Scientific and Equine Consultant

Turmeric for Horses – Wonder Supplement or Just Another Placebo?

Owner Reported Experiences of Feeding Turmeric to Horses

David Marlin, Brian Nielsen1, Cara Robison1 and Carey Williams2

Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK USA & David Marlin Consulting, Cambridge, UK; 1Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI USA; 2Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, USA

Keywords: Horse; Turmeric; Survey

[Presented at the 2017 Equine Science Society Meeting in Minneapolis]

Over the past decade turmeric/curcumin has become the latest “wonder” supplement in human nutrition. This has been mirrored in equine nutrition despite a lack of any studies of the efficacy or safety. The objective of this study was to explore what conditions horse owners are using turmeric for, their views on efficacy and to gauge the prevalence of adverse reactions. An online survey with 41 questions was distributed via Facebook. The survey was live for 2 months. There were 1010 responses received, of which 77% were from the UK, 97% female, and 61% over 40 years of age. Most people based their decision to feed turmeric on social media (44%) or personal recommendation (46%). The amount of turmeric or curcumin fed per day when fed alone was reported to be 24±60 g (mean±sd) and 10±13 g, respectively. The amounts when fed with other ingredients such as oil or black pepper were reported to be 53±76 g and 11±27 g, respectively. The most common condition that turmeric had been fed for was stiffness/arthritis (61%) and lameness (31%). The mean owner perceived effectiveness score was 4.3 for stiffness/arthritis and 4.1 for lameness (out of a maximum of 5). However, there was no significant effect of duration of use, use of oil or pepper, cooking, or dose on effectiveness score. The most common adverse effect reported was loose droppings (7%). The majority of studies conducted to date with turmeric have been in laboratory animals and people and have focused on cancer and liver disease. This is in marked contrast to the conditions they are being used for by horse owners. While turmeric may have efficacy for a range of equine conditions, it is not universally effective and it is not universally without side effects. Overall, the results of the survey reflect a sample that very strongly believes in the effectiveness of turmeric/curcumin, though a closer analysis provides some reason for skepticism. Perceptions of effectiveness were similar regardless of how much turmeric was administered, for how long, or how it was prepared. These phenomena may be indicative of bias and a placebo effect. Nevertheless, with these caveats in mind, the fact that hundreds of respondents have tried turmeric/curcumin to treat conditions like arthritis in their horses and that a large majority of them consider it moderately or highly effective provides justification for more systematic experimental research on these touted benefits.


[Presented at the 2017 European Equine  Health and Nutrition Conference in Antwerp, Belgium]

EEHNC 2017 Marlin Turmeric Poster V1

Date: January 03, 2018