Turmeric, known colloquially as “yellow root” or “golden spice”, is one of the oldest spices known to man. Its name is derived from the Latin word “terra merita” - or meritorious earth. While we may traditionally think of it as a spice for curry paste or powder, it can also be used as a dye and has long been touted as a powerful medicinal substance by multiple cultures. Indian, Chinese, Arab, and European societies more than 6,000 years old reference both the medicinal and religious properties of this amazing rhizomatous herb.
Turmeric contains curcumin - a powerful biological weapon against inflammation, oxidation, microbes, infected wounds, and cancer. In fact, this substance has been proven so effective as an anti-inflammatory that it is often compared to prescription medications, but without the toxic side effects such as ulcer formation, internal bleeding, and a lowered white blood cell count. Its mechanism of action is to inhibit NF-kB, TNF-a, and CD-4+, all potent inflammatory mediators in the body (2).
Moving beyond inflammation, curcumin has also shown benefit for a number of other chronic disease processes. Humans taking 2-3 grams daily of curcumin showed increased percentages of remission of their ulcerative colitis (Crohn’s disease) and came out of remission less often at 6- and 12-month follow-ups (1). Curcumin has also become a favorite in the treatment of various gastrointestinal cancers (5,6,7,8) and has promise in the realm of obesity and Type II diabetes mellitus (17).
As an added bonus, a dose of turmeric provides 26 percent of the daily recommended amount in manganese and 16 percent in iron, as well as excellent amounts of fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin C, and magnesium. All these vitamins and minerals help fulfill necessary metabolic process in the body (see Table 1).
Probably the biggest hurdles with curcumin supplementation is that turmeric only contains approximately 2 percent curcumin by weight (3) and what it does contain is minimally bioavailable (4). In short, curcumin is poorly absorbed when ingested and is rapidly metabolized in the liver. Newer technologies such as adjuvants, nanoparticles, liposomes, micelles, and phospholipid complexes are being evaluated as ways to increase the oral bioavailability of curcumin. Fortunately, a fairly recent study found that including black pepper with curcumin increases its absorption by up to 2,000% due to its containing a natural ingredient called piperine (4). This provides a natural and easy way to make sure the curcumin your dog or cat ingests is actually doing some good.
Dosing curcumin for your dog or cat can be tricky. All herbs and spices can be formulated in several different ways, whether as a tincture, granules, tablets, capsules, patent pills or as loose herb. A general rule of thumb is to administer a dose proportional to that recommended on the label for humans. Remember that since dogs and cats have a faster GI transit time than humans, capsules may not have time to dissolve. Many people will make a “golden paste” for their pets composed of powdered turmeric, black pepper, coconut oil, and water (16), however the percentage of actual curcumin in these recipes is often negligible (see Table 2). For guaranteed efficacious amounts as well as ease of administration, consider one of these high quality commercial products:
Dr. Mercola’s Curcumin for Pets
Standard Process Canine Flex Support
Standard Process Boswellia Complex
In general, turmeric is safe to administer even at doses of up to 8 grams per day. The most common side effects reported are transient diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal bloating (1,4). Due to its potential to inhibit platelet activity, it should be avoided before cutaneous surgery. Other referenced contraindications include obstructive disorders of the biliary tract, gallstones, and hypersensitivity (4).
Curcumin is one of the more powerful natural substances found in our spice racks. Consider giving to your pet if they suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, gastrointestinal and skin cancers, kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, or obesity.
Side effects are minor and usually transient - including gastrointestinal upset and abdominal bloating. It is always advisable whenever introducing a new food substance to start small and increase gradually.
Turmeric only contains 2 percent curcumin by weight, so it may be beneficial to supplement with a 95% curcuminoid extract product..
Dosage is weight dependent and can be calculated based off of the equivalent human dose. An average 50 pound dog needs about 150mg of curcumin 2 to 3 times daily.
Contraindications to supplementation include obstructive biliary disease (i.e. mucoceles), gallstones, hypersensitivity, and upcoming cutaneous surgery.
A few high quality pet products containing curcumin are made by Dr. Mercola and Standard Process. These may help guarantee efficacy and improve ease of administration and owner compliance.
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2. Singla V, Mouli VP, Garg SK, et al. Induction with NCB-02 (curcumin) enema for mild-to-moderate distal ulcerative colitis – A randomized, placebo-controlled, pilot study. J Crohn’s Colitis. 2014;8:208-14.
3. Pineo C. How Much Curcumin Is There in Powdered Turmeric? https://www.livestrong.com/article/543411-how-much-curcumin-is-there-in-powdered-turmeric/. Accessed 26 March 2018.
4. Shoba G1, Joy D, Joseph T, Majeed M, Rajendran R, Srinivas PS. Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Med May 1998;64(4)353-6.
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10. Watson S. What You Need To Know About Iron Supplements. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/features/iron-supplements#1. Accessed on 26 March 2018.
11. UMMC Health. Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine. https://www.umms.org/ummc/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b6-pyridoxine. Accessed on 26 March 2018.
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15. WebMD. Magnesium. https://www.webmd.com/diet/supplement-guide-magnesium#1. Accessed 26 March 2018.
16. Mojo and Friends Blog. Recipe: Golden paste (turmeric paste). https://mojoandfriends.blog/2017/10/22/recipe-golden-paste-turmeric-paste/. Accessed 26 March 2018.
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