Competition horses calmed by lavender

While lavender aromatherapy has been documented to reduce stress in humans, little is known about its potential for reducing stress in veterinary medicine. Horses can develop elevated heart rates and stress hormone levels when they are confined to horse trailers and transported to new competition venues. Therapies to reduce stress in competition horses are regulated and often prohibit the use of sedatives or oral supplements. Kylie Heitman, an undergraduate student at Albion College, was interested in whether aromatherapy could be used to calm competition horses during transportation. Kylie exposed horses to air-diffused lavender oil or water during transport and found that exposure to diffused lavender oil significantly reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol although there was no significant effect on heart rate. Her research was presented at the 2017 Experimental Biology meeting in Chicago last month.


PH Koulivand, MK Ghadiri, A Gorji. Lavender and the Nervous System. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2013; 2013: 681304. doi:  10.1155/2013/681304

American Physiological Society press release


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Thank you

By Narendra Mittal (not verified) on 23 May 2017 #permalink

Great to discover !

By Maggie Mungania (not verified) on 31 May 2017 #permalink

I had to laugh when I read at the beginning of this post that little is known by veterinarians about "lavender's potential for reducing stress". I laughed because you're right - shamefully so, but right. The post was made funnier when the college student was interested in whether aromatherapy would reduce the stress horses face during transport. Since it's probably only been a few months (sarcasm) since veterinarians discovered that just transporting horses could be stressful, maybe kudos are in order (sarcasm). Have they learnt if any other animals are stressed during transport? Have they discovered if animals have stress at all? After those questions are answered, they should be able to find whether aromatherapy will help or not. Given how many oils there are and how many concoctions can be made from the oils, it will be a while before prescriptions for their favorite oils will be written.

Only a few years ago, veterinary colleges didn't have classes in animal nutrition, much less vitamins, massage therapy, magnet therapy, and essential oil therapy. I'm interested in knowing if they have those classes yet. The colleges and supporting graduates said "these so-called therapies don't do anything for the animal's health, but if the owners wanted to throw their money away to have them, it's their money". But then came along a national study (ca. 1999 +/-)that said alternative therapies were a multiple billions of dollars business, and what with veterinarians making less money than ever, (except the female vets who were opening offices while their male counterparts were on the brink of closing theirs - not sarcasm), that maybe the vet's had better wake up and smell the money going out the window. And smell they did. It's taken a while, but now that the vet colleges are "interested" in whether certain oils will or won't help horses during transportation (given they get stressed), you as pet owners are now going to have to pay the clinic fee (35.00), the exam fee (75.00), then for the prescription for the oils (10.50 per bottle of lavender oil - no, we don't have organic), and the atomizer (120.00). You will have to pay extra when you realize you didn't get the vet to write you a prescription for the cloth-delivery-system (a wash cloth), specially designed for you to wipe the essential oil onto your horse (or other pet) (sarcasm here, too, but only about the cloth, not the prescriptions). It's been illegal for a decade now for pet owners to have their animals massaged by someone other than a veterinarian. In some places the massage can be performed by someone other than the vet, but only if this person has written permission from a vet (and you have a prescription as well); in some places the person doing the massage must be in the vet's sight at all times - at all times. You still need a prescription. Magnet therapy, color therapy, acupressure therapy, all go by the same laws. It is illegal for a non-pet owner to say to their friend, "wow, that is quite a puncture wound! (Diagnosis.) I've got this fantastic silver ointment that will heal that right up! (Prescribing.) Ask your vet if you think I'm kidding. Look over the rules governing the health of competitive horses and essential oils. Almost all are illegal unless by prescription. This would be the same oils that vets are just now "interested" to find out what they might do for the horses. The same oils most horse owners, probably most dog and cat owners, have known for generations. The same oils that ten or so years ago were thought to be equivalent to throwing money out the window.

In the meantime, will someone please tell that vet student to be sure she's using organic oils, sold by reputable persons. She can also use dried organic lavender in a cloth, like a soft, small weave burlap, and fasten it safely onto the horse's headstall a little before transport, possibly during the ride as well, depending on how fresh, and how much lavender is used, taking inconsideration if the horse tends to be sensitive or has been sensitive to essential oils or their parent plants. Perhaps the lavender will be more beneficial if it is fastened inside the stall during the ride - out of harm's way, of course.

By Linda Rampey (not verified) on 06 Jun 2017 #permalink