Can Turmeric Protect Your Spine?

A pinch of this vibrant yellow spice and any food comes alive! Turmeric or Curcuma longa has been widely used in South Asia as a culinary additive. It also has an impressive medicinal history dating back over 4000 years. The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that can alleviate both acute and chronic inflammation, working in conditions ranging from the common cold to inflammatory bowel diseases. Is this miracle worker also the answer to non-healing spinal injuries? Let’s find out!

What Happens During A Spinal Cord Injury?

Any severe back injury can damage the delicate spinal cord, the motherboard of your body. Damaged nerves can in turn cause a variety of symptoms ranging from paralysis of lower limbs to loss of control of bowel movements. During a spinal cord injury, the nerve cells and their protective layers (meninges) might be destroyed, triggering a cascade of inflammation. White blood cells gather around in a few hours, breaking down protein cells and furthering the cycle of inflammation. Eventually, this leads to the formation of scar tissue that stops all

new tissue growth and even the healing of existing tissue. Controlling inflammation is vital to halting the progress of a spinal cord injury. And this is where turmeric enters the picture.

How Does Turmeric Help?

Inflammation Attack

Turmeric strikes at the heart of inflammation and reduces the formation of the scar tissues through potent enzymes called curcuminoids (mainly curcumin) and its numerous oils and resins.1

Stem Cell Regeneration

Turmeric can also trigger the proliferation of stem cells of the spinal cord via curcumin and aromatic turmerone, another one of its aroma-producing components. As a study by Hucklenbroich et al. shows, aromatic turmerone can increase stem cell production as well its differentiation into specialized cells.2 These stem cells are original mother cells that can differentiate into a specialized cell like that of the

heart, brain, spinal cord, etc. when inflammation occurs. Once these stem cells start multiplying, they rapidly replace the damaged and dead cells of the tissue – in effect, preventing the loss of functions that are usually carried out by the tissue.3

Attaining maximum possible functional recovery was and still remains the chief goal while treating people with spinal injuries. And for this recovery to happen, neural progenitor cells (NPC) proliferation is vital. And these are the mother stem cells that turmeric stimulates. In one study, a 48-hour treatment with low concentrations of curcumin (0.1, 0.5, and 1 microns) in solution was found to increase the proliferation of the neural mother cells of the spinal cord. To give you some perspective, a pinch of turmeric would contain millions of microns of curcumin! Turmeric can thus play a critical role in the recovery of the use of the spinal cord and its nerves.4

Antioxidant Properties

Turmeric also reduces the levels of free radicals in the blood stream. This antioxidant benefit of turmeric induces neurological recovery in spinal cord injuries by reducing the oxidative damage and inflammation caused by free radicals.5

Stem Cell Therapy And Turmeric

In case of a severe spinal cord injury, transplanting stem cells to the spinal cord is an effective and promising treatment to revive the now useless spinal cord. Use of turmeric along with stem cell therapy can improve chances of recovery from severe spinal cord injuries. In one study, participants showed improved mobility and increase in body weight and muscle mass when stem cell therapy was supplemented with curcumin.6