Most people think of food from only its nutritional value which they consider the same for every horse but when viewed energetically foods have different effects on different horses depending on their Five Element type. In addition to looking at foods from a standpoint of different types we should also look at what we feed our horses in different seasons.
Each Element has a flavor associated with it and this flavor is often needed for that type when it becomes out of balance. The same horse may need a different flavor to help him balance for seasonal changes. For example, bitter is the flavor assigned to Fire because the Fire element has a tendency to overheating conditions. A Fire horse might benefit from some bitter foods in the diet on a regular basis but might need some sweet, warming foods in the heat of summer to help keep his energy moving outward to the periphery of the body to match the heat of the environment. Alfalfa is an example of a bitter food and grains such as oats are considered sweet according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. So an overall diet for a Fire horse could be include grass and alfalfa hay with minimal grain during the winter or cold weather and slightly less alfalfa and more grain during the summer. Alternately, you could leave the alfalfa the same and instead of grain give sweet vegetables such as carrots during the summer months.
Therapeutic use of the Five Flavors:
Bitter – Fire, heart and small intestine, yin, cooling, moves energy inward
Sweet – Earth, spleen/pancreas and stomach, yang, warming, moves energy outward
Pungent – Metal, lungs and large intestine, yang, warming, moves energy outward
Salty – Water, kidneys and bladder, yin, cooling, moves energy inward
Sour – Wood, liver and gallbladder, yin, cooling, moves energy inward
It is important to remember to balance first to the Five Element type of the horse and then if needed to the season. Never go to extreme with any flavor because too much can cause the opposite effect and weaken the organ you wanted to support.
Properties: Horses that have excessive energy and impulsive behavior benefit from bitter foods because they have a centering effect of bringing the energy deeper into the body. Also good for slow moving, lethargic horses that have damp conditions such as stocking up or are just generally overfed and under exercised.
Uses: Very helpful in horses with inflammations, infections and damp skin conditions.
Organ functions: helps support the heart and blood vessels by removing deposits which lowers blood pressure. Celery is a vegetable which is perfect for this and could certainly be fed to horses. Bitter foods like celery can be given to help clear heat and inflammation out of the liver after overeating. Sounds like a perfect treat instead of the high sugar and starch store bought ones. I will have to try this out with my Fire horse, Cerise. Bitter foods help drain damp conditions such as yeast infections, parasites, moist skin eruptions, abscesses, tumors, cysts(including the aggravating ovarian types) and swellings. Bitter foods help with intestinal function by increasing motility. In addition to the liver and gallbladder, the lungs and kidneys also benefit from the bitter flavor. Any condition that shows thick, yellow discharges suggests dampness and heat and the bitter flavor is perfect to break this up and get it moving out of the body. Think about upper respiratory infections, uterine infections and hoof abscesses and just a few typical damp heat examples that benefit from the addition of bitter foods.
Season: Increase bitter foods throughout the fall and winter to pull energy in to protect the body from cold external temperatures or any season when heat symptoms appear.
Cautions: Horses that are weak, thin nervous, and dehydrated should be given bitter foods sparingly.
Examples: Bitter herbs include, dandelion leaf or root, burdock leaf or root, yarrow, chamomile, hops, valerian, chaparral, echinacea and pau d’arco. Alfalfa is a strictly bitter food, celery and papaya are bitter and sweet, citrus peel is bitter and pungent and vinegar is bitter and sour.
More on the other flavors later. Madalyn
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