Turmeric has become a hot topic, and not just because it’s used in curries. If you believe all the claims, it could one day help diagnose and even treat Alzheimer’s disease, be a weapon in the fight against cancer and arthritis and even give you a brighter smile.

I leave the science stuff in the capable hands of independent registered nutritionist Clare MacLeod, who also blogs on this site. I’ve read the ‘science for non-scientists’ stories out there on the internet, including some very interesting material from the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK.

I’ve also read about research presented at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. This indicates that curcumin, from which turmeric is made, dissolved brain plaque in mice; as plaque is implicated in Alzheimer’s, it’s hoped that this could eventually translate into human medicine.

So far, so good, though I’ll leave sprinkling turmeric powder on my toothpaste until I’ve asked my orthodontist brother-in-law’s opinion. The risk of bright yellow gnashers is too worrying, despite many claims that turmeric whitens teeth without staining.

However, I’m worried by another side of the turmeric story. Judging by enthusiastic groups on social media and various blogs, some turmeric enthusiasts are giving it to animals to try and medicate a problem without taking veterinary advice first.

Many owners are enthusiastic about turmeric, but if your horse has a problem, start by getting veterinary advice.
Many owners are enthusiastic about turmeric, but if your horse has a problem, start by getting veterinary advice.

That means they haven’t got a proper clinical diagnosis – because only a qualified vet can give that. Perhaps a horse or dog showing signs of stiffness is suffering from osteoarthritis, but what if that isn’t the case? How would you feel if later down the line, you found that your much-loved horse seemed to be stiff in his hindlegs because of injury, not through a condition associated with wear and tear?

There is also a lot of interest in the effects of turmeric on sarcoids and there are case histories where owners believe that turmeric, used with veterinary approval, has complemented veterinary treatment. But there are also reports of owners who use turmeric in this and other potentially serious scenarios without getting veterinary advice, let alone a diagnosis. In my book, that’s unacceptable.

Many of today’s doctors and vets are, thankfully, open-minded. They will be aware of the interest in turmeric and may confirm that it could help, or at least will do no harm.

How you manage your health is up to you and I’m happy to see if turmeric could restore the flexibility I had 20 years ago. As for the four-legged members of our family, we’ll start with a visit to the vet.