By Jeff Moore, ESMT
Jia Wei Xiao Yao San - Herbal Supplement for Cranky Mares
As an Equine bodyworker, neither a vet nor an Oriental Medicine Doctor, I cannot make any health claims for the Chinese herb formula Jia Wei Xiao Yao San. But I can give you a brief overview of what others say about it, tell you (anecdotally) what I’ve seen it do and help interpret its uses for the horse.
Jia Wei Xiao Yao San is one of the most prescribed traditional Chinese Medical herb formulas in both the US and Taiwan. In humans, it’s taken for stress, worry, anxiety and hormonal issues. A Chinese medical doctor will tell you that it supports the liver, kidneys and spleen. In Chinese medicine, the emotions associated with these organs are anger, worry and fear. And while the system of a horse and human are in many ways different, in all the horses I’ve seen take it, it seems to work similarly. The other major reason it is prescribed is for menstrual/hormonal issues. There was a very talented acupuncturist in the Ashland, Oregon area that used this formula for her mares that had hard heat cycles and exhibited ‘mareish” behavior. She suggested I use this formula for a cranky mare I owned. Well, it changed her behavior 100%. Over the years, I’ve tried lots of herbal formulas for cranky mares - Raspberry leaves, magnesium, black cohosh based blends with some, but not dramatic success. Regumate can work but it’s so toxic to both the horse and human, that it wasn’t much of an option. But when I tried this formula, it was DRAMATIC. There was less touchiness, less ear pinning, more willingness to be groomed, less squealing and an overall sense of being more comfortable in their bodies.
And, if you think about the life of many horses, stress is a constant companion. In the wild, horses evolved over millions of years to move as they please, eat when they want and associate with their friends in the herd. In the last few hundred to 1000 years and in the typical stall/barn situation, that is seldom the case. This is a huge (and underestimated) source of stress in many of our horses. Then we add training and performance issues (I’m sure I give clearer signals than the horse thinks I do), pressure and release, bits and spurs and there is a level of anxiety that is endemic in even a loved domestic horse’s existence. So it is no wonder that addressing the stagnation of flow in the liver (anger), supporting the spleen (worry), and nourishing the kidney (fear) can help horses as well as humans (think riders)
As I talked to more OMD’s about its effects, I realized that it really doesn’t act on the hormone system directly. The hormone system is a powerful controlling system in mares, but in this case acting like a canary in a coal mine. They direct behavior because of the underlying imbalance and stress, instead of creating the imbalance and stress. That was why when there were mares that went through a complete vet blood panel and work up, the actual hormone levels weren’t out of the normal range. And when they were treated with Regumate, it took care of some of the symptoms but not all of them and still didn’t leave a really happy and willing mare. Better but not 100%.
One of the areas of stress in horses comes from the disconnect between what the horse wants to do and what we want them to do (A lack of centaurness). Sometimes, if this is caused by the horse just not knowing what the cues mean, then training is the cure. Other times it’s because the cues are given without understanding how our posture and seat affect how they are transmitted to the horse. In that case, the centaur bio-position clinics we hold are the key. But other times the issue comes from a butting of heads between horse and rider. The Chinese see two different ways of dealing with an obstacle; clashing head on or a more refined approach of flowing around it. Horseman talk about it in terms of ‘picking a fight’ or ‘making the right thing easy’. The following quote addresses how Jia Wei Xiao facilitates the latter way, both for the horse and rider.
A quote from Subhuti Darmananda, PhD, the director of the Institute of Traditional Medicine describes Xiao San this way. Note: Qi is the Chinese concept of energy that flows in the body
“The function of the formula is to help overcome the ingrained personal approach of clashing with-rather than flowing around-a difficulty that is encountered. This way of being influences the person's flow of qi and blood, causing it to flow erratically and bind up. In the Chinese model of health and disease, the free flow of qi and blood is the requirement for health and the obstructed flow of qi and blood is a cause of disease (there are other causes, such as deficiencies and excesses). The obstruction of circulation corresponds to both a physical stagnation (repression of natural movement) and the psychological condition we call depression, the sense of inability to move and change to overcome obstacles. Zhu Danxi said (10): "So long as the qi and blood enjoy harmonious flow, none of the hundreds of diseases can arise. Once they are depressed and suppressed, various diseases are produced."”
So, if you have a mare that is being difficult or even a gelding that is ‘tighter’ than you would like, check out Jia Wei Xiao Yao San as a way to harmonize and take the edge off your horse. It’s a widely used and minimal side effect approach that could really help the harmony between horse and rider. It’s available from Golden Lotus Botanicals in Portland, Oregon, or a half strength version is also available from Amazon.com, or if you just want to try a small amount you can contact me at Equinerehab.Com on the contact page.
For a more esoteric and philosophical description, see the article at http://www.itmonline.org/arts/xiaoyao.htm or the pub med links on the Golden Lotus Botanicals library page.