Can turmeric help Alzheimer’s and Dementia? In order to understand how and why turmeric can be a powerful tool against both, it is important to first understand each condition.
The term “Alzheimer’s” is often used interchangeably with “Dementia.” In fact, Dementia is an umbrella term describing damage caused to the brain caused by any number of conditions. One of which is Alzheimer’s.
Dementia symptoms can vary, depending on the affected part of the brain. Symptoms can include memory loss, inability to concentrate, loss of vocabulary, lack of spatial awareness, and losing track of days, dates, and even years. Behaviour can also change. This can be the most distressing part of the condition for caregivers, as the sufferer may begin to act aggressively.1
Alzheimer’s occurs when plaques build up between the cells in the brain’s nerve tissues. These plaques contain a protein known as beta amyloid2. Research shows that both inflammation and oxidative stress contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s.
It is well documented that turmeric is something of a miracle spice! For both humans and animals, using turmeric has a great pain-relieving effect on a whole range of conditions. It is also known to have some very exciting properties which aid in the fight against Alzheimer’s and Dementia:
Anti-amyloidogenic: Turmeric consists of many compounds, the most well-known of which is curcumin. It also contains compounds such as bisdemethoxycurcumin and demethoxycurcumin. Both are also thought to attack the root cause of Alzheimer’s – the formation of beta-amyloid proteins.
Anti-cytotoxic: Where there is the presence of beta-amyloid, curcumin can offer protection against the damaging effects of this protein.
Anti-inflammatory: One of turmeric’s most well-known properties. This anti-inflammatory action can protect against the inflammatory effects of beta-amyloid.3
Anti-oxidative: Free radicals play a huge part in many serious and life-threatening illnesses, including Alzheimer’s. Free radicals attack proteins and DNA, causing damage. The brain is particularly susceptible to free radical damage because of its lower levels of antioxidants and high oxygen usage.4
Neurorestorative: Curcuminoids are another active compound in turmeric. It’s believed that curcuminoids reduce long term memory impairment. They may even undo damage by destroying the plaques.
Metal Binding: Studies show curcumin can aid in the removal of heavy metals from the brain. Iron and copper, in particular. Although small amounts are essential for our bodies to function, patients with Alzheimer’s have them in higher concentrations. Curcumin binds less well to zinc than to iron and copper. In fact, studies show zinc can alter the shape of the amyloid plaques, making them less damaging to the brain.3,5
Of course, science can be baffling. Most people want to see actual real-life cases showing turmeric help Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients. Preferably without so much medical jargon! Here are three such cases, from a study published by The National Center for Biotechnology Information:
Patient A first presented with short term memory impairment and confusion when she was 76. Looking back through her medical history showed no familial conditions which could otherwise account for these symptoms. Over the next 7 years, her condition deteriorated to the point where she needed a carer. Over time, she became unable to get dressed, cook, or do jobs around the house. She also suffered from urinary incontinence. At the age of 83, she received a 12-week dose of turmeric, taking 764mg per day. The agitation and anxiety she had displayed before the turmeric went away. She was able to knit, sing, and even join in with laughter when watching comedies.6
Patient B, a non-smoker and light drinker, displayed many classic symptoms of dementia. This included forgetfulness, hallucinations, delusions, irritability, wandering, and suffering from urinary incontinence. She received 764 mg turmeric per day and showed gradual but steady improvement. She could recognise family members and saw relief from her severe symptoms.6
Patient C was a 79-year-old man who had been in a slow decline over many years. Once a lover of oil painting, he no longer indulged his passion. He also showed signs of mood swings, anxiety, apathy, poor concentration, erratic eating, and irritability. Following a 12-week course of turmeric, his symptoms subsided. He continued taking turmeric after the study which allowed him to live peacefully with his wife.6
Studies continue into the efficacy of turmeric. These promising cases and many other reports show that in the fight against Alzheimer’s and Dementia, along with a myriad of other conditions, this simple kitchen staple is a highly powerful natural healer.