Why Adaptogens are Wonderful for Horses
Adaptogens are specific plants and fungi that help the body manage stress, both physical and mental, by supporting regulation of multiple body systems. These plants and fungi play an important role in maintaining physical and mental homeostasis.
Certain adaptogens can reduce cortisol. Some adaptogens increase stamina and reduce fatigue. Others can improve mental focus and provide neuroprotection. ALL adaptogens support the glandular, circulatory, and endocrine systems, making these specific plants and fungi truly whole-body balancers.
BioStar uses adaptogens for horses in many of our equine and canine formulas because of their supportive, balancing qualities on multiple body systems. When given to horses, adaptogens can improve stamina and reduce fatigue, while also improving focus and concentration.
I first became acquainted with adaptogens in the 1980s when I tried a ginseng extract liquid imported from China. It was one of the most revolting substances I had ever tasted, but once it was down the gullet, I felt an amazing shift in energy and focus.
When I began learning about Ayurveda a decade later, a small company in India had just released their patented ashwagandha extract powder. Like other adaptogens it was bitter, but I felt the effects quickly: a calming, centering feeling, not sleepy or too relaxed. I remember thinking, this stuff is AMAZING.
In 2008, BioStar became the first supplement company to introduce a patented ashwagandha extract to the equine community in Equilibrium EQ, which remains a popular formula.
History of adaptogens
While several plants and mushrooms known for these benefits have been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for thousands of years, it was a Soviet scientist, Dr. Nicolai Lazarev, who coined the term “adaptogen” in the 1940s as he was studying the effects of stress.
What makes an adaptogen?
A plant or fungus can be classified as adaptogenic if:
• It is non-toxic in normal amounts.
• It influences multiple organs or body systems (i.e., is non-specific).
• It helps modulate system function and maintain homeostasis.
Adaptogens around the world
Primary adaptogenic plants in Ayurvedic medicine: Holy basil (tulsi), ashwagandha, amalaki (or amla), bacopa, brahmi, shatavari, shilajit
Primary adaptogenic fungi and plants in traditional Chinese medicine: Reishi mushroom, Chaga mushroom, Cordyceps mushroom, Lion’s mane mushroom, Astragalus mushroom, Siberian Ginseng, and Panax Ginseng
Primary Western and Russian adaptogenic plants: Schisandra, Rhodiola, Panax ginseng (eleuthero)
Primary South American adaptogen: Maca
Your horse may benefit from adaptogens if s/he is:
- recovering from lay up or injury
- competing or in hard work
- dealing with insulin resistance or Cushing’s
- a horse with a history of ulcers
- in need of mental focus
- a mare with hormonal issues
- in need of energy and stamina, or recovery support
- tense and tight when competing
Adaptogens do no harm
One of the important aspects of the plants and fungi adaptogens is that they do no harm. They can be given alongside other medicines, can be used in combination with other adaptogens, and they are non-toxic to the body system.
Types and forms of adaptogens
Adaptogenic plants are available in powdered form as whole-plants, roots, leaves, or berries. Fungi are available as whole powdered mushrooms.
Both plants and fungi are also available as extracts.
Which is better – plant powders or extracts?
Whole-plant powders are not standardized, making it difficult to assess quality and potency without a lab assay. This makes it challenging for consumers who are relying on product labels to give some sense of quality. Using a whole-plant powder requires a larger dose than an extract, for a similar result.
Extracts are standardized based on the phytochemical compounds of each plant or mushroom. Extracts can be in liquid or powder forms. Common extraction methods are alcohol, glycerin, or apple cider vinegar and water.
Some companies use solvents such as hexane, chloroform, ether, or acetone, which are not approved for certified organic labeling. However, the actual solvents used in extractions are not required to be listed on the supplement labels.
A relative newcomer to extracts is carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction. Used heavily in the hemp and medical cannabis industries, CO2 extraction provides protection for the heat-sensitive components in plants, and a longer shelf life. However, CO2 extracts are expensive.
Dried powder extracts are by far the most potent plant and fungi preparations — stronger than liquid extracts.
What type of adaptogen does BioStar use?
We use dried powder extracts, liquid extracts, and whole plant powders.
Our dried powder extracts and liquid extracts are extracted via glycerin and water or apple cider vinegar. Some dried powder mushroom extracts are prepared with alcohol and water, which evaporate after the process is complete.
Which form we use depends on the formula and the targeted application of the adaptogen. Sometimes we combine dried powder extracts with liquid extracts, or whole-plant powders with dried powder extracts.
We are very exacting about our sources of adaptogens, because it makes a huge difference. Our Ayurvedic adaptogens come from the home country of Ayurvedic medicine: India. Our adaptogen mushrooms and some ginseng come from the home country of traditional Chinese medicine: China. Some of our ginseng extracts such as the unique Korean red ginseng come from South Korea.
Supplement labels for adaptogens
Many details about adaptogens are not required information on supplement labels, and are not listed. It’s important to find out the countries of origin, the amounts of adaptogens in proprietary blends, and the substrates on which fungi are grown.
Country of origin: It’s important to know where the adaptogens are grown, and under what conditions. For example, medicinal mushrooms in China are grown with a heritage including thousands of years of success and quality, and European extracts are required to pass especially rigorous testing for efficacy.
Proprietary blends: Ingredients listed as proprietary blends do not reveal the amounts (by weight) of individual adaptogens in that blend. This is vital information for consumers, as a powdered whole-herb adaptogen, for example, must be given at a much higher dose than an extract.
Fungi substrates: A label is not required to reveal how fungi was grown. Adaptogenic mushrooms are traditionally grown on hardwood logs and sawdust, which contain the precursors of important medicinal compounds. However, many American mushroom growers use grain as a substrate, which elevates starch levels in the mushroom and reduces several key medicinal compounds including beta glucans.
Tips on using adaptogens for horses
- Adaptogens are wonderful support for horses, working with the body, not against it.
- Dosage matters with adaptogens. Whole-plant or mushroom powders require a higher dosage than extracts because extracts (powder or liquid) are more potent.
- Ashwagandha is not show-safe with USEF, although it is still show-safe for FEI. A good alternative to Ashwagandha is Holy Basil (Tulsi).
- Sources of adaptogens matter. Never hesitate to ask a supplement company for more information on sourcing and extraction methods of adaptogens used in a formula.
- Adaptogens are safe and reliable. Given the right dosage, they provide tremendous benefits to horses.
- Adaptogens work equally well for humans!
BioStar’s Adaptogenic Formulas
Adaptogens for Horses:
Alixir EQ – Hydration and recovery support for performance horses
Aller-X EQ – Healthy histamine support formula
Equilibrium EQ (contains ashwagandha – not USEF show safe) – helps balance normal stress levels
Hedgerow Pronto – Fast-acting dual component gut support
Hedgerow GI – Healthy gut balance
Remedium Nadi EQ – Recovery and comfort paste & powder formulas
Star Power EQ – Equine energy paste for performance horses
Sym-Biota EQ – Liguid GI tract & microbiome support
Thera Calm EQ – Helps horses focus and relax, and supports a healthy GI tract
Thera Gard EQ – A daily equine supplement to support healthy gastric and intestinal tracts
Tri Dosha EQ – A balancing formula for horses with metabolic issues and easy keepers
Tri-Gard EQ – Pre-event syringe supporting a healthy gastric and digestive system
True Balance EQ – Body balance: Glandular, circulatory, and immune system support
Zen Max and In Zen – Customize your horse’s calm: syringes for calm, focus, and immune support.
Adaptogens for Dogs:
Buckaroo’s Cool Down K9 – Helps regulate body heat, supports a healthy inflammatory response
Sym-Biota K9 – Liquid GI tract & microbiome support
Terra Biota K9 – Support for the microbiome of the canine GI tract
Thera Calm K9 – A special Ayurvedic blend for dogs to promote calming