Turmeric, the 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, and 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 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 most popular pain relievers in the US, accounting for a third of over the counter analgesics in the country. 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
It’s confusing sometimes to read about turmeric and curcumin as the 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 the spice.
What the study found
The study, titled Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis, 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. The patients were randomly assigned into groups given either Curcuma domestica extracts (185) or ibuprofen (182).
The study measured:
- Total scores
In conclusion, the study reports that both C. domestica and ibuprofen were successful in reducing pain and discomfort, but 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. However, 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.
Good news for dogs
This spice has great promise for dogs too, and, given the favorable results against ibuprofen, it seems likely to 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 arthritis or joint 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. Also, it’s a good idea to buy a product that contains black pepper or piperine (that’s what gives black pepper its pungency), which may help with absorption. You can also buy the fresh turmeric root and crush it, in which case it’s also wise to add a little black pepper to aid absorption.
Whatever form you choose, it can be added to your dog’s food. The recommended dose for dogs is 15 to 20 mg per pound of body weight per day, or more simply put, ⅛ to ¼ tsp per day for every 10 lbs in weight. The curcumin in turmeric is a binding agent so give your dog access to plenty of water which will help avoid constipation.
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, and for a patient undergoing cancer treatment, it may interfere with certain cancer drugs. High doses have also been known to cause liver problems, and 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 offers many other health benefits. Among other things, it can 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 to treat diarrhea.
Find out why turmeric is not just a spice but something every dog should have … Click Here