The Super Spice – Turmeric And Its Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Those of you who are partial to Asian foods and curries may already be familiar with turmeric as an ingredient to flavour and bring colour to certain foods. This brightly coloured spice comes from the roots of the turmeric plant (Curcuma longa), a member of the ginger family. As well as being an aromatic addition to your cooking, turmeric is used as a natural dye in clothing and has been used in traditional medicine for nearly 4000 years.1 Many modern studies have been conducted to examine the health benefits of turmeric and these studies have proven that this plant does indeed hold many beneficial properties, for us and for our beloved pets.
Turmeric has been proven to have the following beneficial properties2:
- Lowers cholesterol
- Promotes organ health (liver, pancreas, digestive system, heart)
- Protects against stomach ulcers
- Assists wound healing
The key components of turmeric that provide the majority of these benefits are molecules called curcuminoids, and these make up the substance curcumin.3The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin can be incredibly beneficial for dogs and cats that suffer from arthritis and other joint degenerative disorders.
Turmeric’s ability to aid the body in reducing the severity of joint disorders comes from its multiple anti-inflammatory and pain killing properties. It contains 12 naturally occurring painkiller chemicals collectively known as analgesic phytochemicals and over 24 anti-inflammatory compounds, of which six of these are natural COX-2 inhibitors.4 Cyclooxygenase (COX) is a substance that occurs in the body in two enzymatic forms, COX-1 and COX-2. It is the COX-2 enzyme that is detrimental to your pet’s body, as when there are high amounts of COX-2 activity there is a noticeable increase in inflammation and pain.5 Turmeric’s COX-2 inhibitor properties mean that when ingested the levels of COX-2 present in the body are decreased, therefore decreasing inflammation.
As well as being a COX-2 inhibitor, the curcumin present in turmeric is capable of inhibiting various inflammatory agents. It is able to decrease the amount of arachidonic acid in the body, an omega 6 fatty acid with inflammatory properties. When high proportions are present in cells this creates an ideal environment where it can be converted into inflammatory agents called eicosanoids6.
Curcumin can also decrease the impact of arthritis on the body by slowing down its development through the regulation of glycoproteins.7 Glycoproteins are types of proteins that contribute to a wide range of processes in your pet’s body, including being enzyme catalysts for various processes in the body, and aiding in the production of collagen for muscles, skin, and joints. When some glycoproteins are produced in excess by the body they can have a negative effect, including the aggravation of existing arthritic conditions. Curcumin can help reduce excessive levels of glycoproteins.
The inflammation of your pet’s joints doesn’t only result in injuries and degenerative bone diseases. Scientific links have been made between inflammation and the triggering of certain cancers.8 Inflamed cells in the body create an ideal environment for cancer mutations to occur by producing cytokines, chemokines, and lipid mediators. These are all molecules that cause inflammation, but they are also all molecules that curcumin has been known to inhibit and decrease the production of.9 From these observations, it can be assumed that as well as protecting your pet’s joints from inflammation, curcumin can protect the body from the development of some cancers.
A study undertaken with rats and the absorption of curcumin noted that it does not have a high absorbability, with the rats only capable of absorbing a maximum of 35%.10 The same absorption issue can be assumed with cats and dogs, as curcumin naturally has a low solubility so does not break down easily when ingested. Piperine, a substance present in black pepper can increase the absorption of curcumin by more than 150% when fed alongside the supplement.11Foods containing moderate levels of phosphatidylcholines also increase the absorption rate and many of these foods may already be included in your pet’s diet. Chicken liver, beef, salmon, shrimp, and sweet potato are all foods that contain higher than average levels of phosphatidylcholines, with chicken liver being the highest with 213.70 mg per 100g.
Turmeric and curcumin supplements are available in many forms, including capsules, tablets, or powder. Some are manufactured specifically for dogs or cats, but you can also find products that are marketed as being suitable for general use. When buying for your pet it is ideal to purchase products that are sourced from organic turmeric to ensure they are free of any pesticides that may be harmful to dogs and cats, and also ensure that the products are free of any added synthetic ingredients.
At the present time, there are no confirmed side effects of feeding turmeric to dogs and cats, and no maximum dosage has been noted in any studies conducted. However, we recommend following the dosage guidelines on any supplement purchased.Back