In my pantry, there’s only one spice I value as much as – or perhaps more than – cinnamon, and that’s turmeric.
Native to tropical South Asia, turmeric (Latin name: Curcuma longa) is a member of the ginger family of roots. In its fresh form, it resembles gingerroot that’s been dyed orange, like a yam or a pumpkin. After being boiled, then dried, the plant’s rhizomes are ground into a powder.
Turmeric powder is the most wonderfully vibrant shade of orange-yellow – so vibrant, in fact, that it’s often been used over the centuries as a natural dye.
Today, turmeric is most often used as a key ingredient of curry as well as other mouthwatering Indian, Persian, Thai, and Malay dishes. Besides a delicious, mustardy flavor (it’s a main ingredient of French’s mustard), turmeric also boasts many marvelous medicinal properties.
In South Asia, it’s used as an antiseptic for cuts, burns, and bruises, and as an antibacterial agent. It’s taken as a dietary supplement in some Asian countries, where it’s believed that turmeric helps with stomach ailments. In Pakistan, turmeric is used as an anti-inflammatory and as a remedy for the discomort of irritable bowel syndrome, among other digestive disorders.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, turmeric is applied to a burnt cloth, then placed over a wound, to cleanse and stimulate recovery. In India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, it’s believed that turmeric imparts a glow to the skin, keeping harmful bacteria away from the body. In the gardens of the East, turmericis often used to deter ants, because it works!
Western medicine is finally catching on to the powerful curative properties of thisdazzling yellow spice and its active ingredient, a polyphenol called curcumin. Turmeric is being investigated for its possible benefits in preventing and treaing Alzheimer’s Disease, cancer, and arthritis. No wonder so many health-conscious senior humans are adding it to their daily nutritional supplement regimen.
Currently, the National Institutes of Health has 19 clinical trials underway to study medicinal use of dietary turmeric and curcumin. Meanwhile, sales of antioxidant curcumin supplements are steadily rising in the West. This is explained by the fact that alternative medical experts, looking to prevent Alzheimer’s, are pointing to India. Turmeric-laced curry is consumed every day on the subcontinent, which boasts the world’s lowest Alzheimer’s rate. (The United States, on the other hand, has one of the highest Alzheimer’s rates of any country in the world.)
Translating all this evidence into the K9 context, turmeric is a dogsend for senior hounds, especially those that are experiencing arthritis and slower cognitive function. I never want my darling dogs to endure the terror of dementia, if I can help it, or the discomfort of sore, painful joints. And I want to do all I can to ensure that my treasured Tiki never has a recurrence of cancer. So for a while now, I’ve made a point of sprinkling turmeric over my dogs’food every single day.
If you want to be hardcore about deriving the maximum nutritional benefit from turmeric, consider taking curcumin supplements yourself as well as administering them to your dog. Curcumin is also known as C.I. 75300, or Natural Yellow 3.
As of a few weeks ago, I decided to boost my eldest canines’ intake of turmeric’s healing properties by opening high-potency curcumin capsules over their food. For as long as I possibly can, I plan to prevent dementia from clouding my dogs’ beautiful minds.
Turmeric blends exceptionally well with the cinnamon I also add to my beloved dogs’ bowls. Since both are key ingredients in curry powder, together these two scintillating spices transform every dog meal into a fragrant K9 curryfest.
Thus far, I’m thrilled to report that none of the dogs (or their tummies) has lodged any complaints about the mysterious, earthy, yellow-orange spice that – to paraphrase Emeril Lagasse – can be counted on to kick their kibble up a notch.
Try it out on your dogs at meal time, and please let us know how it goes in the comments. Bone appetit!