Horse and Ringbone
Answered by: Kerry Hackett
Question from: Diana
Posted on: August 06, 2006

My question is regarding a poultice treatment that was recommended to me for my mare with ringbone. It consists of crushed fresh comfrey leaves mixed into linseed oil and adding a little arnica ointment, mix and apply, hold in place with a bandage for several days at a time. I am realistic and know this is not a miracle cure.... but would this help alleviate some of the inflammation and pain? If you think so, would the dry comfrey leaves you have on the web site work as well until I am able to grow a plant for fresh leaves?

[Note: Kerry apologizes for taking so long to answer. Kerry says: "Finding the information I was after took much longer than anticipated and I’m still not sure I’m satisfied with my answer. However, I cannot put off a response any longer so please see below." -- Ed.]

Ringbone, as you know is the formation of new bone growth on one or both phalanges due to periostitis which in turn may be the result of an injury or repeated concussion (working on hard ground), strained or pulled ligaments or tendons, faulty conformation, improper shoeing or trauma and infection.

Assuming you have eliminated all the causal factors, there are several things you can do to reduce inflammation and pain. First, your poultice. Comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) has a traditional repuation for bone healing, in fact, one of its common names is "knitbone". This quality has been attributed to one of its constituents, allantoin, which can promote the activity of osteoblasts (bone cells). According to Mills (1991), "allantoin... promotes the constructive activity of the fibroblasts... and their near relatives the chondroblasts and osteoblasts and even neural cells, it promotes keratin dispersal... it thus aids the regeneration of all tissues... with the possible exception of skeletal muscle... In addition allantoin is highly dispersible throughout the body and can be relied upon to reach deep tissues from external application."

Therefore your use of comfrey should regulate the bone cells rather than increase their number, thus exacerbating the growth of the exostoses. There is no reason the dried leaves will not work in this situation as well as the fresh, so long as the dried form has not been on the shelf for a long time (over six months). Arnica (Arnica montana) has a reputation for decreasing the effects of bruising but should not be used on any broken skin or irritated area. Hopefully your poutices have been helping but unfortunately they are not a long term solution. You may also find some relief through the external use of Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum).

In addition, remember the importance of a healthy diet with lots of fresh vegetables to help keep the system strong.

You have not mentioned how long ago this condition originated. If possible seek the advice of a homeopathic veterinarian for options using this therapy. Homeopathics that may prove useful could include: Ruta graveolens, Silicea, Calcarea flourica and Arnica montana, but the remedy chosen will depend on a thorough case history.

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