Turmeric, that bright orange spice that makes curries yellow, has many health benefits.
One area in which it’s coming to the fore is in treating arthritis or joint pain. The good news is that now there’s scientific testing that confirms its effectiveness.
An exciting clinical trial published in the Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging tested the effects of turmeric compared with ibuprofen (anti-inflammatory available at pharmacies) in treating people with knee osteoarthritis.
Don’t ever give your dog ibuprofen!
First of all, let’s stress that ibuprofen should never be given to dogs. It can be highly toxic for them; the margin of safety for canine use is much narrower than it is in humans. So please don’t ever give your dog ibuprofen of any kind.
Then why are we talking about it?
Ibuprofen is one of the more popular pain relievers for over the counter pain relievers. Despite the number of adverse effects (including toxicity to the heart, according to the medical journal The Lancet), the US consumes over 100 billion tablets per year! So we can conclude that ibuprofen’s probably a pretty effective pain reliever.
But what about turmeric? How does it compare?
The difference between turmeric and curcumin
Turmeric and curcumin are two terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re not quite the same thing.
The Latin name for turmeric is Curcuma domestica; turmeric contains curcumin. Curcumin is the active constituent in turmeric that provides most of the health benefits.
Turmeric is the name for the spice that is used in cooking; the name curcumin is often used when discussing the health aspects of that spice.
What the study found
The study, titled “Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicentre study”, compared the effects of ibuprofen and turmeric in 367 patients over a four week period.
All patients had a pain score of five or higher at the beginning of the trial; in other words they experienced moderate pain that was bad enough to interfere with tasks or possibly even concentration.
Patients were randomly assigned into groups given either Curcuma domestica extracts (185) or ibuprofen (182).
The study measured:
- Total scores
The study reports that both C. domestica and ibuprofen were successful in reducing pain and discomfort
However C. domestica patients scored better on tests of stair climbing and a 100 meter walk.
All scores showed significant improvement over the baseline scores in both groups; 96-97% of subjects in both groups were satisfied with the treatment and two thirds rated themselves as improved.
The number of adverse events, primarily abdominal pain or discomfort, was significantly higher in the ibuprofen group that in the C. domestica extracts group.
Another similar study done in 2012 found remarkable results using curcumin to treat the very painful disease rheumatoid arthritis, and in that study the group who received only curcumin showed the highest percentage of improvement.
How is this good news for dogs?
This spice has great promise for dogs too, with favourable results against ibuprofen. It may be just as effective as the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) offered by many conventional vets, but with far fewer side effects than these medications.
If your dog suffers from inflammation pain and you haven’t given him turmeric, you may want to give it a try. It’s best to buy organic turmeric at a health food store (powder or capsules) rather than buying grocery store turmeric which usually only contains 2%-4% curcumin by weight and may be grown using pesticides.
Look for products standardized for 95% curcuminoids. Important to know is that turmeric is not readily or easily absorbed into the body. It is important to buy a product that contains black pepper or piperine (that’s what gives black pepper its pungency) which may assist with absorption. Fresh turmeric root may be crushed, in which case simply add turmeric paste to your dog’s food.
The recommended dose for dogs is 30 to 40 mg per kilogram of body weight per day, or more simply put, ⅛ to ¼ tsp. per day for every 5kg in weight.
As curcumin in turmeric is a binding agent, give your dog access to plenty of water which will help avoid constipation.
However – please note the following cautions
Talk to your holistic vet first if you have any concerns about whether turmeric is right for your dog.
While it’s generally considered safe, there are a few things to consider.
- It can interact with other medications, especially NSAIDs and blood thinning drugs.
- For a patient undergoing cancer treatment, it may interfere with certain cancer drugs.
- High doses have also been known to cause liver problems so please do not exceed the dose in the hopes of a better result.
- Turmeric should not be used during pregnancy as it may cause premature uterus contractions leading to miscarriage.
In addition to helping with pain and inflammation, turmeric does offer many other health benefits in humans.
It may support heart health by lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and thinning the blood; it is a detoxifier; it is an antioxidant that has anti-cancer properties; it can help treat epilepsy, relieve allergies, kill parasites and prevent the formation of cataracts. Since it is a binding agent you can also use it assist with diarrhoea.