Turns out, turmeric – a humble household spice from South Asia – is much more than just a common ingredient in many curries. Not only does it offer a wide range of seemingly countless health benefits, but also holds the key to long lasting brain health.
Here’s a deeper look into a piece of research that proved how turmeric can actually help aid in the regeneration of damaged brain cells and can even help cure neurological diseases.
Details Of The Study
A group of German neuroscientists identified a naturally existing compound in turmeric called aromatic-turmerone which may play a huge role in promoting the growth of neurons.
The researchers first isolated a set of neural stem cells from the brains of some rats. Neural stem cells have a characteristic trait known as multipotency. In simpler terms, they can develop into a number of other types of cells. Neural stem cells are known to be the mothership of the various types of cells in the brain, of which neurons are the best known.
The scientists exposed the isolated rat neural stem cells to different concentrations of aromatic-turmerone and then measured their ability to multiply and develop into more mature cell types (known as differentiation). They also injected the compound into the fluid-filled brain spaces of live rats.
It was found that the turmeric compound actually boosted the ability of the isolated neural stem cells to proliferate. The scientists also discovered that these isolated neural stem cells and the rats injected with aromatic-turmerone displayed greater neural stem cell differentiation. In other words, the turmeric compound leads to the formation of healthy new brain cells.
Additionally, the scientists also realized that the higher the concentration of the compound, the larger the effects on the brain cells, which is the hallmark of any potential therapy. This finding is very important because it appears that aromatic-turmerone can actually magnify the characteristics of neural stem cells.1 Several substances have been known to promote neural stem cell proliferation in the brain, but fewer drugs manage to go one step ahead to promote the differentiation of stem cells into neurons, which qualifies as a major accomplishment in regenerative medicine.
There is an already existing evidence that neural stem cells may have played an important role in brain repair after damage, such as a stroke or a degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s.2 3 4
Turmeric may have a miraculous ability in brain healing and preventing brain damage. It is possible that this could be an unusual finding. And while the findings are promising, carefully controlled studies, mainly in humans, are still required to further investigate the true therapeutic value of this result.
However, previous research confirms that turmeric does indeed affect the brain in a number of positive ways.
Findings By Other Studies Of Turmeric’s Effects On The Brain
There are two major compounds in turmeric that are suggested to have a positive impact on brain health. Aromatic-turmerone is the lesser-studied of two compounds. Older research has studied curcumin, the other compound which exhibits a variety of potential therapeutic activities, including very potent brain healing properties.
What makes curcumin such a good neuroprotective agent in so many neurological disorders is its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.
Chronic inflammation in the brain and a buildup of the toxic beta-amyloid protein are two main indications of Alzheimer’s disease. One study involving a rat model of Alzheimer’s disease showed promising results of curcumin reducing beta-amyloid protein levels in the brains of rats by around 40%.5 The compound was also found to bring down the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines.6 Under normal circumstances, these would promote inflammation as part of a normal immune system during infections and injuries.
Furthermore, curcuminoid and other potent antioxidants contained in turmeric have been found to neutralize free radicals, thereby preventing oxidative damage to brain cells.7 This is successful in treating not just Alzheimer’s disease, but also other diseases of the brain diseases like Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease.
It has also been demonstrated that curcumin acts by pushing its way into the membranes of the cells. This is where it changes the physical properties of the membrane itself, to make it more orderly.
The Final Word
Aging is inevitable, but it isn’t necessary that brain diseases have to be. Today, there are hundreds and thousands of Americans suffering from diseases like Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s. This number will only increase if these diseases go unchecked. Therefore, finding effective treatments for these patients’ brain and spine is a goal of increasing urgency.
Since these studies have only used animal models, the potential of turmeric acting as modern medicine is rather uncertain. However, there is very clearly a link between turmeric and brain healing and regeneration. Also, since turmeric comes with a myriad of health benefits and one of the most powerful advantages that it has over the traditional medical approach is the lack of side effects. Therefore, adding a pinch of this spice in your smoothies or tea, or using it in your curries could supplement a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle. This way, if turmeric is indeed found to be capable of repairing the human brain, you’re already well ahead of the game.
Beware Of Supplements
Even though scientists have only just started discovering how turmeric may benefit the brain, it is only a matter of time till we face an onslaught of supplements that claim to boost your brain power. The labels will demand you to take ridiculously high doses of this spice and you may find yourself popping three to four pills a day before that presentation or that exam.
Bear in mind, however, that studies have only been conducted on non-human subjects all along and we are yet to see how this affects the human brain. Therefore, the results of this study should not dramatically increase your intake of Indian food or make you overdose on riskier drug-based methods. Always consult a doctor for advice before you introduce something new into your system. Never hesitate taking medical advice or seeking medical treatment just because of something you’ve read in the newspaper or the internet.
|↑1||Hucklenbroich, Joerg, Rebecca Klein, Bernd Neumaier, Rudolf Graf, Gereon Rudolf Fink, Michael Schroeter, and Maria Adele Rueger. “Aromatic-turmerone induces neural stem cell proliferation in vitro and in vivo.” Stem cell research & therapy 5, no. 4 (2014): 100.|
|↑2||Rolfe, A., and D. Sun. “Stem cell therapy in brain trauma: implications for repair and regeneration of injured brain in experimental TBI models.” (2015).|
|↑3||Stem cell therapy heals injured mouse brain. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑4||Tang, Jun. “How close is the stem cell cure to the Alzheimer’s disease: Future and beyond?☆.” Neural regeneration research 7, no. 1 (2012): 66.|
|↑5||Douglas Shytle, R., Jun Tan, Paula C Bickford, Kavon Rezai-Zadeh, L. Hou, Jin Zeng, Paul R Sanberg et al. “Optimized turmeric extract reduces β-amyloid and phosphorylated tau protein burden in Alzheimer’s transgenic mice.” Current Alzheimer Research 9, no. 4 (2012): 500-506.|
|↑6||Rahardjo, Bambang, Edy Widjajanto, Hidayat Sujuti, and Kusnarman Keman. “Curcumin decreased level of proinflammatory cytokines in monocyte cultures exposed to preeclamptic plasma by affecting the transcription factors NF-κB and PPAR-γ.” Biomarkers and Genomic Medicine 6, no. 3 (2014): 105-115.|
|↑7||Rahman, Khalid. “Studies on free radicals, antioxidants, and co-factors.” Clinical interventions in aging 2, no. 2 (2007): 219.|