|Curry in the spice-bazaar (egypitan) in Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
By Dr. Mercola
Most spices have powerful medicinal properties, which is precisely why they've been used to promote healing for thousands of years prior to the advent of modern, synthetic drug-based medicine.One such spice is turmeric, the yellow-pigmented "curry spice" often used in Indian cuisine. Turmeric contains curcumin, the polyphenol identified as its primary active component and which exhibits over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, which include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.1Curcumin is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, which is one reason why it holds promise as a neuroprotective agent in a wide range of neurological disorders. Researchers have investigated curcumin for its potential role in improving Parkinson's disease .
Preliminary results indicate that it may hold even more promise than the drugs currently used for this disorder, many of which (ironically) have serious neurotoxic side effects, including dyskinesia – a movement disorder identical to the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Natural Curcumin Extract Outshines Parkinson's Drugs
Parkinson's is a neurodegenerative disease caused by a steady depletion of dopamine-producing nerve cells, particularly in the area of your brain referred to as the substantia nigra. Most of the current drug treatments for Parkinson's disease, known as dopamine agonists, focus on replenishing dopamine.Although such treatments provide symptomatic relief during early Parkinson's disease, they are ineffective in the long term where they may actually increase symptoms such as tremor, postural instability and cognitive deficits that are common with this disease. They are also associated with motor complications and a laundry list of other strange and disturbing side effects, including:
Euphoria Nausea Hallucinations Insomnia Causing or worsening psychosis Unusual tiredness or weakness Orthostatic hypotension (a dizzy spell caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure) Dizziness, drowsiness, lightheadedness, or fainting Increased orgasmic intensity Twitching, twisting, or other unusual body movements Weight loss Pathological addiction (gambling, shopping, internet pornography, hypersexuality)As researchers noted in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design:2"Most of the current pharmacotherapeutic approaches in PD [Parkinson's disease] are aimed at replenishing the striatal dopamine. Although these drugs provide symptomatic relief during early PD, many patients develop motor complications with long-term treatment. Further, PD medications do not effectively tackle tremor, postural instability and cognitive deficits.
Most importantly, most of these drugs do not exhibit neuroprotective effects in patients. Consequently, novel therapies involving natural antioxidants and plant products/molecules with neuroprotective properties are being exploited for adjunctive therapy."Unlike Parkinson's drugs, curcumin is neuroprotective and several studies strongly support its use for the treatment of Parkinson's. For example:
- Curcumin showed neuroprotective properties in an animal model of Parkinson's disease; the beneficial effect was thought to be related, in part, to its antioxidant capabilities and its ability to penetrate the brain.3
- Curcumin alleviated the effects of glutathione depletion, which causes oxidative stress, mitochondria dysfunction and cell death – and is a feature of early Parkinson's disease.4
- The c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) signaling pathway is involved in dopaminergic neuronal degeneration, which is in turn associated with Parkinson's. Curcumin prevents dopaminergic neuronal death through inhibition of the JNK pathway, and thereby offers a neuroprotective effect that may be beneficial for Parkinson's.5
- Slow-wriggling alpha-synuclein proteins can cause clumping, which is the first step for diseases such as Parkinson's. Curcumin helps prevent the proteins from clumping.6
Curcumin Is a Powerful Ally for Your Brain Health
For years now turmeric, and its active ingredient curcumin, have shown powerful benefits to your brain health. One of the ways that it works, similar to vitamin D, is modulating large numbers of your genes; in fact, curcumin has been shown to influence more than 700 genes.The potential healing power of this spice, which is an important part of Eastern cultural traditions including traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, perhaps first came about when it was noticed that the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease among older adults in India is more than four times lower than the rate in the United States.Why such a significant difference?Some researchers believe the answer for this drastic disparity in Alzheimer's disease prevalence is a direct result of curcumin. Research has shown that curcumin may help inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta amyloids in the brain of Alzheimer's patients, as well as break up existing plaques. People with Alzheimer's tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their brains, and curcumin is perhaps most known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. The compound can inhibit both the activity and the inflammatory metabolic byproducts of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2) and 5-lipooxygenase (5-LOX) enzymes, as well as other enzymes and hormones that modulate inflammation.And that's not all. The growing interest in curcumin over the past 50 years is understandable when you consider the many health benefits researchers have found when studying this spice. According to an ever-expanding clinical body of studies, curcumin may help:
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