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Elephant Root: Can This Plant Help Horse Health?By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · June 19, 2017

In South Africa, “elephant root,” also known as Elephantorrhiza elephantine, is coveted for its purported medical benefits. This plant, aptly named for its large underground root, is used by indigenous people of South Africa and their livestock and has attracted the attention of medical researchers*.

Despite the lack of scientific evidence supporting its use, elephant root is a popular traditional remedy for a myriad of maladies affecting virtually every body system. Specific to animals, including horses, elephant root reportedly manages internal and external parasites, improves poor appetites, reduces coughing and diarrhea, and helps clear retained placentas.

Considering the importance of botanicals as novel sources of therapeutic agents, one South African researcher recently reviewed the available data on elephant root’s composition and use. Based on that review, elephant root does appear useful in the following roles:

  1. Anthelmintic (dewormer);
  2. Antibacterial, especially in cases of diarrhea;
  3. Antifungal and other skin issues such as itchiness and sores; and
  4. Antioxidant and free-radical scavenger.

More research is clearly needed to identify the exact mode of action responsible for these effects. Further, in terms of safety, the researcher noted, “…E. elephantine has some potential toxicity at certain dose levels and should be taken with caution when used as herbal medicine.”

“This recommendation holds true for virtually every nutritional supplement,” noted Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER). For suggestions on how to pick a quality nutritional supplement, read Selecting Horse Supplements: Four Tips.

“Any sick horse should, of course, be examined by a veterinarian before administering any supplement or medication. For maximizing skin and coat health and providing general antioxidant support, look for KER’s marine-based fish oil supplement EO•3, the coat supplement Bio•Bloom PS, and our water-soluble, natural-source vitamin E product Nano•E,” advised Crandell.

While EO•3 and Nano•E are available worldwide, Australian horse owners should look for Bio-Bloom.

*Maroyi, A. 2017. Elephantorrhiza elephantina: Traditional uses, phytochemistry, and pharmacology of an important medicinal plant species in Southern Africa. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2017:6403905.