How turmeric is beneficial to prevent memory loss


This golden spice has innumerable advantages. Read on to know of its neuro-protective functions in various neural disorders like Alzheimer's, Parkinson disease and other memory loss related diseases. Curcumin present in turmeric has bioactive properties to help ameliorate these disorders.

Memory loss or amnesia is abnormal forgetfulness. It could be progressive, diminishing over time or spontaneous due to trauma to the brain. It may be accompanied by other cognitive disabilities like impaired speech or drastic change in personality.

Remembering names and one's address is one aspect but forgetting one's purpose in the middle of the road may prove fatal. Amnesia is the dough of daily soap operas but in real life, diagnosis of amnesia brings with it burden not only for the patient but also the caretakers and family.
It may be caused by head injuries due to brain tumor, concussion, surgery, stroke, etc. Mental health problems usually have memory loss associated with them, for example, shock, depression, schizophrenia, etc.

Memory loss in elder people is a marker for dementia. Dementia also effects language, judgment and behavior. Abuse of alcohol and drugs impair memory too. Brain diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's, Lyme's and syphilis also damage neurons leading to memory loss.

Turmeric for memory loss

Turmeric is derived from rhizomes of Curcuma longa plant of the Zingiberaceae family. It has high demand in the south Asian countries. It is used as a dye, in Asian culinary, in cosmetics and in religious practices. The yellow color of turmeric is due to the curcuminoids present in turmeric. These impart anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to curcumin which are providing higher chances to medical field to fight against innumerable acute and chronic diseases.

Centuries of successful Ayurveda, the Japanese Kampo, and ancient Chinese medicine advocate the usefulness of turmeric in curing digestive problems, respiratory problems, irregular menstruation and others. Modern science has found curcumin, a bio-active curcuminoid, to alleviate cancer, arthritis, atherosclerosis, peptic ulcers and neural problems.

The recently discovered neuro-protective properties of curcumin have proved useful in preventing memory loss and other cognitive impairments. Its lipophilic nature allows it to cross the blood-brain barrier easily and reach neurons for physical and chemical effects.

Memory deficits as explained can occur due to innumerable reasons. Each cause is as widespread as the other. Curcumin is a pleiotropic and highly effective molecule which has been proved to alleviate memory loss in the following diseases via different mechanisms.

  1. Age related memory loss

    As we age, cells of the brain begin to have higher oxidant to antioxidant ratios. The anti-oxidant enzyme activity deteriorates and proliferation of new progenitor or memory cells decreases. Maintenance of old neurons and regeneration of new ones pose are both assuaged by curcumin.

    Curcumin works better than vitamin E as an antioxidant and is known to be an effective anti-aging agent. Curcumin increases the proliferation of neurons in hippocampus of the brain. It is attributed to be the memory center of the brain. It helps in their differentiation into specialized neurons.

    Curcumin increases the formation of a protein called BDNF (Brain Derived Neutrotrophic Factor). This protein is present in the synaptic cleft or the space between two consecutive neurons that undergo synapse (neuron-to-neuron communication) and modifies their effects. This is called synaptic plasticity and plays a major role in making new memories and preserving old ones.
    In case of loss of neurons due to aging, new neuroblast cells divide and take the place of the dead cells. Curcumin enhances in their proliferation and differentiation but these cells have physiological limitations and can't fully complete neural circuits and loops.

    What it means: Intake of curcumin has neuro-protective function on aging cells. It increases their life span and thus maintains memory. It helps proliferation of new memory neurons.


  2. Ischemia induced memory loss

    Stroke or cardiovascular problems may decrease the flow of blood to brain to such an extent so as to cause ischemia or cell death due to low oxygen supply. The brain needs 20% of the oxygen supplied by the lungs at all times. If the affected region of the brain is fronto-temporal lobes where the hippocampus lies, it causes memory deficits.
    A study shows curcumin drastically lowered the infarct volume or the number of dead cells. It also enhanced hippocampal neurogenesis. Prophylaxis via intake of curcumin over long periods of time mitigates harsh effects of ischemia on memory loss and cognitive effects.

    What it means: Curcumin helps assuage adverse after math of ischemia. It can prevent memory loss after a stroke.


  3. Alzheimer's induced dementia

    5-6% of the world population suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is progressive inflammatory deterioration of the brain. It starts over a decade before the symptoms occur. The hippocampal and fronto-temporal regions are the first to deteriorate and so memory impairment, speech impairment, abnormal forgetfulness, and personality changes are first to appear.

    The neurons are engulfed by Amyloid ß protein, abnormally formed due to mutation in its gene. These depositions form impermeable plaques, hindering the passage of nutrients and oxygen to the neurons. This stress kills the neurons. Curcumin prevents formation of Amyloid ß protein. It prevents its accumulation around the neurons. It enhances the absorption of the defective protein by macrophages in blood for their quicker disposal. Thus, it allays the pathogenesis of the disease . The activation of another protein Tau, which under normal physiology keeps the neurons aligned in parallel orientation, produces tangles in the neuron axons. These tangles disrupt neural loops made to store information in the brain. Curcumin prevents the activation of Tau, slowing the progression of the disease.

    What it means: Curcumin helps in preventing Alzheimer's disease induced memory deficit. It prevents the deposition of plaques around neurons and helps dissolve them. It inhibits the destructive activity of Tau protein and maintains the neurons for longer.


  4. Diabetes induced cognitive deficits

    Diabetes is hyperglycemia. Glucose rushes into neurons in high concentration. The mitochondria or the kitchen of the cell produces lots of high energy molecules which down regulates its own functioning. Nonfunctioning mitochondria in the neurons produce oxidants and pro-inflammatory Advanced Glycation End products or AGEs. AGEs accelerate the pathogenesis of neural degeneration related to diabetes and cause memory deficits and dementia as complications.

    Curcumin in turmeric increases insulin sensitivity of other body cells which in turn enhances glucose uptake and digestion; this lowers the hazardously high glucose levels. Cell death of neurons is then averted.

    What it means: Curcumin protects the memory cells from cell death by protecting them against high glucose levels.


  5. Parkinson's disease and memory deficit

    1% of the brain neurons communicate via the dopamine neurotransmitter. These account for spatial memory and stress management. These are abundant in neuromelanin and iron, both of which play a role in oxidant-antioxidant balance.
    Parkinson's disease is marked by degeneration of the dopaminergic neurons. The neuromelanin and iron levels increase to cause an oxidative stress and start a chain reaction of inflammation and oxidative apoptosis. Curcumin decreases the elevated amounts of oxidants and the toxicity caused. Metal chelation is another ability of curcumin it binds to metals like iron, zinc copper, etc. and retards the degeneration of neurons.

    What it means: Curcumin helps retain the memory related to one's surroundings and maintain cognitive health by acting as a strong antioxidant in fight against Parkinson's disease.


  6. Head injuries, Alcoholism and memory impairment

    Alcoholism causes neural damage in the cognitive centers of the brain by oxidative-nitrosative stress and inflammatory pathogenesis. It causes cognitive dysfunction and memory loss.

    Head injuries cause adverse irreversible damage to the brain. Deposition of plaques and tangles may occur. The injured neurons may inflame and causes apoptosis of memory cells. The neuro-protective properties of curcumin mitigate the damage to some extent.

    What is means: The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties assuage the neural damage caused by alcoholism and prevent further pathogenesis. Injuries to the brain can prove to be stringent tests of neuro-protectivity of drugs used to treat it. Curcumin is highly effective and safe to use against inflammatory injuries.


Anti-inflammatory Function of Turmeric

A pro-inflammatory stimulus like alcohol, smoke or intrinsic factors activate a factor called NF?B, present in all cells. On activation, it moves into the control room, the nucleus, of the cell. Here, it initiates the production of pro-inflammatory, tumorigenic and cell proliferation enzymes and message molecules to inform other cells about stress. These are COX-2 (cyclo-oxygenase-2), iNOS (inducible nitrogen oxide synthase) and cytokines like interleukins, tumor necrosis factor (TNFa), etc., which enhance inflammation.
Curcumin prevents activation of the NF?B, itself down regulating all other pro-inflammatory effects. All inflammatory diseases of the body, chronic or acute are ameliorated by using curcumin in diet.
Inflammation helps in pathogenesis of all diseases causing memory loss, dementia or cognitive effects in the brain. Inflammation occurs in ischemia, brain trauma, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and alcoholism and causes their pathogenesis. Curcumin alleviates and assuages all these diseases and protects the neurons.

Turmeric has antioxidant properties

Under normal physiological conditions, the cells of the body do produce ROS (reactive oxygen species), free radicals like hydroxyl ions (OH) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and other toxins from bad diet. These are neutralized by the antioxidants like vitamins and minerals, absorbed from our diet. If this balance is disturbed, cell damage and cell death occurs. Oxidative stress plays a major role in pathogenesis of inflammation, cancer, tissue destruction, cell ageing, etc.

Curcumin acts an oxidant as it is highly efficient in scavenging the free radicals and ROS. It has higher efficacy than vitamin C and E. It detoxifies the tissues and prevents cell damage and apoptosis.Thus, curcumin conspicuously helps protect the neurons and maintains their health against age related degeneration, Alzheimer's, stroke, ischemia, diabetic neuropathy, alcohol induced degeneration, head trauma.

Dosage and consumption

Turmeric has been cultivated and used in south Asia as a spice, dye and medicine from time immemorial. It is used as a home remedy for wounds, anti-inflammatory properties to promote menstruation, etc. turmeric promotes general wellbeing and improves quality of life.

Turmeric should be taken in diet rather than as a supplement. Prophylaxis via curcumin is more effective than treatment of diseases.
  • Spice: Turmeric powder can be used as spice and used up to 400 to 600 mg, 3 times a day which is about 100 mg curcumin per day. Curcumin up to 8 grams per day have been found without evidence of
  • Root: 1.5 to 3 grams of cut root can be consumed per day. 1 to 3 grams of dried root can be powdered and consumed in the quantities of 1 to 3 grams per day.

  • Fluid Extract: 30 to 90 drops of fluid extracts of turmeric (1:1) can also be consumed of per day. Turmeric tincture (1:2), 15-20 drops, 4 times a day is the recommended dose.


The bioavailability of curcumin in body is very low. It is not easily absorbed into blood from the intestines and is digested to its less active products rendering it useless. Thus, to ease its absorption for maximum benefits, black pepper can be taken with it. Clinical research is on to find ways to make curcumin more bioavailable.

The medicinal effects of curcumin on children have not been studied. So, it is not advised to give very high amounts of turmeric to children.

Precautions and side effects

4000 years of Ayurveda success stand as evidence for the safety profile and high efficacy of turmeric. Clinical trials and research too, point to its safe usage even in very dosage. Different herbs may interact together to produce adverse effects. Thus, medicinal dosage of turmeric should be in the knowledge of the patient's doctor.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes should take care as curcumin is known to decrease glucose levels further and over dosage with already prescribed medication may cause hypoglycemia.
  • Tuberculosis: Latent tuberculosis patients should not take high doses of turmeric as curcumin can increase risk of activation of tuberculosis.

  • Pregnancy: Turmeric helps in menstruation; pregnant women should take care not to take curcumin supplements.

  • Surgeries: Turmeric works as an analgesic by thinning the blood. Thus, surgeries should be planned in advanced with the doctor.

  • Biliary tract obstruction: patients with bile tract problems should avoid curcumin as it induces release of bile from gall bladder.

  • If curcumin is taken in high medicinal doses, it may cause bile stones, gastric ulcers and cause a gastric-esophageal reflex.


Summary

Turmeric or the healing herb finds its demand growing by the day as its medicinal properties prove to assuage myriad of diseases. Etiology of memory loss is magnanimous and thus it calls for a pleiotropic solution.

Dietary intake of the golden spice enhances the neuro-protective activity of the cell and retards cell aging. It alleviates the symptoms of several neurological disorders, thus mitigating their adverse effects.


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