An increasing number of horse owners are using turmeric as a supplement for their horses. But what is all the fuss about? And does it really help? Here I’ll explain what I’ve found out about turmeric for horses.
For many people, it’s known as a colourful spice added to Asian cooking. However, some horse owners are using it as a cure for a whole range of health problems – from arthritis to skin disease.
Turmeric has been used in ancient Chinese and Indian medicines for hundreds of years. It is thought to be an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant.
The main ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, a compound that has been shown in human research to have some mild anti-inflammatory effects.
However, it’s worth noting that no clinical trials in horses have shown any definitive benefit from turmeric. Horses absorb drugs and compounds through the gut differently to humans as their digestive systems are not the same. So, we don’t know if turmeric can be used effectively in horses. There is also no research into the safety and long-term effects of feeding turmeric in horses. Despite the popularity of using turmeric for equine sarcoids, there isn’t a single research article investigating this in any species.
Be aware that curcumin can adversely affect iron metabolism, which could contribute to anaemia. Therefore, it’s not advisable to give to horses with chronic disease or anaemia. In humans, there is anecdotal evidence of reduced fertility with turmeric, however there is no data on fertility in horses.
So, for me the jury is still out on whether or not turmeric is helpful. There just isn’t enough evidence for me to say that it works or is safe to use. In my experience, I have not seen any benefit from turmeric supplementation.
If you do decide to feed turmeric, it might be beneficial to feed with a small quantity of high quality oil and black pepper. This has been shown to aid absorption across the gut in humans. As with any new food, introduce it to your horse’s diet gradually over a week or two.
Remember that no matter whether turmeric is an anti-inflammatory or not in horses, it is always best to consult your vet in the first instance for any disease or condition your horse may have.