We’ve all seen the ads. The claims range from curing colds to cancer. How can we know what’s true? First, to be clear, spirulina has not been shown to be able to “cure” anything. Nutritionally, it can support various biological processes.
Spirulina has three main ways it helps the body. It’s an immunomodulator, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory.
Spirulina is particularly helpful for horses with:
Breathing issues, especially due to allergies, dust, or irritants, such as ammonia in the barn. It accomplishes this by slowing down the body’s response to irritants.
Itchy skin issues, such as fly bites and midge bites. This is accomplished through attenuating the immune response.
May reduce allergic reactions. This is also attenuated by the immune response.
Newer research shows that it may have a protective effect on cartilage, but more research is needed. This is accomplished through its anti-inflammatory actions.
Always wanted to try spirulina with your horse, but don’t know where to start? Here’s what I did:
1. I started with a small amount in my horse’s feed. When she turned her nose up at it, I sprinkled a little spirulina around her stall, so that she’d become accustomed to the smell.
2. Gradually, I increased the amount of spirulina in her feed until I got to ¼ cup daily. Since I can only get to the barn once a day, I opted for the serving size related to once-a-day feeding.
3. Once she liked the spirulina, I switched from the powder to the tablets because they are less messy.
4. I was sure to start feeding this to her well before fly season. I’ve found that once she starts getting hives from the fly bites, it’s like a runaway train that can’t be stopped. Friends of mine have found it useful in the winter, as there is dust in the barn, along with the ammonia smell in the stalls.
Additional information about spirulina:
Insulin Resistance: Spirulina is high in protein and lower in carbohydrates. This makes it a safer food for insulin resistant horses. A study has also shown that it may improve insulin sensitivity in IR horses.
Spirulina is higher in protein. However, it’s not the best source for additional protein for the horse due to an incomplete protein profile. As a protein source, it’s not very cost effective.
Athletic performance: Spirulina supplementation has been shown to enhance post-exercise recovery. However, the evidence does not show that there is enhanced performance.
Summary:Spirulina seems to best support (nutritionally) breathing issues and itchiness. For best results, it’s important to start using spirulina prior to a flare up.
Spirulina is a great supplement, but its benefits are very targeted.