollen legs, reduced fitness and irritated airways also occur. The skin and coat can also start to look dull, greasy and flaky, with an increased risk of sweet itch, mud fever, laminitis, insulin resistance (IR), EMS, etc. Horses often have difficulty shedding or have problems producing a thick winter coat. .

Horses with sweet itch and other itch-related complaints usually have difficulty processing these waste products, causing complaints (symptoms) such as itching, chafing, wounds, dull coat, skin problems, etc. to become visible.

When too much waste has built up, your horse becomes more attractive to mosquitoes and flies and there is increased sensitivity to itching and possible inflammation of the mane comb/tail base. This also applies to horses that receive incorrect nutrition and are overweight. A good detox treatment can resolve many sweet itch-related complaints. BUT only do this in consultation with a holistic veterinarian, nutrition expert or therapist.

If your horse has an excess of waste products and cannot or cannot process them independently, a detox can also have disastrous consequences (such as extra itching, sulking, laminitis, etc.).


Organs of the horse

Organs of the big clean-up


The liver is a horse's chemical factory, where toxins are absorbed and converted into harmless components. The liver weighs an average of 5 kg and is reddish brown in color. In the liver, some substances that arise there are removed via the blood or bile. But did you know that a horse does not have a gallbladder but bile ducts? This bile aids in the digestion of fats and is excreted directly into the small intestine. In addition, the liver plays an important role in the digestive system and hormonal system and is the storage place for nutrients (Vit. A/D/E/K and iron).

The more waste products the liver has to process, the more important it becomes to support its functioning. This prevents (too much) waste products from being stored in the body.

Correct nutrition also plays an important role in this. Avoid food with too many sugars, starches and proteins and take a closer look at your grazing policy. Horses will try to compensate for a deficiency as much as possible by selecting their food.
However, most pastures are too monotonous and not suitable for horses. The nutrition that your horse can find here is often so limited, which means that he will often eat too large an amount to supplement his shortage. The disadvantage of this is that it also causes him to absorb too much of other nutrients. This will cause the digestion to become out of balance, resulting in waste products accumulating in the body in the form of fat reserves (overweight). The skin, as the largest (excretion) organ, will respond to this, causing itching to manifest itself.


Just like humans, horses have two kidneys. These play a major role in fluid balance, excreting waste products, cleaning and filtering the blood and regulating blood pressure. The good substances in the blood are transported back to the bloodstream, while the waste products are removed via the bladder in the form of urine. For this reason alone, it is important that horses have sufficient fresh drinking water available every day.

Pancreas or pancreas

The pancreas produces insulin and enzymes, produces hormones and regulates blood sugar levels. When this does not function properly, insulin resistance (IR) comes into play. Insulin ensures that glucose is broken down in the liver and supports the absorption of sugar from the blood by muscle and fat cells.

Lymphatic system

The lymphatic system removes waste products, tissue fluid and germs. The lymphatic system works closely with the other organ systems and has a positive effect on the immune system.


The skin is your horse's largest organ and is activated when there are too many built-up waste products in the body. This can manifest itself in greasy flakes, itching, etc. More about this later in this article.

When to detox, and when not?

A detox or cleansing treatment in the spring (February/March) can help your horse, among other things, with the removal of waste. This detox can consist of fresh or dried herbs, a mix or compound liquid products. These variants are all useful because you can easily stick to the recommended daily allowance (RDA).


A detox treatment is not recommended for every horse, because it has a strong cleansing effect on your horse's body, requires a lot of energy and can cause even more complaints. Not every horse has good resistance, intestinal health, general health in the spring and so a detox can overload the liver, kidneys, skin, etc. even more. This can cause even more itching, but also sulking, laminitis, etc. These are complaints that give an indication of the health and excretory capacity of your horse. It may be that your horse has too much waste in its body (because it cannot process them independently), that the excretion no longer works or is insufficient, but usually a combination of both.

So only give your horse a detox in consultation with your vet and/or nutritional expert and do not experiment yourself.

A A better alternative than a detox is to first examine your horse's health, nutrition and management, analyze what the individual needs of your horse are and then specifically improve its health status.
Because itching is a symptom of something bigger, that can arise over the years, can accumulate and only comes out when it really becomes too much for the body.

So you will not only combat the symptoms (via a detox) but tackle the cause through nutrition, management and health support in the form of alternative therapies (see below) and possibly also with herbs with a cleansing and strengthening effect that you alternately use. offers, a handful per herb per day.
You can get an overview of these herbs and their effect and application found here .
If you are one of the lucky ones who has one biodiverse pasture (or environment), your horse can use many of these herbs itself natural way select what he does or does not need and when.

Do you have questions about this or need help? Then discuss this with you holistic veterinarian, therapist or nutritional expert who can view and treat your horse's individual situation.

Decided to give a detox treatment after all? Then take the following into account:

- Do not detox a horse that is sick or weakened.
- Avoid giving a detox treatment during the first and last 3 months of pregnancy.
- If your horse has liver problems, intestinal problems, reduced resistance or all kinds of vague complaints, it is important that you first tackle these problems before starting a cleansing treatment. This way you prevent the excretory organs from becoming (even more) overloaded and your horse from becoming ill.
- If your horse is already receiving regular medication, it is best to first ask your vet for advice before starting a detox because an interaction may occur. - A horse that receives a healthy and varied diet may not need a detox. The choice from your range of different (fresh) herbs, branches and twigs ensures a healthy horse's body.

Choice stress

There are ready-made herbal mixtures with a cleansing and antioxidant effect or other natural products such as homeopathic drops and other natural preparations.

A detox cure can have a very drastic effect on the horse's body. So always be assisted by an expert who will come and look at your horse , examine the situation and tailor a treatment to the needs of your horse.

Below we discuss some herbs with a cleansing effect that you can feed to your horse as a variation on a healthy diet.

Alternative therapies

You can also support your horse through (sports) massage, acupressure or manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) . This supports the body in removing waste products so that the lymphatic system remains clean.

Natural support with herbs

The most important herbs that help remove waste:

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)

From early spring the nettles will appear again - and that is not just convenient. Nettles help remove waste, support the lymphatic system, increase resistance and help ward off viruses, allergies, inflammation and more. In addition, they are the ideal support for sweet itch and laminitis.

Pick the fresh tops of the nettle in the spring and let them dry in the sun before feeding them to your horse after a few hours. This causes the injection to come out.

You can already dry nettles to feed to your horse in the autumn/winter. You can also cut nettles throughout the year and let them dry in the sun. Your horse will automatically know when they are ready to eat.

You can read our article packed with information about the effects of Stinging nettle here .

Did you know that nettles are also a host plant for many insects? For example, butterflies lay their eggs on the underside of leaves. This way, when they transform into caterpillars, they immediately have food. Other insects then hide in the dried out stems. By leaving a few nettles here and there, you increase biodiversity and give nature a helping hand!

Dandelion herbs for horses The Natural Way

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion stimulates liver and bile function and has a urine-driving effect (“Pisbloem”). It is a natural blood purifying plant that removes toxins from the liver and kidneys. So Dandelion can also contribute to sweet itch. In addition, gastrointestinal functions are regulated and appetite is stimulated. Thanks to the bitter substances in the plant, digestion is stimulated and constipation is prevented.

The ideal time to harvest dandelion roots is spring and autumn. In addition, use the fresh, young leaves and flowers.

Juniper berry herbs for horses detox cleansing treatment The Natural Way

Photo: Ole Husby

Juniper (Juniperus communis)

Juniper is a shrub that grows 3-6 m high with sharp needles. The deep blue berries are antiseptic, have a diuretic, liver stimulating and digestive effect.

Cleaver herbs for horses detox cleansing treatment The Natural Way

Cleaver (Galium aparine)

Cleaver has a blood purifying, detoxifying, anti-inflammatory and diuretic effect. You can use this for digestive complaints, as support for the liver and urinary tract. A wonderful herb to use for lymphatic drainage, stable legs, einschuss ("elephant feet"), laminitis, sweet itch, mud fever and muscle and joint complaints. You use the entire plant.


Milk thistle herbs for horses detox cleansing treatment The Natural Way

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)

Milk thistle is known for its detoxifying and anti-inflammatory effect and stimulates the liver, bile and pancreas. The fruit heads and seeds are used.


Marigold herbs for horses detox cleansing treatment The Natural Way

Marigold (Calendula officinalis)

Marigold helps with stomach and intestinal complaints, has a blood purifying effect and stimulates the blood circulation. Ideal for sweet itch, wounds,... Pick the flower heads when they are open and feed them fresh or dried.

Read more about Marigold in the article I wrote here .


Artichoke herbs for horses detox cleansing treatment The Natural Way

Artichoke (Cynara scolymus)

Artichoke is a source of Vitamin C and antioxidants that support the immune system. Artichoke has a diuretic effect and thus helps remove waste products through the kidneys. In addition, it stimulates bile production, protects the liver against toxins and improves digestion.


What else?

What else can help your horse besides a detox?

Removing waste and detox cleansing treatment for horse summer eczema The Natural Way

Horses with sweet itch often suffer from too much built-up waste products, which leave the body through the skin in the form of greasy flakes. Photo: Jill W. (1 day difference between the photos)

Summer eczema lotion - The Natural Way

Zomereczeem lotion - The Natural Way

Zomereczeem lotion – The Natural Way

If your horse has sweet itch or other itching-related complaints, our Zomereczeem lotion is what you need. Zomereczeem lotion is 100% natural and sustainable, based on essential oils and sweet almond oil.
Immediately visible results! The itching and chafing disappear and hair growth is stimulated.

Due to the supportive, cleansing properties of Zomereczeem lotion, some horses that have built up waste products may experience greasy flaking on the mane and tail base for a short period (+- 1-2 weeks), possibly accompanied by sensitive skin. By letting go of the old skin and forming new ones, unnecessary stored waste products are removed and the body is cleansed. Mother Nature does her job and uses the horse's largest organ: the skin. The occurrence of this process can also be an indicator - a clue from the body that underlying causes need to be supported or further investigated.

Mug of oil - The Natural Way

Mok olie - The Natural Way

Mok olie - The Natural Way

Mok olie is a 100% natural and sustainable product based on essential oils and sweet almond oil. To treat muck, rasp and rain scab/rain rot in horses.



Of course, we should not forget this basic need of the horse. Did you know, for example, that sweet itch is not that common in sport horses? Because they actively move, they can better convert negatively accumulated energy and remove waste products more quickly. Do you now have to train your horse like crazy? No, but sufficient exercise is healthy!

In short: Look at the big picture, the individual needs of your horse and always seek assistance from a holistic veterinarian, therapist or nutritional expert when considering a detox.

Read our other articles here.


Discover our 100 % natural Zomereczeem lotion, Mok olie, CPL olie, Natuur Shampoo and OERVOER (E-book) about healthy nutrition for itch-sensitive horses HERE.


© Laura Cleirens - 2020.07.15
Last update: 2023.12.28

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