"Because it’s always been used for that…" does not cut it for Guelph-based Selected Bioproducts Inc. This manufacturer of medicinal herbal products for horses and canines was the first to put objective science behind their equine herbal products more than a decade ago. And to this day they remain the only equine herbal products company in Canada to build a product line based on 3rd party research into efficacy and safety. Their flagship product "Mobility" was the first to be tested.
The Equine Research Centre located at the Ontario Veterinary College, Guelph, Ontario, Canada; fed Mobility to a statistically valid sample of horses with arthritis and sampled synovial fluid over a month to determine effects of "Mobility" on biomarkers of inflammation. This generated the first research paper in the literature to describe the ability of an herbal product to reduce inflammatory prostaglandins ("PGE2") in the synovial fluid of arthritis horses.
It was more than 10 years later that Selected Bioproducts Inc. further investigated "Mobility". In search for evidence of a direct or indirect inhibitory effect of Mobility on PGE2, the University of Guelph developed an extract of the product that was intended to mimic the effects of digestion. This extract was applied to cartilage pieces in culture in the presence or absence of an inflammatory stimulus ("IL-1"). The intention was to determine whether the cartilage inflammation induced by IL-1 could be reduced by exposing the cartilage to extracts of Mobility. The research paper resulting from this work described a direct anti-inflammatory effect of Mobility on cartilage, in addition to protection against the cartilage-degrading effects of IL-1. Since this work, Selected Bioproducts has put more of their joint care products to the test using this research model. HyalCare showed both anti-inflammatory and chondroprotective effects against IL-1-stimulated cartilage. Ongoing work with Synovicare at the University of Guelph is showing preliminary evidence of direct inhibition against pro-inflammatory PGE2. Selected Bioproducts Inc. has also funded research at the Equine Research Centre (Guelph) Inc. to evaluate "Breathe". This research demonstrated that feeding "Breathe" to horses with RAO ("heaves") significantly reduces their elevated breathing rate while tending to reduce the effort of breathing in these horses.
Equine research into herbal products is a costly venture, both in time and finances. Selected Bioproducts are unique in their commitment to evidence-based product development, and 3rd party evaluations of their products comprise the bulk of evidence for herbal products in horses in the scientific literature. However, there is still much that remains unknown. What are the long-term effects of feeding herbal products to horses? Are there safety concerns in young stock or pregnant mares? What are some potential interactions with conventional drugs and/or hormones? This is a steep slope for a small Canadian business to climb, but with more than $500,000 in research funding already spent and more than one hundred thousand committed to a 2010/2011 research program, Selected Bioproducts Inc. has set the standard for equine herbal products far beyond the status quo of "because it’s always been used for that."