Turmeric’s reputation has managed to go well beyond its versatility in the kitchen. We now know that this beautiful and popular spice has powerful anti-inflammatory properties when consumed by humans—but does turmeric offer any benefit to horses, and is it safe for them to take it? We answer these questions and many more.
Where Does Turmeric Come From, and What Is Its Active Ingredient?
Turmeric is a root from the ginger family. Its rhizomes (roots) grow underground as part of the Curcuma Longa plant. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, a phytochemical responsible for its anti-inflammatory and other properties.
How Does Turmeric Benefit Humans?
The use of turmeric in humans has revealed that the spice not only reduces inflammation in the body but also has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help to fight free radicals, which are compounds that are linked to serious illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Turmeric is used in Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medicine and by many Western practitioners for the purpose of treating a wide range of conditions, from dermatitis to tumors.
Turmeric and Horses
Research into the effects of turmeric on horses may have begun just over a decade ago, but the results have been both undeniable and significant; turmeric can have many benefits for horse health.
The COX-2 Enzyme
The cyclooxygenase enzyme 2, or COX-2 enzyme, is what’s responsible for causing pain and inflammation in horses. Curcumin has been found to inhibit this enzyme without reducing the function of the COX-1 enzyme. This is important because COX-1 protects a horse’s stomach lining.
Some brands in the NSAID family of pharmaceutical drugs will reduce inflammation. However, they also inhibit COX-2 enzymes. Turmeric offers a safe, natural means of offering pain reduction and other benefits to horses while preserving COX-1 enzyme function.
Using Turmeric for Equine Osteoarthritis
Equine osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition that can affect any age, discipline, or breed of horse. This very common condition is characterized by pain and inflammation in the joints due to degeneration. OA most commonly occurs in the stifles, hocks, and knees, but it can affect any joint.
The common symptoms of Equine OA can range from heat and swelling to stiffness, deformation, and lameness. Turmeric for horses can reduce pain and inflammation, allowing them to regain their mobility.
Using Turmeric as an Antioxidant
The natural process of oxidation allows the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates a horse consumes to be metabolized into sources of energy. Free radicals, which can damage cells, are an unfortunate byproduct of oxidation. Antioxidants, which protect against free radical damage, may simply not exist in sufficient amounts following illness or intense exercise. Supplementing with turmeric can ensure a sufficient supply.
As well, turmeric has been found to optimize antioxidant mechanisms in a horse’s body, which only adds more reason for supplementation.
Using Turmeric to Detoxify the Liver
Although small, a horse’s liver is vitally important for detoxification of digested or administered compounds that can be potentially dangerous. Should liver health become compromised, this detoxification may be insufficient, or altogether nonexistent.
Turmeric stimulates bile production in the gallbladder, which the liver uses to flush toxins. Bile is also a cell rejuvenator, which, in the liver, optimizes the health of cells responsible for the breakdown of potentially dangerous compounds.
Other Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric’s properties make it an ideal treatment for horses with liver issues, insufficient antioxidants, and osteoarthritis, but this wonder spice can and is being used to treat a number of other conditions. Buying turmeric for horses can help to relieve their allergy symptoms and skin conditions. Its anti-cancer properties make it the choice of many owners whose horses have sarcoids or melanomas.
The healing of wounds, as well as the recovery from infections and viruses, has also been helped by turmeric, as have gastric ulcers. Horses with metabolic issues who were treated with turmeric were able to stabilize. Turmeric also protects the stomach lining of horses, as it increases the production of mucus in the gastric wall. It also supports healthy respiratory and immune system function.
Although turmeric isn’t considered to be unsafe for humans or horses, as with anything else, moderation is the key. In human studies, the excessive consumption of curcumin has resulted in a number of side effects, including skin rashes, diarrhea, headaches, and nausea.
In a survey of horse owners who gave turmeric to their horses, loose droppings were reported in under 10 percent of horses. As well, curcumin should not be fed to horses who are on blood thinners NSAIDs or ulcer medications. You’ll also want to avoid giving turmeric to a horse who will soon be going into surgery.
Because it can affect a horse’s metabolism of iron, curcumin may not be suitable for the treatment of horses with chronic conditions. It may also not be suitable for horses who already have anemia, due to curcumin’s effect on iron metabolism.
The best thing to do if you are considering treating your horse with turmeric is to check with your vet first. You’ll also want to do the same if you are considering feeding turmeric to your pregnant or lactating mare as a preventative measure.
Dosage and Absorption
The size of your horse is the main determinant when figuring out how much turmeric to feed it; however, as with any natural treatment, you’ll want to start with a small dose and monitor your horse for any side effects before feeding it an increased amount. In addition to dosage, you should know that turmeric has low bioavailability on its own; it should be mixed with a carrier oil containing Omega-3 for maximum absorption.
As well, mixing turmeric with cracked black pepper is recommended to further boost bioavailability; black pepper contains piperine and, when combined with curcumin, makes the passing of turmeric through intestinal walls and into the bloodstream easier. The piperine in black pepper may also increase blood levels of curcumin by slowing its breakdown in the liver.
Self-Mixing vs. Supplementation
Many horse owners have made their own mixtures of turmeric, pepper, and oils and have administered them with positive results. Others choose to purchase pre-packaged turmeric products. It’s really up to the individual owner but, generally speaking, if you are considering treating your horse with turmeric for the first time, it may be best to purchase turmeric pellets for horses to if you’re concerned about giving the proper dosage or mixture.
Turmeric can be applied to the outside as well as the inside of the body. It can be applied topically to rashes and other types of irritation in a mixture with coconut oil or another neutral substance that will stick to the skin’s surface. It can be a good idea to combine the oil and the turmeric in a pot, and reduce the mixture until it becomes a paste, after which it can be stored in a jar and used when needed.Cancer treatment with turmeric will require feeding of the mixture so that the infection can be fought from inside.
Give Your Horse the Ultimate Natural Edge
We offer four product lines to improve horse health: a performance series, a metabolic series, an aid series, and a green marketplace, where our turmeric powder can be found. Explore them all online, or call us today to learn more: 1-800-786-0708.