Could the key to dealing with degenerative diseases and brain damage be locked away in a common household spice? Some researchers think so, and they’re betting that a big push behind turmeric will lead to treatments that will save lives.
At the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine for Germany’s Research Centre Juelich, scientists are experimenting with the spice turmeric to see what they can unlock. They’re hoping to isolate and study the impact of aromatic-turmerone.
This turmeric extract has already been injected into the brains of rats, and subjects in those trials showed more nerve growth and activity in injected areas.
As Newsweek notes, the researchers injected a turmeric extract into a part of the rat brain where stem cells were located. Upon exposure to the turmeric extract, those regions began to undergo increased growth and proliferation. Stem cells turned into neurons, a development that holds out hope for any number of neurodegenerative conditions.
In short, that could mean that aromatic-tumerone helps the brain to repair itself, one researcher told the BBC last month.
“It is interesting that it might be able to boost the effectiveness of the [new stem cells] with aromatic-turmerone,” said one researcher. “And it is possible this in turn can help boost repair in the brain.”
That might turn into treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s, which gradually robs sufferers of higher brain function. The researchers, though, were careful to note that the turmeric discovery is not yet resolved science.
“We’d need to see further studies to fully understand this compound’s effects in the context of a complex disease like Alzheimer’s,” one researcher said, “and until then people shouldn’t take this as a sign to stock up on supplies of turmeric for the spice rack.”
The finding is the second one to hint at potentially massive health implications for turmeric. Previous finds have tied the popular curry spice to lowered insulin levels and improved health for diabetics and cardiovascular patients. Still others have focused on using turmeric to detect diseases like Alzheimer’s before they can truly take root.
Still others have reportedly found different uses for the herb. According to Medical Xpress, physicians have been studying the effects of curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric its yellow color. They’ve found that the compound could have mood-altering effects.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 56 volunteers at Murdoch University, researchers found that the curcumin in turmeric was significantly more effective in improving mood-related symptoms like depression among the test group. Among individuals with atypical depression, the compound was even more effective.
The researchers say that the turmeric compound’s effects may stem from the fact that curcumin can reduce inflammation in the body. Previous studies have found links between body inflammation and depression, and turmeric may be able to counteract that effect.
[Lead image via Healthy Food House.]