Curcumin is the yellow pigment in turmeric, a spice well-known in Indian cuisine. It contains antioxidants that endow it with anti-inflammatory activity, which has been recognized for centuries by the Ayurvedic medicine tradition of India. Curcumin has been the subject of hundreds of scientific studies in recent decades, most dealing with cancer, but some also addressing Alzheimer’s Disease.
One of the leading research groups on curcumin and Alzheimer’s is based at the University of California at Los Angeles, so we were interested to check in and see their current posting about this research:
Many spices as well as fruits and vegetables have polyphenolic antioxidants that also have antiinflammatory acitivity. These compounds can give these food their color. We have found that the yellow pigment in turmeric, curcumin, can act at multiple steps in Alzheimer pathogenesis to stop and even reverse damage.
Curcumin is the Asian version of aspirin. Our wonder drug aspirin was originally purified from willow bark extracts that were used in European and American Indian traditional medicines to control inflammation. Eventually aspirin was synthesized by German chemists and developed by Bayer as one of the most successful drugs in the Western medicine cabinet. Today aspirin is used not only in pain remedies and other analgesic applications, but to control minor fever and inflammation and, at low doses, to prevent heart attack and stroke. Curcumin has been used in traditional Indian (Ayruvedic) and Chinese medicine for thousands of years largely because of its proven efficacy in treating conditions with inflammation. They also used it in foods as an effective food preservative, just as we use synthetic additives like BHA. These ancient civilizations have vast trial and error experience with many different herbal remedies and food preparations and they selected curcumin as a food additive and major tool for medicinal use based on efficacy–not superstition.
Curcumin and Alzheimer’s Disease. Our group has tested curcumin in several models for Alzheimer’s and found that it not only reduces oxidative damage and inflammation (as expected), but also reduces amyloid accumulation and synaptic marker loss and promotes amyloid phagocytosis and clearance. Curcumin worked to prevent synaptic marker and cognitive deficits caused by amyloid peptide infusion and a beta oligomer toxicity in vitro.
Read more, including references and information on clinical trials, on the UCLA research group’s website:
For additional information, see the NYBC entry