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Turmeric: A Natural Golden Glow


Date: February 19, 2024

How to cite: Barata, R. (2024). Turmeric: A Natural Golden Glow. Human-Animal Science.


This post is intended for educational purposes only and is based on scientific studies. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Always consult a qualified professional for any concerns regarding your pet's health.


Turmeric has been studied for its potential health benefits, primarily focused on its active component, curcumin, which exhibits antioxidant, anti-mutagen, and anti-carcinogenic properties in experimental animals. While the studies sourced primarily involve human subjects, the results may provide some insight into the potential health effects of turmeric on animals due to the biological activities of curcumin.


These studies indicate the potential of turmeric and curcumin in managing various health conditions in pets, especially related to inflammation and respiratory diseases. However, consulting with a veterinary professional before using turmeric as a supplement or treatment for pets is crucial, as the appropriate dosage and effects may vary significantly between individuals and conditions.


Chand (2019) explores the ancient use of turmeric root for its immune-inflammatory modulating effects on various conditions affecting the gut, joints, brain, and overall body health, particularly in regions where turmeric is a dietary staple. Turmeric's efficacy is attributed to its complex composition of over 235 active ingredients, including essential oils, more than 89 curcuminoids, turmerosaccharides, other curcuminoid-free components, and fiber. These constituents are believed to work together, possibly in additive or synergistic ways, to modulate chronic immune inflammation and pain in horses, pets, and humans. Preclinical data suggest that low doses of turmeric or its active components, such as curcumin, could be beneficial in preventing or treating immune-inflammatory diseases across various bodily systems. 


The concept of standardized turmeric (ST), underpinned by a recent patent, proposes a novel approach that could potentially reduce the reliance on conventional medications like analgesics, antidepressants, steroids, and anticancer drugs. The study advocates for research and development of ST, utilizing advanced drug delivery systems and rigorous clinical trials to explore its preventative and therapeutic potential for conditions such as osteoarthritis, dementia, and other age-related diseases in pets and humans. Additionally, it highlights the need for consumer awareness regarding the adulteration of turmeric and its extracts.


Studies in dogs

  • A medical food cocktail containing an extract of turmeric (95% curcuminoids) was part of a treatment in a canine model of human aging and Alzheimer's disease. The treatment significantly improved spatial attention in aged dogs, suggesting potential cognitive benefits (Head et al., 2012).
  • Turmeric oil effectively prevented tick attachment to dogs, highlighting its potential as a natural component of a tick management program for domestic dogs (Goode et al., 2018).
  • An ethanol extract of turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) reduced apoptosis. It promoted the proliferation of canine osteosarcoma cells, providing a basis for understanding how natural compounds like turmeric ethanolic extract might affect cell proliferation and treatment of various diseases (Alves et al., 2022).
  • The synergistic effects of turmeric extract were examined in canine neoplastic cell lines. It was observed that turmeric extract, particularly when combined with rosemary extract, had potent antiproliferative effects and positively interacted with chemotherapeutic agents. This suggests a potential role for turmeric in canine cancer treatment (Levine et al., 2016).
  • Another study by Levine et al. (2017) explores the impact of turmeric root extract (TE) and rosemary leaf extract (RE) on canine cancer cells. Highlighting the growing interest in nutraceuticals for cancer treatment in humans and dogs, the study delves into the synergistic effects of TE and RE on inducing apoptosis, reducing oxidative stress, and affecting signaling pathways in canine neoplastic cell lines. It finds that the combination of TE and RE significantly enhances apoptosis more than either extract alone, possibly due to increased curcumin accumulation and specific pathway activations. This study underscores the potential of TE and RE as dietary interventions for dogs with neoplasia while calling for further research on their pharmacodynamics and clinical applications.
  • Turmeric and its active ingredients, including curcumin, may modulate immune-inflammatory diseases and reduce the need for certain medications in horses, pets, and people. However, consumers need to be aware of the adulteration of turmeric and its extracts (Dzanis, 2019).
  • The EFSA Panel on Additives and Products or Substances used in Animal Feed concluded that turmeric extract, oil, oleoresin, and tincture from Curcuma longa L. rhizome are safe for use as sensory additives in feed and water for drinking for all animal species at specified maximum use levels (Bampidis et al., 2020).
  • Turmeric (C. xanthorrhiza) may effectively reduce the severity of squamous ulceration in horses during stable confinement and dietary manipulation. The study found that oral supplementation of turmeric reduced the severity of squamous ulceration compared to control horses (Fletcher Sps & Gough Sl, 2019).
  • A study tested a turmeric extract known as P54FP, made from Indian and Javanese turmeric, on 61 dogs with osteoarthritis in their elbows or hips to see if it could help relieve their symptoms. This was a carefully controlled trial where some dogs got the turmeric extract, and others got a placebo; neither the dog owners nor the researchers knew which was which until the end. The dogs were checked over eight weeks to see any improvement in how well they could move and how much pain they seemed in, based on measurements like the force they could put on their legs and the vets' and owners' observations. In the end, the vets thought the turmeric helped, but the improvement wasn't clear-cut in the owners' view, and there wasn't a big difference in the leg force measurements between the dogs that got the turmeric and those that didn't. Also, a few dogs had to drop out of the study because they got worse, but this was true for both the turmeric and placebo groups, and there weren't any severe side effects from the turmeric (Innes et al., 2003).
  • In a study conducted by Fernoagă et al. (2018), turmeric, known for its powerful natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, was used to treat 15 dogs suffering from various forms of paresis or paralysis. These conditions, diagnosed as stemming from issues in the thoracolumbar vertebral column, ranged from trauma and herniated discs to spondylosis. While about a quarter of these dogs needed surgery, most were managed with medical treatments, including a turmeric regimen at 1 gram per 10 kilograms of body weight daily for several months. This treatment aimed to address chronic inflammation, and improvements were noted between 20 and 30 days after starting the turmeric, with total recovery times ranging from 3 days to 3 months. Notably, 20% of the treated dogs experienced a recurrence of neurological symptoms, effectively managed by slightly increasing the turmeric dosage. This study underscores turmeric's potential as a safe and effective treatment for inflammatory conditions in dogs without the side effects often associated with traditional anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Kępińska-Pacelik and Biel (2023) investigate turmeric and its curcuminoids—curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bis-demethoxycurcumin—highlighting their health benefits such as anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antioxidant effects on humans and dogs. It addresses curcumin's potential in treating metabolic and central nervous system disorders, including neurodegenerative diseases and depression. However, the study also notes limitations like low bioavailability and potential adverse effects at high doses. Future research should explore curcumin's role as a pet adjunctive therapy, considering challenges like its bitter taste for dog acceptance.
  • Ural et al. (2021) tested a treatment combining Curcuma Longa and Silybium marianum, known as Silifort paste, on 26 dogs with atopic dermatitis to see if it could significantly reduce their itching after one week of twice-daily topical application. Initially, the treatment and placebo groups had similar pruritus scores according to their owners and similar dermatitis severity scores according to veterinarians. By the end of the study, the Silifort-treated dogs showed a remarkable improvement, with their pruritus scores dropping from severe itching to normal and their dermatitis severity scores reducing significantly to near normal, much more so than the placebo group. This study demonstrates the potential of Silifort paste as a short-term treatment for reducing itching in dogs with atopic dermatitis.


Studies in Horses

  • Blanc et al. (2020) investigated whether horse supplements containing turmeric (Curcuma longa) and devil’s claw (Harpagophytum species), known for their anti-inflammatory and pain-relief properties but also for potential gastric irritation, could worsen gastric ulcers in horses. It involved twelve Thoroughbred horses with existing equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) scores greater than zero. These horses were divided into two groups: one received the active supplements, and the other received placebo supplements without the active ingredients for 28 days. Gastroscopy conducted on Days 0, 14, and 28, along with other health parameters, showed that both the treatment and control groups had significantly lower EGUS and non-glandular severity scores by the end of the study, with no adverse changes in body weight, gastric juice pH, or blood parameters. The study concluded that turmeric and devil’s claw supplements do not cause or exacerbate gastric ulcers in horses, nor do they negatively affect overall health parameters over the 28-day feeding period.
  • Starzonek et al. (2019) tested whether a supplement from green tea and turmeric could help reduce inflammation in horses and ponies. Eleven animals took part, receiving either the supplement or a placebo daily for three weeks. After this period, the animals were exposed to a substance to trigger mild inflammation. Blood and liver tests were done before and after this exposure to check for signs of inflammation. The results showed that, after inflammation was triggered, horses and ponies that received the supplement had slightly lower levels of a specific inflammation marker in the liver than those that got the placebo. However, the two groups had no significant difference in other inflammation markers or overall inflammation response.
  • In a study with twenty horses, Much et al. (2020) examined how a special joint supplement affected their movement, inflammation, and cartilage health over 28 days. The horses were divided into two groups: one got a placebo mixed with their feed, and the other received a supplement containing ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and turmeric. The results showed that the horses taking the supplement slightly improved the flexibility of their hocks (part of the leg) when walking and possibly when trotting. Overall, the supplement made a slight difference in how the horses moved their hocks, but it didn't seem to affect the inflammation or the health of their cartilage in the short term. The study suggests that looking directly into the joint might give a clearer picture of the supplement's effects.
  • A study investigated the pharmacokinetics of curcuminoids and their metabolites in horses, emphasizing the increasing use of turmeric as a dietary supplement for horses and the need for validated methods to quantify these compounds in equine plasma (Liu et al., 2018).
  • Oral turmeric powder supplementation (20g daily) effectively reduced the severity of squamous gastric ulceration in horses during stable confinement and dietary manipulation. This suggests the potential benefits of turmeric in managing equine gastric ulcers (Fletcher Sps & Gough Sl, 2019).
  • Turmeric, including its active ingredients like curcumin, may modulate immune-inflammatory diseases and reduce the need for certain medications in horses. However, it's essential to be aware of the potential adulteration of turmeric and its extracts (Dzanis, 2019).
  • A patented hydrosoluble form of curcumin showed promising results in treating horses with respiratory diseases. The soluble form of curcumin administered by inhalation was used successfully in horses suffering from inflammatory airway disease (IAD) and recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), as well as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH) due to its anti-inflammatory properties and inhibition of neutrophil enzymes (Serteyn, 2016).


Studies in Cats

  • Leray et al. (2011) investigated the effects of citrus and curcumin polyphenols on inflammation in obese cats, using diets supplemented with either citrus polyphenols or curcumin for two 8-week periods. Results showed that both supplements slightly reduced inflammation markers in the blood, indicating a decrease in inflammation. Specifically, citrus polyphenols decreased specific proteins associated with inflammation, and curcumin lowered one such protein level.
  • Candellone et al. (2019) found that supplementing the diet of hyperthyroid cats with a mix of antioxidants (curcumin, quercetin, resveratrol, and vitamin E) alongside their standard methimazole (MMI) treatment can reduce the side effects associated with MMI. The antioxidants appear to work together with MMI to improve the health outcomes of these cats by rebalancing their body's antioxidant levels, which are often disrupted by hyperthyroidism and MMI treatment. This approach helps manage the disease more effectively and reduces the oxidative stress and side effects caused by MMI. While promising, the study suggests that more research with more animals is needed to fully understand the benefits of antioxidant supplements in treating feline hyperthyroidism.
  • Corbee (2022) investigated the effects of a supplement containing green-lipped mussel, curcumin, and blackcurrant leaf extract on dogs and cats with mild to moderate osteoarthritis. The research involved 32 dogs and 16 cats in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, which measured improvements in movement and behavior. Dogs were assessed using the Canine OsteoArthritis Staging Tool (COAST) and Force Plate Analysis (FPA). In contrast, their owners evaluated dogs and cats using the Helsinki Chronic Pain Index (HCPI). The results showed some improvements in dogs' COAST scores and cats' grooming, activity, playfulness, and ability to climb stairs with the supplement. Still, no significant differences were found in HCPI scores and FPA in dogs. The study concluded that the supplement had limited benefits for pets with osteoarthritis, suggesting further research with more animals and over a more extended period to fully understand its effectiveness.
  • Marchegiani et al. (2020) review the effectiveness of certain ingredients in complementary feeds aimed at supporting liver function in dogs and cats, focusing on artichoke, curcumin, dandelion, milk thistle, phosphatidylcholine, and S-adenosylmethionine. Despite the commercial availability of many such products, the scientific literature on their use for liver support in small animals is limited. The review highlights that while there are some promising results, the overall evidence from the few studies found, including case reports, is not strong enough to provide definitive support for their use, especially in cats. The paper suggests that while these complementary feeds could be beneficial for managing liver diseases in pets, there is a clear need for further research to validate their effectiveness, including studies on dosage and the combination of active ingredients.


References

Alves, N., Cruz, V., Nepomuceno, L., Soares, N., Arnhold, E., Graziani, D., Gonçalves, P., Badan, G., Santos, A., & Araújo, E. (2022). Turmeric ethanol extract (Curcuma longa L.) reduces apoptosis and promotes canine osteosarcoma cell proliferation. Ciência Animal Brasileira. https://doi.org/10.1590/1809-6891v23e-72215e.


Bampidis, V., Azimonti, G., Bastos, M., Christensen, H., Durjava, M., Kouba, M., López-Alonso, M., Puente, S., Marcon, F., Mayo, B., Pechová, A., Petkova, M., Ramos, F., Sanz, Y., Villa, R., Woutersen, R., Brantom, P., Chesson, A., Westendorf, J., Gregoretti, L., Manini, P., & Dusemund, B. (2020). Safety and efficacy of turmeric extract, turmeric oil, turmeric oleoresin, and turmeric tincture from Curcuma longa L. rhizome when used as sensory additives in feed for all animal species. EFSA Journal, 18. https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2020.6146.


Blanc, M., Banse, H. E., Retif, M., Arana-Valencia, N., Keowen, M. L., Garza, F., Liu, C., Gray, L., & Andrews, F. M. (2020). Effects of supplements containing turmeric and devil’s claw on equine gastric ulcer scores and gastric juice pH. Equine Veterinary Education34(5), 241–247. https://doi.org/10.1111/eve.13404


Candellone, A., Badino, P., Gianella, P., Girolami, F., Raviri, G., Saettone, V., & Meineri, G. (2019). Evaluation of Antioxidant Supplementation on Redox Unbalance in Hyperthyroid Cats Treated with Methimazole: A Blinded Randomized Controlled Trial. Antioxidants9(1), 15. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox9010015


Chand, N. (2019). Standardized Turmeric and Curcumin. In: Gupta, R., Srivastava, A., Lall, R. (eds) Nutraceuticals in Veterinary Medicine. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-04624-8_1


Dzanis, D. (2019). Nutraceuticals in Veterinary Medicine. Australian Veterinary Journal, 77 4, 238-9. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-04624-8.


Fernoagă, C., Dobre, I., Strugariu, C. M. B., Cornilă, M., Gherghel, M., & Brăslaşu, E. D. (2018). The effectiveness of turmeric use in the therapy of chronic inflammation associated with paresis and paralysis in dogs. Journal of Biotechnology280, S80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbiotec.2018.06.261


Goode, P., Ellse, L., & Wall, R. (2018). Preventing tick attachment to dogs using essential oils. Ticks and tick-borne diseases, 9 4, 921-926. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2018.03.029.

Corbee, R. J. (2022). The efficacy of a nutritional supplement containing green‐lipped mussel, curcumin and blackcurrant leaf extract in dogs and cats with osteoarthritis. Veterinary Medicine and Science8(3), 1025–1035. https://doi.org/10.1002/vms3.779


Head, E., Murphey, H., Dowling, A., McCarty, K., Bethel, S., Nitz, J., Pleiss, M., VanRooyen, J., Grossheim, M., Smiley, J., Murphy, M., Beckett, T., Pagani, D., Bresch, F., & Hendrix, C. (2012). A combination cocktail improves spatial attention in a canine model of human aging and Alzheimer's disease. Journal of Alzheimer's disease: JAD, 32 4, 1029-42. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-2012-120937.


Innes, J. F., Fuller, C. J., Grover, E. R., Kelly, A., & Burn, J. (2003). Randomised, double‐blind, placebo-controlled parallel-group study of P54FP for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis. Veterinary Record152(15), 457–460. https://doi.org/10.1136/vr.152.15.457


Kępińska-Pacelik, J., & Biel, W. (2023). Turmeric and Curcumin—Health-Promoting Properties in Humans versus Dogs. International Journal of Molecular Sciences24(19), 14561. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms241914561


Leray, V., Freuchet, B., Le Bloc’h, J., Jeusette, I., Torre, C., & Nguyen, P. (2011). Effect of citrus polyphenol- and curcumin-supplemented diet on inflammatory state in obese cats. British Journal of Nutrition106(S1), S198–S201. doi:10.1017/S0007114511002492


Levine, C., Bayle, J., Biourge, V., & Wakshlag, J. (2016). Effects and synergy of feed ingredients on canine neoplastic cell proliferation. BMC Veterinary Research, 12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12917-016-0774-9.


Levine, C. B., Bayle, J., Biourge, V., & Wakshlag, J. J. (2017). Cellular effects of a turmeric root and rosemary leaf extract on canine neoplastic cell lines. BMC Veterinary Research13(1), 388. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12917-017-1302-2


Liu, Y., Siard, M., Adams, A., Keowen, M., Miller, T., Garza, F., Andrews, F., & Seeram, N. (2018). Simultaneous quantification of free curcuminoids and their metabolites in equine plasma by LC‐ESI–MS/MS. Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, 154, 31–39. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpba.2018.03.014.


Marchegiani, A., Fruganti, A., Gavazza, A., Mangiaterra, S., Candellone, A., Fusi, E., Rossi, G., & Cerquetella, M. (2020). Evidences on molecules most frequently included in canine and feline complementary feed to support liver function. Veterinary Medicine International2020, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/9185759


Much, M. L., Leatherwood, J. L., Martínez, R., Silvers, B. L., Basta, C. F., Gray, L. F., & Bradbery, A. (2020). Evaluation of an oral joint supplement on gait kinematics and biomarkers of cartilage metabolism and inflammation in mature riding horses. Translational Animal Science4(3). https://doi.org/10.1093/tas/txaa150


Serteyn, D. (2016). Soluble Curcumin and Horses: Strategic Ingredient in The Future. Journal of the International Society of Antioxidants in Nutrition & Health, 3. https://doi.org/10.18143/JISANH_V3I1_944.


Sps, F., & Sl, G. (2019). Pre-Treatment with Turmeric (C. Xanthorrhiza) Reduces the Severity of Squamous Gastric Ulceration in Feed Restricted Horses. Journal of Animal Science and Research. https://doi.org/10.16966/2576-6457.125.


Starzonek, J., Roscher, K., Blüher, M., Blaue, D., Schedlbauer, C., Hirz, M., Raila, J., & Vervuert, I. (2019). Effects of a blend of green tea and curcuma extract supplementation on lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in horses and ponies. PeerJ7, e8053. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.8053


Ural, K., Gültekin, M., Erdoğan, S., & Erdoğan, H. (2021). Antipruritic armamentarium with short-term nutritional support solution involving silymarin and curcumin for atopic dermatitis in dogs. Mehmet Akif Ersoy Üniversitesi Veteriner Fakültesi Dergisi6(1), 8–13. https://doi.org/10.24880/maeuvfd.762776