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  • Do supplements containing turmeric and devil’s claw irritate the equine stomach?

    Supplements containing turmeric and devil’s claw are frequently recommended and fed to horses with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis due to the inhibitory effect these compounds have on the production of the inflammatory messengers cyclo‐oxygenase‐2 (COX‐2) and prostaglandin‐E2 (PGE2) (1).

    However, because turmeric is a spice and devil’s claw contains plant irritants, there is anecdotal concern that their use might result in adverse effects such as gastric ulceration similar to prolonged use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), which also inhibit COX enzymes (2). To determine the validity of this concern, a recent study has investigated the effect of supplements containing turmeric and devil’s claw on horses with gastric ulcers (3).

    Twelve clinically healthy Thoroughbred adult horses with naturally occurring equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) were randomly allocated control (n=6) or treatment (n=6). All horses were kept in stables and fed hay and a commercial concentrate feed. Treatment group horses were fed two separate supplements containing a total dose of 12,000 mg of turmeric root powder (24mg/kg) and 2500 mg of devil’s claw extract (5mg/kg) for 28 days. Horses in the control group were fed the same supplements without the active ingredients and all personnel were unaware of treatments. Gastroscopy was performed on Days 0, 14 and 28 and the EGUS score and severity were recorded. Additionally, bodyweight, gastric juice pH, and blood biochemistry were measured on Day 0 and Day 28.

    Two horses fed the turmeric and devil’s claw supplements experienced mild colic signs once for approximately 1 h which resolved with medical treatment. On Day 0, mean EGUS score for treatment and control groups was not significantly different. Both treatment and control groups significantly decreased mean EGUS score by Day 14 (P = 0.0060) and Day 28 (P = 0.0112) compared to Day 0. Bodyweight, gastric juice pH and blood parameters did not change during the study.

    Although the number of horses used in this study was low, supplements containing turmeric and devil’s claw did not cause or worsen gastric ulcers or alter health parameters after 28 days of feeding. However, horses consumed the supplement for only a month, which differs significantly from horses treated for chronic inflammatory disorders which might be given the supplement for months or years.


    1. Lantz, R.C., Chen, G.J., Solyom, A.M., Jolad, S.D. and Timmermann, B.N. (2005) The effect of turmeric extracts on inflammatory mediator production. Phytomedicine 12, 445–452.

    2. Knych, H.K. (2017) Nonsteroidal anti‐inflammatory drug use in horses. Vet. Clin. N. Am. Equine 33, 1–15.

    3. St. Blanc, M., Banse, H., Retif, M., Arana‐Valencia, N., Keowen, M.L., Garza, F., Jr., Liu, C.‐C., Gray, L.F. and Andrews, F.M. (2020) Effects of supplements containing turmeric and devil’s claw on equine gastric ulcer scores and gastric juice pH. Equine Vet Educ. Available HERE

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