The incidence rate is somewhere between 12 to 67% of all the cancers affecting horses. They also affect mules, zebras, and donkeys.
Age, breed, and gender are some of the factors which are thought to increase the susceptibility of developing sarcoid but there are no significant results to confirm it.
The reduced response rate towards treatment increased likelihood for recurrence and tendency to become more aggressive in case of trauma are the few factors that make sarcoid difficult to treat.
It is a pretty disturbing condition not only for the horses but also for their owners.
Please feel free to use the Table of Contents below to jump to the relevant section in the article.
Table of Contents
- What is equine sarcoid?
- What is the conventional treatment for equine sarcoid?
- 7 Ways Turmeric helps in Equine Sarcoid
- 1. Turmeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant
- 2. It has anti-microbial properties
- 3. Turmeric exerts an anti-tumor effect
- 4. Turmeric is beneficial in skin diseases
- 5. Turmeric increases the efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs
- 6. It regulates immune responses favorably
- 7. Turmeric accelerates wound healing
- Turmeric & Pets- Real Life Experiences
What is equine sarcoid?
The Equine Manual defines equine sarcoid as ‘locally aggressive, non-metastatic, fibroblastic tumors.’
In other words, sarcoid is tumors of excessive growth of skin cells but this cancer does not spread to other parts of the body.
1. Occult sarcoid
They develop around the skin around mouth, eyes, neck and other hairless parts of the body. They are subtle in appearance and can be mistaken for ringworm infection.
They, in general, have nodular or rough skin appearance and in some cases, they may progress to aggressive levels of sarcoid.
2. Verrucous sarcoid
They have a warty and flaky appearance and affect wider areas of the body. Slight trauma can cause them to worsen.
3. Nodular sarcoid
They are easy to identify because of their spherical nodular appearance. They may be moveable or be deep-rooted in the skin. They tend to ulcerate and transform into aggressive tumors.
They are fleshy masses that grow and bleed and also transform into other forms of sarcoid. They generally affect groin, eyelids, lower limbs and other skin wounds or site of injury.
5. Mixed sarcoid
They generally represent lesions which show features of one or more sarcoid types. They commonly progress into fibroblastic form.
6. Malignant sarcoid
They are the most serious forms and appear like ulcerated nodules appearing in large groups. Treatment options are limited for this type.
BPV type 1 and 2 can infect skin tissue and they belong to papillomavirus family- cancer-causing viruses.
Infection with this virus activates oncogenes or cancer-causing genes and BPV generally affects cattle.
Transmission of the virus by flies or other insects is also plausible. Genetic factors and breed predilection are thought to be other causative factors.
What is the conventional treatment for equine sarcoid?
A couple of treatment options are available for equine sarcoid but none promise a permanent relief. Some horses even experience spontaneous and permanent remission; treatment of one lesion may improve other sites but in some, the condition is absolutely unpredictable.
- Surgical excision
Superficial lesions are surgically removed only if it is possible to close the wound and protect during healing. Any delay in healing can lead to regrowth of sarcoid. However, this procedure has a high recurrence rate.
Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the sarcoid and the cells are slowly thawed to prevent the multiplying ability of the tumor cells. Again this too has a high recurrence rate.
3. Chemotherapeutic agents
5-flurouracil and cisplastin are the commonly prescribed chemotherapeutic agents which are injected in the lesions. This treatment works well for small lesions but repeated injections are required.
AW4-LUDES is a topical formulation that contains 5-flurouracil, heavy metals, and thiouracil which causes inflammation and death of sarcoid tissue. These drugs cause significant discomfort but the results are quite good.
Immunotherapy stimulates the local immune system to kill tumor cells. BCG vaccines, acyclovir ( an antiviral drug used to treat herpes in humans) and topical immunomodulators like XXTERRA and Sarc-Off are used.
Imiquimod is another immune response regulator with strong anti-tumor and antiviral properties that are used to treat genital warts in humans and has shown limited success in horse sarcoid treatment.
Vaccines derived from tumor particles have been designed but this area requires more research.
Other options include radiation therapy, laser surgery, hyperthermia, homeopathy, etc.
It is advisable to consult a vet for a diagnosis of sarcoid and possible treatment options.
7 Ways Turmeric helps in Equine Sarcoid
Though turmeric has been a revered herb since ancient times, its therapeutic use is now gaining popularity on scientific grounds. Turmeric has not been used much in animals and especially not in horses.
Turmeric has been extensively studied in relation to human diseases but rarely would a doctor prescribe turmeric to you. This science-based evidence of turmeric’s therapeutic efficacy has been put together based on pharmacological properties that could be relevant to the disease and findings of lab studies on animals.
It is advisable to consult a vet for diagnosing sarcoid and differentiating it from other similar skin conditions.
1. Turmeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant
Part of the skin that is affected by sarcoid is characterized by local inflammation, swelling, and pain. Also use of certain treatments like BCG vaccine or application of cytotoxic (substances toxic to the cell, in this case, sarcoid cells) substances can increase inflammation and swelling.
In this case, horses are given anti-inflammatory medicines to control secondary inflammation. Turmeric is one of the best natural anti-inflammatory agents whose therapeutic response is comparable to conventional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Curcumin exerts an anti-inflammatory effect by:
- Inhibiting the activity of nuclear factor-kappaB , the protein that regulates the entire inflammation process
- Reducing the production of inflammatory substances in our body like Interleukins, TNF, etc.
- Preventing migration of immune cells to the site of inflammation
- Increasing the production of anti-inflammatory substances
A couple of studies have investigated the role of turmeric in disorders characterized by excessive inflammation in horses. These studies show that curcumin and curcuminoids by means of their antioxidant property combat the harmful reactive oxygen species (which could cause cell death and tissue damage) produced by inflammatory immune cells.
In fact study on humans shows that curcumin’s painkilling and anti-inflammatory effect is comparable to phenylbutazone or Bute that is generally administered to horses for pain killing.
What does this mean?
Sarcoid lesions are characterised by inflammation, pain and swelling. Curcumin has excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Even studies on horses prove that curcumin , by virtue of these two properties, can be therapeutic in inflammatory diseases in horses.
2. It has anti-microbial properties
Infection with bovine papillomavirus is considered one of the major causative factors behind sarcoid development.
Bovine papillomavirus belongs to the same as the family as Human Papillomavirus. In fact, research does show that the two viruses share structural similarity and share the same oncoproteins or cancer-causing proteins.
Curcumin is a natural anti-HPV agent. (Read Turmeric for HPV, Turmeric for cervical cancer) Curcumin and other curcuminoids are found to suppress the HPV oncoproteins and prevent the development of cancer.
Its ability to shut down inflammatory pathways and cause cell death in cancer cells qualifies it as a therapeutic agent for HPV tumors.
Since curcumin exerts strong anti-viral property against HPV it is highly possible that it would have a similar effect on BPV. However, well-conducted studies are required to confirm this.
Curcumin has potent anti-microbial activities- it acts against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Additionally turmeric and its oil have insect repellent properties. Topical application of turmeric can protect the exposed sarcoid lesions from microbial infection and insects.
However, there is one study which suggests that curcumin has no effect on the rapid genetic changes occurring in BPV infected cells, but more details as to what concentration of curcumin was used and for what duration are required to reach consensus.
What does this mean?
Since curcumin has anti-microbial property and specifically acts against HPV, a member of the same virus family as BPV, it is quite possible that it can prevent spread of BPV infection and progression into BPV associated tumor.
Topical application of turmeric can protect from sarcoid lesions from infection and insects.
3. Turmeric exerts an anti-tumor effect
Sarcoid are benign local tumors- they are not like typical cancer cells which proliferate and spread to the entire body.
Ravinadran et al in their paper ‘Curcumin and Cancer Cells: How Many Ways Curry Can Kill Tumor Cells Selectively’ list 20 or more molecular targets which curcumin regulates in order to kill cancer cells and at the same time protects normal cells.
Curcumin has anti-tumor and anti-proliferative effects which can inhibit the growth of benign tumors.
It also has an anti-proliferative property which means it can stop uncontrolled growth of cells which occurs in benign as well as malignant cancers.
Researchers have developed a mouse model to study therapeutic agents for equine sarcoid and it involves the infectious transformation of a mouse fibroblast tumor cell line.
Sarcoid is fibroblastic tumors, fibroblasts are cells that produce collagen and other materials required to develop supportive tissue.
Interestingly curcumin demonstrates anti-cancer like activity in transformed mouse fibroblast cell line which is a therapeutic target for viral oncogenesis or cancer induced due to viral infection (as seen in BPV and sarcoid). But this area requires more research before making definitive conclusions.
What does this mean?
Curcumin is a potent anti-cancer agent and its efficacy has been proven in a number of cancers including skin tumors. It also has anti-tumor and anti-proliferative effects.
In an experimental study, curcumin causes cell death of transformed fibroblasts and this is of relevance to sarcoid treatment since sarcoid is a fibroblastic tumor. Fibroblasts are cells that develop collagen and other supportive tissue.
4. Turmeric is beneficial in skin diseases
Sarcoid is a form of skin tumors. Thangapazham et al have studied the beneficial role of curcumin in skin diseases like psoriasis and skin cancer. Curcumin uses its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to protect the skin.
Topical curcumin is found to be as effective as dietary curcumin in the skin cancer model.
Though not in relation to sarcoid, curcumin is found to prevent these similar conditions in case of skin tumor.
HaCaT cell line is cells used in the lab to study diseases characterized the excessive growth of keratinocytes ( the type of skin cells).
Curcumin inhibits the activity of protein, tumor necrosis factor which in turn leads to cell death of cells in HaCaT cell line.
This implies curcumin’s therapeutic effect on conditions with excessive keratinocytes (this is also observed in sarcoid).
Ayurveda suggests that turmeric can be used in treating equine urticaria- a type of skin lesion.
What does this mean?
Curcumin is found to be beneficial in treating a number of skin diseases in humans. Most skin diseases share same features like over production of a particular skin cells, development of lesions, inflammation etc. These are also observed in sarcoid.
Curcumin utilises its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to treat skin diseases and control such features of skin diseases. Topical application of curcumin is found to be as effective as dietary curcumin in treating skin tumors.
5. Turmeric increases the efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs
Chemotherapeutic agents like 5-flurouracil and cisplastin are used in the treatment of sarcoid. Apart from being an anti-cancer agent, curcumin also works as a chemosensitizer.
It increases the efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs and sensitizes cancer cells towards chemotherapy. This is essential because due to mutations, cancer cells develop drug resistance and fail to react to conventional drugs.
Also, an added advantage is that curcumin serves as chemoprotector. It selectively kills cancer cells and protects normal cells and other organs from toxicity induced by chemotherapeutic agents. Unlike many anti-cancer drugs, curcumin does not have deleterious effects on immune cells.
What does this mean?
Curcumin increases the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents and protects normal cells and organs from toxicity of such drugs. Curcumin has been reported to increase efficacy of 5-flurouracil and cisplastin (chemotherapeutic drugs used in sarcoid treatment) but in cancers other than skin cancer.
6. It regulates immune responses favorably
Sarcoid treatment involves administration of immuno-modulators. These agents stimulate immune responses to fight BPV infection and kill tumor cells.
It can downregulate immune responses in order to reduce undesirable inflammatory processes and at low doses, it can even stimulate immune responses to fight infections. It can regulate the production of immune cells and inflammatory chemicals in a way that is therapeutic for the body.
However, this depends on the dose of the curcumin. This property of curcumin is useful in treating inflammatory conditions and cancer.
What does this mean?
Curcumin is a natural immunomodulator- it can regulate immune responses in order to fight infection and cancer. It can serve as a natural alternative to immunomodulators prescribed in sarcoid treatment.
7. Turmeric accelerates wound healing
Curcumin, by virtue of its antioxidant property, inhibits the excessive growth of fibroblast. Thereby curcumin reduces wound healing time and reduces scarring.
Other mechanisms by which curcumin speeds up wound healing are: supporting the formation of blood vessels, supporting collagen deposition, preventing microbial infection and speeding tissue remodeling.
Cochrane et al reported that wound healing is slow in equines especially in the lower limbs. They have a tendency to produce excessive granulation tissue (a type of scar tissue) and such lesions, in turn, may develop into sarcoid.
Impaired response to growth factors (proteins that support the growth of skin cells and production of collagen) is demonstrated in such tissue.
Sidhu et al reported that curcumin enhances wound healing in animals and one of the mechanisms involved is that curcumin increases the level of growth factors to hasten wound healing.
What does this mean?
Turmeric has been used in since ancient times in dressings for wound and burn healing. Curcumin makes use of a number of its pharmacological properties to speed up wound healing process.
Sarcoid tend to develop on sites where wound healing is delayed. Using turmeric as a wound healing agent can serve as a preventive measure.
Turmeric & Pets- Real Life Experiences
I came across quite a number of forums where users have reported the use of turmeric for horses in case of pain, arthritis and even sarcoid. They seem to be quite happy with the results.
One experience that I decided to share with you is quoted in this article ‘Turmeric-The Miracle Cure’ by Karen Williams.
Karen started her pony who had a nodular sarcoid on the inside of her hind leg and a flat sarcoid. Within four days of taking turmeric, the inflammation in the sarcoid rose.
She then applied turmeric topically once a day. Within a couple of days, the sarcoid started getting detached and finally fell off.
Karen was amazed and pleased with the results since this inexpensive treatment provided complete relief and avoided expensive visits to the vet and also avoided the use of expensive creams.
Further, in her article, she also reports how turmeric helped her horses in arthritis and itching.
1 scoop of turmeric powder (10-15ml) can serve as a maintenance dose for your horse. But since turmeric is poorly soluble in water and poorly absorbed in the body, we would advise you to use The Golden Paste.
In fact, you can use the same Golden Paste that you consume for your horse.
If you plan to prepare the paste for every feed then here is how to do it:
Take about 125 ml turmeric powder and add this with 250 ml water to a pan. Cook on low flame till you make a good paste.
Add the water slowly such that the paste is neither watery nor thick. You could add more turmeric powder if the paste is watery and more water if it is too thick.
Then add about 1 1/2 (7.5ml) teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and 70 ml of oil. You could use coconut or olive or flaxseed oil. Keep stirring till all the ingredients are mixed properly. Let the mixture cool down.
Add around 1 teaspoon to your horses feed once a day and add a lot of water to the feed to mellow down the spicy taste. This is just a start. Slowly increase it to twice a day based on how it suits your horse.
Topical application of turmeric for sarcoid:
Depending on the size of the sarcoid take about 1-2 teaspoons of turmeric powder and 2-3 tablespoons of oil (I would recommend coconut oil). Apply it locally 1-2 times a day persistently. In case if there is excessive bleeding then discontinue the topical application.
There are no such side effects of feeding turmeric to horses. Initially slight gastric discomfort and diarrhea could occur. In that case, it is advisable to reduce the dose.
Also, turmeric has anti-platelet action, so if the sarcoid lesion shows excessive bleeding on administering turmeric then it is best to reduce the dose.
Also, avoid turmeric prior to surgical procedures to avoid risk of bleeding.
Sarcoid treatment is pretty challenging since its cause is still not determined.
Turmeric in relation to sarcoid treatment has not been studied but overall a number of its pharmacological properties are of relevance in sarcoid treatment.
Apart from that addition of turmeric to horse feed is safe and is documented as a herb for horses.
So adding turmeric to horse feed is likely to improve the horse’s immunity to fight sarcoid.
Topical application of turmeric to wounds can prevent sarcoid development.