By Dr. Becker
Today I want to discuss turmeric, which is a bright yellow spice plant with the scientific name Curcuma longa.
Curcuma longa is a perennial plant in the ginger family. It grows about five to six feet high, has a trumpet-shaped, dull yellow flower, tough brown skin, and a deep orange flesh.
Turmeric has a fragrant aroma and a bitter, slightly sharp taste. It grows in many tropical regions but the majority is grown in India, where it is used in curry.
The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, found in the roots and bulbs. They are typically boiled and then dried, which results in the yellow powder most of us are familiar with.
Turmeric Provides Benefits to Both Humans and Animals
Turmeric has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
A growing body of more recent Western and holistic medicine evidence shows that turmeric is a preventive agent for a wide range of diseases, thanks to its anti-inflammatory effect.
In both humans and animals, turmeric has been shown to:
Enhance antioxidant protection against free radicals
Balance the digestive tract
Promote healthy skin and eyes
Promote healthy blood and circulation
Provide and support a healthy immune system
Maintain normal cholesterol levels
Promote joint health
Improve stress tolerance
Encourage healthy liver function
Maintain healthy blood sugar levels within normal range
Curcumin's Disease Prevention and Healing Properties
The list of curcumin's preventive and healing properties is a long one. According to an overview published in 2007 of a study conducted at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's Department of Experimental Therapeutics1:
"Curcumin has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities and thus has a really significant potential effect against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and other chronic illnesses."
Also in 2007, ethnobotanist James Duke published a comprehensive summary of turmeric studies in Alternative and Complementary Therapies2. Duke reviewed around 700 studies that concluded: "… turmeric appears to outperform many pharmaceuticals in its effects against several chronic debilitating diseases, and does so with virtually no adverse side effects."
One of the conditions turmeric has been found to be beneficial for is arthritis. Turmeric contains more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds, including six different COX-2 inhibitors. The COX-2 enzyme promotes pain, swelling, and inflammation, so inhibitors selectively block that enzyme.
Studies of the usefulness of curcumin have demonstrated positive changes in arthritic symptoms.
Duke found more than 700 citations for curcumin and cancer as well. He noted that in the handbook Phytochemicals: Mechanisms of Action, curcumin and/or turmeric were effective in animal models in prevention and/or treatment of colon cancer, mammary cancer, prostate cancer, and liver cancer in rats.
Researchers at Colorado State University's Animal Cancer Center are evaluating the potential for curcumin to treat feline cancer, specifically feline vaccine-associated sarcoma3.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University have found curcumin to be very beneficial in slowing the progression of autoimmune diseases in the animal model4.
Supplementing Your Pet's Diet with Turmeric
As you can see, potentially all mammals can benefit from this amazing spice.
Most dogs and cats readily accept a little seasoning on their meals. I have also found that all my pets, including my birds, do fine with the fresh root grated over their food.
If you want to increase the amount of biologically available curcumin in your pet's diet, you'll need to go with a supplement. I recommend you look for a high-quality, organic turmeric product and consider giving cats about 100 milligrams twice a day. Small to medium-sized dogs can be given 250 milligrams twice a day, and large to giant breeds should get 500 milligrams two to three times a day.
As always, you'll want to discuss the exact amounts needed for your individual pet with your holistic veterinarian.