Turmeric for osteoarthritis – a spice that has convinced scientists

18. June 2020 — von Madeleine Paul

A promising solution for pets with osteoarthritis is turmeric, as study after study are beginning to show. Most recently, one study1 showed that dogs fed turmeric had significanctly fewer inflammatory blood cells than dogs treated with painkillers (NSAIDS).

Turmeric has been used as a remedy in traditional medicine for centuries.

Turmeric has been considered a very powerful remedy in traditional Indian medicine for centuries. The spice comes from the turmeric plant, which belongs to the ginger family. In Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional Indian system of medicine, turmeric is valued for its digestive properties and ability to cleanse both the skin and the gut. It acts to stimulate the flow of bile, which helps the digestion of fats and fatty acids for example, and thereby makes it easier to digest heavy food.

Remember the trend to drink golden milk from a few years ago? It comes from this very property of turmeric which became famous through an ancient Indian tradition to drink so-called “golden milk”. Golden milk is a mixture of milk, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon, and while popularised beyond India, it’s anti-inflammatory and positive effects for digestion were controversial until the late 1990s. Since then, much has changed. Researchers have began to study turmeric with modern, scientific methods, which has led to scientists taking it seriously and the spice eventually convinced them of its medical relevance.

The most important active ingredient in turmeric (curcuma longa) is so-called curcumin. There are numerous scientific studies on the effects of curcumin on osteoarthritis alone. Julie S. Juenka has researched the effects of curcumin on digestive problems, inflammations and osteoarthritis in humans. This study2 suggests that curcumin may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of osteoarthritis.

Turmeric is also popular with scientists in the veterinary field, were we’ve seen some amazing results. One study3 examined the effect of natural extract of turmeric on horses. This study, conducted by Maura Farinacci, showed similar results as M. Colitti’s study,1 referred to above, namely that turmeric relieves pain, and has antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and digestive properties.

Several studies demonstrate the pain relieving, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and digestive properties of turmeric.

Turmeric and osteoarthritis

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which occurs when the articular cartilage on the end of bones begins to wear down. Since cartilage has no nerve endings, these joint problems only become noticeable when the bones of the joints start to rub against each other or when there’s an inflammation in the already damaged joint. Numerous studies have discovered that there are particular mechanisms through which curcumin has an anti-inflammatory effect on cartilage cells, thus soothing the symptoms of osteoarthritis. So how does it work? In contrast to NSAIDS painkillers, which act like glycosaminoglycans (GAG) by decreasing the production of pro-inflammatory compounds, curcumin reduces inflammation that contributes to joint damage while improving mobility. You can say that curcumin continues where NSAIDS stops.

Giving turmeric to your pets

It is not enough to just sprinkle turmeric powder over the food of dogs, cats and horses with osteoarthritis, as it is hard for the active substance to enter the bloodstream. What’s worse is that osteoarthritis often goes hand in hand with poor joint metabolism, meaning that it is even harder for the turmeric to enter the joint and very large quantities of turmeric would have to be consumed. Many feed their pets with supplements that contain turmeric, but these too tend to be ineffective for the same reason, even if a high dose of turmeric is advertised on the supplement. However, there are some manufacturing processes, such as the “Nano Transport System (NTS)”, which can significantly increase bioavailability (see figure below). To do this, the extracts are (1) dissolved, (2) absorbed by the NTS, and (3) brought to where they are needed: directly into the inflamed cell.