Turmeric – Can It Help Prevent Alzheimer’s & Dementia?

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Turmeric is an ancient spice that has been used for centuries in Indian and Chinese medicine and cooking. Traditional usage of turmeric covers a very wide spectrum of concerns ranging from topical usage as a poultice for curbing localised inflammation through to taking the powder internally for the relief of stomach complaints, bladder infections and arthritis.

With the myriad of claimed benefits, turmeric has, over the last decade, been extensively studied and it is possibly the most researched herb in the world. Turmeric contains a group of powerful antioxidant compounds collectively termed curcumin and it is this compound that is responsible for turmeric’s remarkable properties, which include:

Anti-inflammatory: Many concerns are associated with inflammation in the body including heart disease, asthma, arthritis and allergies.

Antiseptic: Turmeric has been used for centuries to treat wounds.

Cholesterol lowering: Curcumin has been shown to help reduce total cholesterol levels and additionally help lower the bad cholesterol significantly.

Antioxidant: Turmeric displays very powerful antioxidant properties, helping to scavenge damaging free radicals more efficiently than vitamin C or E. It is this property that has resulted in turmeric often being labelled as the most important herb in the world because by protecting our genetic material, turmeric may help extend longevity.

Turmeric and its effects on the brain

Alzheimer’s disease was discovered in 1907 by a German medical researcher, Dr Alois Alzheimer, who described a unique and destructive pathology in his patients’ brains. Today Alzheimer’s disease is a ravaging illness that robs its victims not only of their health, but also of their relationships with family and friends. Worldwide, the disease has doubled over the last two decades and is expected to continue in the same way over the next few decades.

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease and the drugs currently used only address the symptoms and have limited effectiveness. Medical experts believe that any therapeutic intervention that could postpone the onset or progression of Alzheimer’s could dramatically reduce the number of cases of this disease over the next few decades.

There is probably not one specific cause for Alzheimer’s and dementia; instead it is likely that several factors are involved affecting each individual differently. We know that age is common denominator. Family history also plays an important role as we know that Alzheimer’s has a genetic link. Increasingly, studies point to inflammation within the brain as being the prime target for Alzheimer’s and other studies show that heavy metals such as lead and mercury from the foods we ingest and from environmental toxins may also be responsible.

Alzheimer’s is characterised by two distinct abnormalities in the brain: amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.

Amyloid plaques are fragments of protein tissue in between nerve cells which, in a healthy brain, are broken down and eliminated. In Alzheimer’s, these accumulate to form hard, insoluble plaques which hinder the function of the nerve cells in the brain.

Neurofibrillary tangles are twisted fibres found inside the brain’s cells. These tangles consist primarily of a protein which forms a tube-like structure that transports nutrients and other vital substances to all the nerve cells. In Alzheimer’s, this tube-like structure collapses resulting in a malnourished brain.

A growing body of evidence suggests that curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, may offer significant benefits with specific reference to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Curcumin displays powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and studies indicate that it can help prevent the formation of plaque and may protect the tube-like structures in the brain. Several studies carried out by some of the leading research-led institutions all concluded that curcumin is a promising agent for the prevention of Alzheimer’s and possibly other brain disorders including Parkinson’s disease.

Having ascertained that curcumin supplementation may protect our brain tissues, we are faced with a deluge of turmeric supplements containing curcumin. Most turmeric supplements contain five percent curcumin. Aim for a supplement which contains 95 percent curcumin since this is the sort of strength that is required to have a therapeutic effect.

What is the best form of turmeric?

Turmeric is poorly absorbed by the body. Turmeric is quickly degraded by the stomach acids and very little gets into the bloodstream. Research has shown that turmeric is not water soluble but dissolves efficiently in fats. So look for a supplement that either coats the turmeric in an enteric coating, which is expensive, or use one that contains some form of oil to ensure the greatest availability to the body.

The supplement that I tend to recommend is Super Bio-Curcumin by Life Extension, a supplement that contains a patent pending extract of turmeric containing 95% curcuminoids in a base containing oils derived from turmeric root for greater absorption. This specific patent pending extract has been shown to absorb seven times better than conventional curcumin supplements and remains in the bloodstream twice as long, ensuring maximum protection.

Pre-clinical studies have already shown great promise and I believe that more clinical trial results will be published vindicating curcumin’s great potential in helping to prevent dementia.

This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner.

Brain, Shabir Daya | , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • gmf72

    I too had been reading about Turmeric’s benefits, so I bought a bottle of capsules last weekend. I’m not going to mention brand as it wouldn’t be fair. Within 36 hours, my stools were stained a deep red. I had only taken a total of 3 capsules, eg 1200mg. So I stopped them and my system cleared in another 48 hours. Meanwhile, I did more research and it seems turmeric can react with stomach linings, causing bleeding. I also found out that turmeric turns fatty acids red (via a science website). So I don’t know whether my red staining was down to bleeding of my stomach lining or the turmeric reacting to fatty substances in my body and turning them red. There’s very little research on this and no warning on the bottle of capsules. I emailed the manufacturer who’s reply was that they’d had no other comments from users and did not know the answer. But they advised me to stop taking the turmeric.

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    Hi, Turmeric is normally used to calm inflammation in the gut and help digestive concerns such as colitis. I normally don’t recommend turmeric in its raw herb state but always the extract from it, curcumin, which is not “warming”. Shabir

  • gmf72

    Thanks for advice. The product I bought is “turmeric root extract” and “93% curcuminoids”. If only I could work out whether if the reaction in my body was down to making my stomach lining bleed or whether it was the turmeric reacting to fatty acids in my body and helping to dispel them. If it’s the latter, then I would continue as this could help my high cholesterol.

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    Hi gmf, I would recommend that you wait for ten days and reintroduce this supplement at its lowest dose to see how the body tolerates it. Shabir

  • gmf72

    Thanks. I will reintroduce it but only take the 400mg every other day. Some places recommend 1000mg a day!

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    Hi gmf, keep me posted. Shabir

  • Jennifer

    I have the Super Bio-Curcurmin that VH has recommended. Is it safe to give to my 4 year old daughter? She has reactive airway disease (that her Dr’s expect her to grow out of by 12) and we both have seasonal allergies. Turmeric is highly recommended for both of these conditions, and I do not think I can get a therapeutic amount into her in her food. Also, if the Super Bio-Curcumin is not appropriate for a 4 year old, can you recommend an alternative? Thank you.

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    Hi Jennifer, turmeric supplements are deemed to be safe for children as long as you give a weight related dosage. The adult dose is based on an adult weighing 150lbs so that if a child weighs roughly 50lbs then it would be a third. This is possibly difficult with the Life Extension product but you may be fine with Organic Turmeric by Viridian Nutrition since the daily dose for adults is three capsules. Shabir

  • Jennifer

    Thank you for the recommendation…and I can assume that the Viridian Nutrition brand has the same characteristics as the Life Extension one (as far as it being designed in an effective way for the body to absorb & use)? Thank you.

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    Hi Jennifer, the Life Extension product is the best but does not give you sufficient leeway to adjust the child dose unless you intend to divide the contents of one capsule appropriately. Shabir

  • walkira

    I have been buying organic turmeric from a good health food store and making a strong tea with the herb, I take about 3 cups of this tea daily and I also take nettle tea. Would this be sufficient or do you still recommend the supplement. I am concerned that I already take Hyluronic acid, ladies choice, sage supplements, vitamin d, vitamin b complex, vitamin c and super foods. Is there an issue with taking too many supplements? VH is always recommending various supplements. What are the risks of taking them as per your recommendations and advertising?

  • http://www.victoriahealth.com/ Victoria Health

    Hi Walkira, turmeric is ill absorbed by the body and only 5% of the herb is actively absorbed into the bloodstream. Bearing in mind that out of this 5%, only a fraction of turmeric contains the active group of compounds called curcuminoids, it would really be beneficial to take the supplement for its multi-faceted protective properties. There is absolutely no risk in taking Curcumin alongside your current regimen because they are all acting in a different mode. Additionally, I believe that one actually does require supplements these days especially because many of the foods we eat are either devoid of nutrients or have added chemicals which you may have read on my editorial about multivitamins. Shabir