Back in the old days, every barn had a colic remedy in the tack-room. These remedies are not seen much any more thanks (actually no thanks) to the FDA. The only remedy that I see listed in a current tack catalogue would be Dr. Bell's Drops. Last I heard, this product was taken off the shelves back in the mid 1980s by the FDA. I suspect the current version is a very watered down ghost of it's former self. Another colic remedy taken off in the 1980s and was my favorite, Dr. Wood's Two Minute Colic Remedy. This was suggested to me back in the late 1970s by the harness horseman, Bill Fleming when he was stabled at the Pinehurst Training grounds in North Carolina. He told me he had experienced much success giving it, and I used it throughout the next twenty years with equal success. Most of these patented colic medicines were herbal tinctures. Dr. Wood's ingredient's list consisted of: Aconite N.F., Dioscorea N.F., Gelsemium N.F., Belladonna N.F., Nux Vomica U.S.P., Capsicum U.S.P., and Ammonia Aromatic all dissolved in 33.33% alcohol. This list is rather typical of many patent colic formulas back 50 or more years ago.
I still remember when I first read that list. I was a graduate of a University, studied veterinary medicine intensely during that period, and I had no idea what the dickens those names were. Not a clue. They were not in any of the modern Veterinary texts. I didn't recall reading about them in the modern vet materia medicas. A number of years later, I discovered these ingredients to be common medicinal herb extracts, the common medical and veterinary pharmacy mainstay back before so-called modern medicine (pre-1940s).
First, let me say that the abbreviations N.F. stands for the National Formulary, and the abbreviation U.S.P. is for United States Pharmacopeia. These United States' organizations published books that list various commonly approved recipes, formulas and standards of pharmaceuticals. The list of medicinal herbs in Dr. Wood's remedy use these herbal ingredients under the guidelines of these two organizations.
Aconite N.F.-----it lessens pain and nervous tension. H. Felter, M.D. writes; "...quits irritation, checks the rapid circulation in the capillaries when it is too active, and increases the circulation when it is sluggish." It was used in cases of irritation of the mucous membranes. Neuralgic pain treated in the past by aconite was facial, dental, visceral, and rectal neuralgia.
Dioscorea N.F.-----it is commonly called "wild yam" and "colic root". The decoction of Dioscorea has long been employed in cases of bilious colic and other spasmodic colic afflictions. It is thought that its antispasmodic action is the main route of action. The action of Dioscorea shines in irritable bowel conditions and less effective when colic is due to atony.
Gelsemium N.F.-----is commonly called "Yellow Jasmine, Yellow Jessamine, or Carloina Jasmine". It is a vine that grows commonly in the South USA. The roots are considered medicinal. Gelsemium acts on the spinal cord. It was given in the past for cases of nervous excitation, unrest, fever, spasm, and pain. It has significant antispasmodic properties. This drug was considered very useful in inflammatory bowel disorders of children and is very potent in cases of enteritis, gastro-enteritis, diarrhea and dysentery. Gelsemium has been largely ignored by modern practitioners as a dangerous poison. I am sure that its presence in Dr. Wood's formula was one key reason of the FDA's banning of that medication.
Belladonna N.F.-----the root was commonly used in the past for congestion. It is a remedy for blood-statis in any part of the body. Belladonna has long been used for pain and spasm, too. The Eclectic Materia Medica writes: "Belladonna relaxes spasm. It sometimes overcomes constipation in this manner, has served fairly well in spasmodic constriction of the bowels, and has relieved both pain and spasm in lead colic and spasmodic intestinal colic." Along with Gelsemium, I am sure Belladonna was another prime reason for the FDA to finger this long used formula out for banning.
Nux Vomica U.S.P.-----the dry ripe seeds were used medicinally and its principal constituent is strychnine. Nux Vomica was mainly used in disorders of the gastro-hepatic tract in years past. Dr. Felter writes: "Nux Vomica is the most important remedy for atony and relaxation of the stomach and bowels and disorders dependent thereon. With some, or the totality of these indications, it proves a remedy of great power in a variety of digestive and intestinal wrongs, among which may be named simple atonic indigestion, pyrosis, flatulent colic, nervous gastric debility, chronic diarrhea, muco-enteritis, chronic non-inflammatory diarrhea." Nux Vomica is never use in modern times which may be a shame. The stigma of strychnine being the primary component of Nux Vomica pretty much shut down any further serious consideration of this herb for the time being. Again, this is another reason for the FDA to do away with Wood's Colic Medicine.
Capsicum U.S.P.----- red hot peppers have had a long history of medicinal use and using them in veterinary medicine was common. It was a frequent ingredient in colic remedies of old. It is often cited as being a specific for flatulent colic along with stimulating the heart when need be. Physiological action is described as stimulating the appetite, aiding in digestion, increasing mucous secretions, flow of saliva and gastric juice. It was given to promote appetite, aid digestion, relieve cute and chronic flatulence. Suggested dosage was 1-3 drams for the horse, dogs: 2-5 minims.
Ammonia Aromatic ----------composed of ammonia carbonate 3-4%, oil of nutmeg 0.1%, oil of lemon 1%, oil of lavender 0.1%, alcohol 70% with water to make 100 parts. These four preparations of ammonia are gastric and general stimulants, stimulates for cardiac, respiratory and spinal systems. The aromatic spirit is also carminative. It may be used internally as diffusible stimulants in collapse from any cause. In indigestion, especially flatulence and spasmodic colic use the aromatic spirits.
So what can you expect from the modern Vet? Unfortunately, not a whole lot in my humble opinion. This is particularly the case if you live in a rural setting with no equine specialists near by. The racetrack is a bit better, though on the serious cases the track vet often points you to the University Clinic or fact simile. Routinely, they will pass a stomach tube and, upon, finding it efficacious, they will tube down 2 to 4 liters of mineral oil combined with 2 to 4 liters of warm water. The injection of Banamine is pretty much the pain reliever of choice. That is it. Oh yes, the time honored tradition of walking the poor animal out-of-it is also in simultaneous progress during much of this treatment protocol.
For starters, I would much prefer to tube a horse with extra virgin olive oil rather than mineral oil, even if somewhat more expensive. Its advantages far out weigh the added costs.