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Powerhouse Plants That Can Prevent and Heal Disease in Pets

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

turmeric for pets

Story at-a-glance -

  • The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which found in the roots and bulbs of the plant
  • A growing body of evidence points to the benefits of turmeric in supporting healthy organ function in both humans and animals
  • The M.D. Anderson Cancer Center has concluded curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and anticancer properties
  • Studies show that curcumin may have a very significant potential effect against a variety of malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, and other chronic conditions
  • Another powerhouse plant with anti-inflammatory properties that is safe for dogs and cats is moringa

Turmeric — scientific name: Curcuma longa — is a bright yellow perennial spice plant in the ginger family. It grows about 5 to 6 feet high, has a trumpet-shaped yellow flower, tough brown skin, and flesh that’s a deep orange color.

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’s 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.

An Inflammation-Fighting Powerhouse

Turmeric is a safe, powerful, inflammation-fighting superstar that has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). More recently, Western and holistic medicine evidence points to the benefits of turmeric in supporting healthy organ function in humans and animals due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and anticancer properties.

Scientists believe curcumin may have a very significant potential effect against a variety of malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis and other chronic conditions. In both humans and animals, turmeric has been shown to:

Enhance antioxidant protection against free radicals

Support healthy digestion

Promote healthy skin and eyes

Promote healthy blood and circulation

Support a healthy immune system

Maintain normal cholesterol levels

Promote joint health

Improve stress tolerance

Encourage healthy liver function

Maintain normal blood sugar levels

Research Shows Curcumin Aids in Disease Prevention and Healing

The list of curcumin's preventive and healing properties is a long one. According to a study conducted at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's Department of Experimental Therapeutics:

"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."1

In 2007, ethnobotanist James Duke published a comprehensive summary of turmeric studies in Alternative and Complementary Therapies. 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."2

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 sarcoma.3 Researchers at Vanderbilt University have found curcumin to be very beneficial in slowing the progression of autoimmune diseases in the animal model.4

Supplementing Your Pet's Diet with Turmeric

All mammals can potentially benefit from this healing spice. Most dogs and cats readily accept a little turmeric seasoning on their meals. I’ve also found most pets, including 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 human grade, high-quality, organic turmeric product, given as follows:

  • Cats — 100 milligrams twice a day
  • Small to medium-sized dogs — 250 milligrams twice a day
  • Large to giant breeds — 500 milligrams two to three times a day

If you’re thinking about dietary supplements for your dog or cat, as always, I recommend you talk with your integrative veterinarian about what products would be most beneficial for your pet’s individual needs. I also recommend purchasing supplements that are made with human-grade raw materials in a GMP-certified facility, or that are third party tested by the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC).

Another option for adding turmeric to your pet’s diet is golden paste. Golden paste has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is used in human medicine to prevent arthritis and cancer. In veterinary medicine, holistic and integrative practitioners use it to treat pets with arthritis, cancer, and other chronic inflammatory diseases. Golden paste is quite tasty to most dogs. The recipe (including my tweaks) is:

Ingredients

  • ½ cup organic powdered turmeric
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1/3 cup ethically sourced, organic coconut oil
  • ½ - 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (increases bioavailability)

Dosage typically ranges from ¼ teaspoon to 1 tablespoon daily, depending on the animal’s size and the condition being treated. Pets who should not be given turmeric include those scheduled for surgery, those with gallbladder disease, diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hormone-sensitive tumors, and problems absorbing iron.

Another Potent Natural Anti-Inflammatory: Moringa

Moringa oleifera is a fast-growing tree native to South Asia and now found throughout the tropics. Its leaves have been used as part of traditional medicine for centuries, and the Ayurvedic system of medicine associates it with the cure or prevention of about 300 diseases.5

Moringa, sometimes referred to as the "miracle tree," "drumstick tree," or "horseradish tree," has small, rounded leaves that are packed with an incredible amount of nutrition: protein, calcium, beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium … you name it, moringa's got it. The isothiocyanates, flavonoids, and phenolic acids in moringa leaves, pods, and seeds have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. According to the Epoch Times:

"The tree's strong anti-inflammatory action is traditionally used to treat stomach ulcers. Moringa oil (sometimes called Ben oil) has been shown to protect the liver from chronic inflammation. The oil is unique in that, unlike most vegetable oils, moringa resists rancidity.

This quality makes it a good preservative for foods that can spoil quickly. This sweet oil is used for both frying or in a salad dressing. It is also used topically to treat antifungal problems, arthritis, and is an excellent skin moisturizer."6

I’ve found moringa to be a diversified plant with many amazing health benefits, all of which apply to animals. Because of its nutrient density, I’ve used this herb as a whole food iron supplement to assist anemic animals in producing more red blood cells. I’ve also used it as a whole food supplement for pets consuming less than optimal nutrition (often animals coming out of shelters) to quickly bolster cellular nutrition.

Because the body views moringa as food, I’ve found it to be exceptionally beneficial for sensitive patients who can’t tolerate other supplements and have given it to very old hyperthyroid cats and diabetic ferrets and have mixed it in a hand feeding formula for neonatal parrots.

I’ve found moringa to be one of the most diverse herbs on the planet and one you may decide would be a nice addition for your pet to assist in managing a health condition or just as an all-around superfood.