The herb Jiao Gu Lan is an indigenous vine native to the mountains of southern China and other areas in Asia. It has a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as both a Medicinal herbal remedy as well as a tea and vegetable.
The herb was originally referenced in the Jin Huang Ben Cao (Materia Medica for Relief of Famine) by Zhu Su in 1404 and the roots, stem and whole herb are said to be used.
According to TCM theory, Jiao Gu Lan has the following descriptions:
Energy/Taste – Cold, Sweet, Bitter
Channel/Organ - Spleen/Lung
Preparation – Decoction (boiled tea) or Powder
Dosage - for horses is between 5-60g daily – this is dependent on the preparation form.
Cautions and Contraindications -side effects – None known
Jiao Gu Lan has been used in TCM for the following:
Several studies have now been completed by scientific investigation, the active components are Flavones and gypenosides, the main effects of the herb in relation to its use in Equine Health are as follows:
According to Dr Eleanor Kellon, Jiao Gu Lan can be used as a Laminitis therapy.
Because of the herb’s ability as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, it has beneficial effects for horses suffering from Laminitis. It also has a powerful ability to increase blood flow in the hoof due to its ability to modulate nitric oxide.
It is thought that horses suffering from Laminitis have a decrease in the blood flow within the hoof, which goes on to cause tissue hypoxia and tissue injury in the Laminar that connects the hoof wall with the bone. This reduction in blood flow is thought to be a cause of pain and damage in the hoof of Laminitic horses.
There is much that we don’t know about Laminitis, however the mechanisms underlying increased Laminitis risk in Insulin Resistant horses are thought to be similar to those which cause vascular disease and hypercoagulability in Human IR.
Dr Kellon followed 176 horses for between 3 months to 2.5 years whilst on Jiao Gu Lan for Laminitis. Management protocols were strict, and the horses were also being treated with appropriate diet management, hoof care and drug therapy for Cushing’s disease. 75% of the horses were previously on, or had been recommended to be on, NSAID’s (bute) which was discontinued with the Jiao Gu Lan use. All horses had persistent and ongoing lameness that had not responded to previous treatments/management.
Horses received between 1-2g of Jiao Gu Lan/227kg of bodyweight twice a day.
Horses were observed to show more mental alertness and an increase in spontaneous movement. The mucous membranes and tongue became pinker, presumed to be due to the increase in vasodilation (blood flow), this response was a signal that an effective dose had been reached. Over 60% of horses returned to pasture soundness at the walk withing 2 days to 2 weeks. 11.4% did not respond at all, however this was thought to be associated with poor control of the underlying medical issue or severe damage to the coffin bone. The remaining 26.7% of horses showed an improvement in their lameness scales of 1-2 grades.
For details on Dr Kellon’s study, please refer to the references at the end of this article.
Even though Jiao gu lan is considered a very safe herb to use, it should be considered a drug as it has the ability to alter the way the body functions. There is the potential for a horse on Jiao Gu Lan to have an exaggerated reaction to drugs which lower blood pressure, such as tranquilizers / sedatives or general anesthetics as well as drugs or herbs that alter blood clotting.
If your horse requires emergency care and tranquilization or surgery, inform the treating veterinarian that you are using a herb that is a peripheral vasodilator. Dosage adjustments and careful monitoring may be needed when the last dose was administered within 8 to 12 hours of these drugs being required.
Discontinue aspirin or herbs with aspirin-like effects (e.g. White Willow, Meadowsweet) two weeks before starting Jiao Gu Lan.
Do not administer to dehydrated horses or horses with a heart condition.
Use Instructions - FOR ADAPTOGENIC FUNCTIONS:
500kg Horse – 3g or 1 teaspoon/day
250kg Pony – 1.5g or ½ teaspoon/day
Use Instructions - FOR LAMINITIC CASES AND HOOF PATHOLOGY:
500kg Horse – 1.5g or ½ teaspoon TWICE DAILY – Increase to 2-4g twice daily, do not exceed 15g/dose
250kg Pony – 1g or 1/3 teaspoon TWICE DAILY - 2-4g twice daily, do not exceed 10g/dose
Mix into a paste for the horse/pony to lap up, or suspend in water and give by syringe or mix into a small amount of feed.
INCREASE THE DOSE UNTIL YOU SEE:
For successful Laminitis treatment, the underlying cause must be found and addressed. The use of Jiao Gu Lan will support and aid in recovery however it is not a Laminitis treatment.
According to Dr Kellon, Jiao Gu Lan encourages good circulation through the hooves by relaxing the blood vessels and encouraging regrowth of vessels in areas that have been damaged. It also has an anti clotting effect.
Feet may grow at a more rapid rate. Horses harboring collections of fluid/infection in the feet may become more lame within the first week or two of starting as these collections begin to mobilize. It is very common for abscesses/collections to surface and drain in these first few weeks.
Xuisheng Xie and Vanessa Preast, Xie’s Chinese Veterinary Herbology,Blackwell Publishing 2010.
Dan Bensky, Steven Clavey, Erich Stoger, Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica,3rd Edition, Eastland Press 2004.
Eleanor M. Kellon, V.M.D. - Use of the Herb Gynostemma Pentaphyllum and the Blue-green Algae Spirulina Platensis in Horses
You may find that your horses coat has already started shedding, this is triggered by the longer daylight hours and marks the start of the long winter coat loss! This process will continue over the next few months and it's important to provide adequate nutritional support during this time to encourage a healthy and shiny new summer coat.