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Center for Cognitive Health

Benefits of Turmeric (Curcumin)

Turmeric is a commonly used natural spice in South Asian cuisine such as curry. It is a common question whether or not turmeric and curcumin are the same thing. Turmeric is the plant itself, and curcumin is a compound found within turmeric.

Turmeric is used in traditional South Asian medicine to relieve wounds, gallstones, cramps, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) symptoms. There is a growing amount of research being done regarding curcumin as an effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent with the ability to improve cognitive functions in those with AD. Scientists report that Alzheimer’s disease for Indians aged 70-79 is four times lower than the rate in the United States. Several studies report turmeric(curcumin) to be equally as effective as donepezil(Aricept) in some cases. 

Top 10 documented uses of Turmeric and Curcumin

  • Memory Improvement
  • Heart Strengthener
  • Healthier Skin
  • Better Digestion
  • Less Dry Eye
  • Seasonal Allergy Relief
  • Artery Health
  • Diabetes
  • Better Liver Function
  • Arthritis Pain Relief

Reported benefits of turmeric include: anti-inflammatory properties, pain relief, improved liver function, reduced cancer risk, aids digestion, and immune health support.

How does Turmeric ( Curcumin) affect Alzheimer’s disease?

Both amyloid plaques and tau tangles are the basic pathologic markers of AD and initiate neuroinflammation causing more damage to thebrain because the immune system tries to clear these “foreign invaders”. These plaques and tangles accumulate, contributing to a decline in cognitive performance and memory loss. Research suggests that curcumin binds with the amyloid beta proteins, and due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties, prevents amyloid from resulting in further damage the brain.Curcumin decreases the level of oxidized proteins and isoprostanes in the brain while also suppressing Presenilin-1 activity (the BASE enzyme that make toxic AB-40/42), inhibiting further production of amyloid. Curcumin has also been found to have a high binding affinity for iron and copper; metals that can accelerate oxidative damage in the brain.

How much turmeric do I take?

The dosage of turmeric and curcumin extract vary depending on the form you are taking it in.

There are no official guidelines for the intake of turmeric, but the acceptable dietary intake is 1.4 mg per pound (3mg/kg) of body weight. This guideline was determined by The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

If you are just taking curcumin extract, the dosage is unknown, but there are currently clinical trials being done to investigate a safe and effective dosage. 

Before deciding to add turmeric or curcumin extract into your daily routine, consult with your doctor. Be sure to consider the quality of the powder or supplement when deciding which one to purchase. Some powdered forms have additives or cheap fillers that may be hard to identify solely from the label. It is recommended to choose turmeric from a reputable agency, such as one that is USDA Certified Organic.

What if I don’t want to take the powdered form?

Turmeric can be added into your diet by getting creative in the kitchen and spicing up your recipes! For some inspiration check out some of these possible recipes from BBC Goodfood.

Are there side effects?

The most commonly reported side effect is stomach upset when taking turmeric. In some cases it also can cause a headache. A skin rash may occur when taking extremely high doses, although this is rare.

Adalier, Nur, and Heath Parker. “Vitamin E, Turmeric and Saffron in Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Antioxidants, vol. 5, no. 4, 2016, p. 40., doi:10.3390/antiox5040040.
Bhat, Abid, et al. “Benefits of Curcumin in Brain Disorders.” BioFactors (Oxford, England), 2019, doi:10.1002/biof.1533.
Tweed, Vera. “10 Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin: The Popular Curry Spice and Its Active Ingredient (Curcumin) Offer a Wide Array of Uses for Health and Wellness.(Check OUT: GUIDE TO CUTTING-EDGE SUPPLEMENTS).” Better Nutrition, vol. 80, no. 5, 2018, p. 26.