Turmeric (botanical name: Curcuma Longa) is a member of the ginger family. Its root (bright yellow spice) is a staple ingredient in curry dishes.
Curcuminoids are the bioactive compounds in turmeric. They are made up of 60–70% curcumin, 20-27% demethoxycurcumin and 10-15% bisdemethoxycurcumin. Curcumin is responsible for the yellow/orange colour of turmeric. It is the most studied curcuminoid for its therapeutic effects as it has multiple targets and mechanisms of action.
Curcumin has been used in Ayurvedic (Indian) and Chinese medicine for more than 5000 years. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. Hence, it is one of the most promising phytochemicals for preventing and/or fighting a range of diseases such as cancer, arthritis, obesity, cardiovascular, etc. It is generally safe, even when ingested in large amounts.
(Photo by: Steven Jackson)
There are extensive studies and human clinical trials on the therapeutic potential of curcumin in many diseases, especially cancer and arthritis. Although canine studies are limited, curcumin may still be potentially beneficial for your dog.
Curcumin & Cancer
Curcumin is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound. It targets numerous pathways of carcinogenesis and has been found to suppress initiation, progression, and metastasis of a variety of tumours. Curcumin affects tumour growth by altering the activity of enzymes, transcription factors, inflammatory cytokines, growth factors and other molecules.
Anti-Cancer & Anti-Tumour Effects Of Curcumin
1. Inhibit proliferation of cancer cells
When cell proliferation gets out of control, normal cells become malignant and turn into cancer cells. Curcumin suppresses cell proliferation signalling pathways that are upregulated in the progression of cancer.
2. Induce apoptosis (death) in cancer cells
Tumour cells utilised various strategies to limit or avoid apoptosis (cell death). Curcumin increases the expression of pro-apoptopic regulators and decreases anti-apoptopic factors to induce apoptosis of cancer cells.
3. Inhibit tumour angiogenesis
Tumour angiogenesis is the formation of a new network of blood vessels around cancerous growth. This supplies tumour with oxygen and nutrients, and removes waste products. With its own blood supply, tumour can continue to grow and metastasise.
Curcumin has been shown to have antiangiogenic properties. It can potentially interfere with angiogenic stimulating factors and prevent tumour cells from developing blood supply. This cuts off food and oxygen supply to tumour cells, thus slowing or preventing their growth and spread.
4. Act as an immuno-modulatory agent
Curcumin modulates the immune system either by enhancing or suppressing the immune response. It may also improve the efficacy of cancer treatment while supporting the immune system to fight cancer.
Curcumin & Arthritis
Arthritis is an inflammatory joint disease that is common in both humans and dogs.
Studies have shown the anti-arthritic effects of curcumin in humans with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment with standardized turmeric extracts (typically 1000 mg/day of curcumin) for 8-12 weeks can reduce arthritis symptoms, especially pain and inflammation-related symptoms, and result in similar improvements in the symptoms as ibuprofen and diclofenac sodium (NSAIDS).
These findings suggest that turmeric extracts and curcumin can be recommended for alleviating the symptoms of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis. NSAIDS have a quick onset of action but tend to cause gastrointestinal issues. Curcumin can potentially be used as an alternative to NSAIDS for pain relief.
Problems with Curcumin
Curcumin has poor bioavailability due to:
– poor absorption,
– high rate of metabolism in the liver, and
– quick elimination from the body.
Another problem with curcumin is that it is not soluble in water. If you are using turmeric powder, curcumin’s solubility can be increased by:
– mixing turmeric powder with olive/coconut oil, or
– adding turmeric powder to boiling water.
Turmeric must be taken with fats or oils to enhance absorption of curcumin and other compounds in the gut. It is often combined with pepper that contains piperine, which increases the bioavailability of turmeric compounds.
This study showed a 12-fold increase in water solubility of curcumin by use of heat. Treatment with heat seems to prevent curcumin from breaking down quickly. It is best to drink the curcumin solution as soon as it has cooled down since curcumin concentration decreases within hours.
Advantages of Turmeric/Curcumin Supplement
1. Curcumin is generally poorly absorbed into the bloodstream when taken as a supplement or from food. This can be overcome by choosing a curcumin supplement with enhanced absorption such as Curcuvet.
Curcuvet is a curcumin supplement for dogs. It contains the active ingredient, curcumin phytosome, and is a highly bioavailable curcumin extract. The unique phytosome complex easily crosses the gut barrier, resulting in significantly higher absorption and more curcumin reaching the cells that can benefit from it.
Studies have demonstrated that curcumin phytosome is significantly better absorbed than other curcumin extracts and has 29-times greater bioavailability.
You can find Curcuvet in 50 mg and 150 mg.
CurcuVET-SA50: 50 mg for small dogs –> Available here
CurcuVET-SA150: 150 mg for large dogs –> Available here
2. Most clinical studies use turmeric extracts and curcuminoids (primarily curcumin) and NOT turmeric powder.
3. Turmeric powder is more likely to be contaminated with heavy metals (lead) than turmeric extracts.
4. Your dog may find turmeric powder off-putting. When taken in a large amount, it is bitter. Curcumin supplement provides an alternative to turmeric powder so your dog can still benefit from this spice.
Curcumin Side Effects, Contraindications & Drug Interactions
1. Curcumin’s side effects are dose dependent. At higher doses, it can cause gastrointestinal disturbances such as nausea, loose stools, diarrhoea and abdominal discomfort.
2. Curcumin can inhibit the production of hepcidin, an iron regulatory hormone. It should be taken with caution among those with low iron deficiency or anaemia of chronic disease. It may act as an iron chelator and induce iron deficiency anaemia.
3. Curcumin has been shown to inhibit drug metabolising enzymes, thereby slowing the elimination of a number of drugs. Animals taking drugs such as digoxin, anticoagulants, cyclosporine, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may be at risk of accumulation of drug concentrations in the plasma, which may be toxic.
4. Curcumin has been found to induce gallbladder contraction. As a preventive, it could potentially reduce gallstone formation in dog breeds predisposed to cholelithiasis provided there are no pre-existing gallstones. However, it should not be given to dogs with existing cholelithiasis (gallstones).
5. Curcumin may enhance the hypoglycemic effect of anti-diabetic medications and result in low blood sugar.
6. Curcumin can inhibit platelet aggregation and increase the risk of bleeding in dogs taking anticoagulant or antiplatelet medication.
7. Turmeric spice powder is high in oxalate, so can increase the risk of kidney stone formation in susceptible breeds of dogs. (A high-quality curcumin supplement that contains negligible levels of oxalate is a safer alternative to turmeric powder)