One of the most ubiquitous dishes to come out of Asia―particularly India―is curry.
It features a pungent sauce, in a distinctive golden-yellow color, that is often paired with rice and some form of vegetables and meat. Different regions have different takes on the dish, but all feature the same basic curry sauce, which has curcumin as one of its base ingredients. Like many other foods and herbs that are staples in Asia, curcumin also has a long and venerated history as an Ayurvedic medicine.
Recently, research from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) appears to show that curcumin may also help slow down or prevent memory loss.
Curcumin source and medicinal uses
Curcumin is the active ingredient in the turmeric (Curcuma longa) plant, which is part of the same plant family as ginger (Zingiber officinale). The roots of both plants are highly prized for both their culinary and medicinal values throughout Asia.1 Turmeric is grown throughout the tropical regions of the world, but India remains the largest producer of turmeric products in the world.
Curcumin has been used since ancient times to treat inflammation and various digestive, blood and respiratory conditions, as well as helping to heal wounds and bruises when it is made into a paste.1 It has also been used as a beauty treatment to remove blemishes, unwanted hair and acne.2
Curcumin for memory loss
A group of researchers at UCLA published an online article in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry that studied the effect of a curcumin supplement on simple memory tasks.3 The researchers also examined the effect of the curcumin supplements on amyloid and tau levels in the brain, which are thought to be related to cognitive loss.
The group under review were 40 adult subjects between the ages of 50 and 90 who had mild memory loss, but did not meet the criteria for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. For an 18-month period, subjects received either a placebo or a 90 mg curcumin supplement twice daily. All the subjects underwent blood testing at the beginning and end of the study to measure curcumin levels, and 30 of them also underwent positron emission tomography (PET) to determine amyloid and tau levels in their brains at the start and the end of the study.3
At the end of the study, the researchers found that the subjects who took the curcumin supplements showed significant improvements in their memory (by nearly 30 percent) and attention skills, as compared to the placebo subjects.3 PET scans showed that subjects taking curcumin also had significantly lower amyloid and tau levels than those who took the placebo supplements. Furthermore, there were also improvements in mood for the subjects taking curcumin, which is important because depression and anxiety are very common among older people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.3
Given the results from this study, you may find that your older patients will benefit from taking curcumin supplements. The researchers are looking toward further studies to determine if curcumin could also improve mood disorders among subjects who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, which could also be of great benefit to your patients
1 Bunting D. “Turmeric: From ancient dye to modern medicine.” Herb-pharm.com. Published March 2014. Accessed 5/28/2018.
2 Shivangani D. “Natural ways to get rid of facial hair.” Times of India. Updated Nov. 2017. Accessed 5/28/2018.
3 Small GW, Siddarth P, Zhaoping L, et al. (2018). Memory and brain amyloid and tau effects of a bioavailable form of curcumin in non-demented adults: A double-blind, placebo-controlled 18-month trial. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2018;26(3), 266-277.