Can Horses Eat Licorice?

Can Horses Eat Licorice?

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Horses are herbivores that have evolved to eat a diet primarily consisting of grasses and other vegetation. However, as humans have domesticated horses, we have also introduced them to a wide variety of treats and snacks that may not be a part of their natural diet. One such treat is licorice, a candy made from the root of the licorice plant. But can horses eat licorice, and is it safe for them to do so?

Licorice can provide some nutritional advantages such as vitamins, minerals, and digestive support. However, certain types of licorice made with anise oil can cause digestive problems. Horse owners need to consult with a veterinarian before providing licorice, as well as ensure the presence of other dietary supplements to balance out potential risks. In this article, we will explore the potential benefits and risks of providing licorice to horses

Can Horses Eat Licorice?

Yes, horses can eat licorice in small amounts. Licorice is a widely loved treat that can be enjoyed by humans and some animals alike, including horses. However, too much licorice can cause digestive problems, such as colic and diarrhoea, and can also cause electrolyte imbalance. So, it is best to exercise caution when feeding licorice to horses.



Licorice is a flavourful candy made from the root of the licorice plant. It has a strong, sweet flavour that many people love. It's also popular in desserts and other confectionery recipes. It is also used to treat many health conditions such as gastric ulcers, respiratory problems, skin irritations, and more. Licorice contains a compound called glycyrrhizin which has anti-inflammatory properties and is known to help reduce pain and improve digestion. The root also contains high levels of vitamin B, zinc, magnesium, and iron. When consumed in small amounts, licorice can be a beneficial part of a horse's diet.

There are several forms of licorice, each made up of different ingredients. The most common types are the plant-based licorice root, black licorice candy, and licorice extract. Black licorice candy is a combination of molasses, corn syrup, wheat flour, anise oil, and licorice extract. Licorice extract is made with anise oil, which can be toxic to horses if consumed in large amounts.

Nutritional Benefits of Licorice for Horses

It promotes appetite in horses

Licorice root contains natural sweetening compounds such as glycyrrhizin, which can be beneficial for some horses. Glycyrrhizin is known to enhance the taste of food for horses, making them more likely to consume it. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory properties of licorice extract can help to alleviate digestive problems, which could be causing a horse to lose their appetite.

It contains beneficial vitamins and minerals

Licorice root is packed with several essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin B, zinc, magnesium, and iron. Vitamin B helps to support a healthy metabolism, while zinc can help increase the absorption of nutrients in the body. Magnesium helps to keep bones strong and regulate the body’s nerve and muscle functions. Iron is necessary for healthy red blood cells.

It has anti-inflammatory properties

Licorice extract contains glycyrrhizin, which has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. In horses, it can be used to help reduce inflammation, such as in joint pain, stomach ulcers, and digestive problems. Glycyrrhizin has also been found to have antioxidant properties, helping to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.

It improves the overall health of horses

Licorice has been suggested to help with joint pain, stomach ulcers, and digestive problems, and the high levels of vitamin B, zinc, magnesium, and iron found in licorice root can help support healthy body functions. Additionally, the glycyrrhizin found in licorice root can help protect the linings of a horse's stomach from damage.

Risks of Feeding Licorice to Horses

High sugar content

The high sugar content of licorice can lead to weight gain in horses if consumed in excessive amounts. Additionally, sugar can also lead to an increased risk of dental issues and cavities for horses. Consuming too much sugar can also negatively affect a horse's overall health and put it at greater risk of developing metabolic conditions such as Cushing’s or insulin resistance.

Excessive consumption can lead to potassium imbalance

Consuming too much licorice can cause a sodium and potassium imbalance, which can be dangerous for horses. This is because licorice contains glycyrrhizin, which binds to sodium and causes an increase in the body's levels of aldosterone, a hormone that regulates the body's sodium and potassium levels. Too much aldosterone can disrupt the natural balance of sodium and potassium and lead to health complications.

It can cause digestive problems

Licorice made with anise oil can cause digestive problems in horses such as colic or diarrhoea. Anise oil is a compound found in licorice extract that contains high levels of estragole and anethole, which can be toxic to horses in large amounts. It is important to exercise caution and limit the amount of licorice made with anise oil given to horses.

It can cause hormonal imbalance

Consuming too much licorice can cause an imbalance in the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. When these two hormones are out of balance, it can lead to various health problems including poor digestion, reproductive issues, and weakened immunity. This is why it's important to feed your horse small amounts of licorice and consult with a veterinarian beforehand.


Guidelines for Feeding Licorice to Horses

If you do choose to offer your horse licorice as a treat, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you should always introduce new foods gradually to your horse's diet. This will help to prevent any digestive upsets or allergic reactions that your horse may have to the new food. Start by offering your horse a small piece of licorice and watch for any signs of discomfort or distress.

You should also be mindful of your horse's overall diet and nutritional needs. Horses require a diet that is high in fibre and low in sugar and starch. Too much sugar in a horse's diet can lead to several health problems, including insulin resistance and laminitis. 

Furthermore, you should also consider any health conditions that your horse may have. Horses with certain health conditions, such as kidney problems or high blood pressure, should avoid licorice altogether. 

Finally, it is important to consult with a veterinarian before feeding licorice to a horse. A vet will be able to provide advice on the appropriate amount of licorice to feed to a horse based on their age, size, and health status. Additionally, a vet can advise on any supplements that may be necessary to ensure it is properly digested and absorbed.

Concluding Words

licorice can be a safe and enjoyable treat for horses in limited amounts. However, it is important to consult with a veterinarian and exercise caution when feeding licorice to a horse to ensure its safety. Additionally, consider adding supplements such as fibre, probiotics, and minerals to help improve digestion and reduce potential risks associated with feeding licorice.

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