We all deal with memory loss related issues (however minor) on a daily basis. In my case, I frequently forget where I had kept my car keys. While this is not a serious memory loss issue but there are several cases when it is. So what is memory loss?
Memory loss could be occasional forgetfulness that affects most people daily or it could be loss of short-term or long-term memory that affects every day life. There are many reasons for this memory loss. Medications like anti-depressants, tranquilizers, antihistamines or muscle relaxants; drugs, tobacco or alcohol abuse, sleep deprivation, stress or depression, head injury, nutritional deficiency, strokes can all cause memory loss.
Long term memory loss is caused by age-related illnesses like dementia caused by Alzheimer’s that results in progressive cell loss in the brain. Dementia is also caused by infections like AIDS, brain tumors, Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease, head injury from sports like boxing etc.
Finding out the cause of memory loss is important to treat it. In some cases it could be treatable like improving diet, taking nutritional supplements or changing medications. Some conditions like memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease are progressive although there are drugs to slow the progression.
Effects Of Turmeric On Memory
We all know that Alzheimer’s disease is one leading cause for memory loss in the elderly. There is increasing evidence that turmeric could prevent the progression of this and other neurodegenerative diseases. Studies have shown that the incidences of Alzheimer’s among the elderly in India are relatively low.
This is attributed to the wide use of turmeric in Indian food. Initial studies on mice have found that turmeric could inhibit IL-2 production. This protein is the cause of myelin sheath destruction. The myelin sheath protects nerve cells.
Alzheimer’s is a result of excess amyloid-beta accumulation in brain cells that leads to plaque formation in neurons, inflammation and oxidative stress.
Curcumin has been found to arrest this aggregation of amyloid-beta and even dissolve amyloid fibrils better than some anti-inflammatory drugs. Amyloid-beta clings to curcumin and therefore does not cluster together in the brain.
Curcumin is also found to create the heme oxygenase pathway that helps with production of bilirubin. Bilirubin is needed by the brain to prevent damage from free radicals. Oxidative stress is known to cause dementia-related diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Aging is inevitable and along with it comes age-related memory loss due to a wear and tear on the cells in the brain from having functioned for so long. Vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s are two leading causes of memory loss. Maintaining good cardiovascular health can avoid the former.
However, there is no known cause for Alzheimer’s and this disease is a major cause of memory loss brought on by cell death. Curcumin is a polyphenol that can prevent damage by amyloid-beta protein molecules. In one study 9 curcuminoids were examined for their protection of the brain against amyloid-beta neurotoxicity.
Curcumin from turmeric was found to be a strong protective agent. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent. These properties mean that it can use several biochemical mechanisms to interfere with Alzheimer’s pathogenesis. While NSAIDs offer similar benefits, long term uses can cause chronic gastrointestinal problems.
To test the efficacy of both turmeric and ibuprofen, researchers used groups of elderly rats and gave them ibuprofen or turmeric supplements for 2 months. Later, surgical methods were used to inject soluble amyloid-beta into the brain to simulate neurodegeneration.
The results showed that curcumin offered strong protection against oxidative damage which was better than ibuprofen. Senile plaque cells reduced by 80% with low curcumin doses and lesser, about 45% with higher doses.
Since turmeric is well tolerated by humans with few side effects, it could offer benefits as a way to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s and related symptoms like memory loss.
Apart from Alzheimer’s disease, human beings can suffer memory loss due to other reasons as well. Studies have found that turmeric can help with improving spatial and learning memory. Wistar rats were fed curcumin extracts at age 24 months for 2 months along with heir food.
At the end of the period, the parameters in the brain which were examined suggests that the spatial memory and learning ability of the rats fed curcumin got better when evaluated against the control group. This could also be due to the ability of turmeric to increase tolerance levels under stress. It is also suggested that turmeric could reduce neurodegeneration processes in the brain.
Chronic stress is another cause of memory loss. In a 2009 study, rats with impaired cognition caused by chronic stress were examined. It was found that memory loss was reversed when curcumin was given. The effects were similar to anti-depressants.
It has been suggested that curcumin could offer therapeutic benefits for memory and learning disturbances. All these studies offer hope for the use of turmeric for memory loss.
Including turmeric in regular diet or taking turmeric supplements help as shown in research findings above but as such there is no dosage of turmeric for memory loss.
Turmeric supplements are available for adults in the form of tablets, capsules, tincture or liquid extracts. I do not recommend supplements unless there is no other way. I prefer good quality turmeric powder.
The dosage depends on the medical condition for which it is taken. The recommended dose for dried, powdered root is 1-3g daily and standardized powder is 400-600mg thrice daily.
Also make sure you include black pepper in your diet as turmeric is absorbed poorly in body and thus will not be effective otherwise.
Turmeric as spice is very safe. But if doubt consult your doctor before using turmeric for any specific medical condition.
It is known to produce side effects like indigestion, nausea, diarrhea or dizziness when used in high doses and for long periods.
Since it can slow blood clotting, turmeric must be stopped 2 weeks before a surgery is scheduled. Anyone with diabetes or gallbladder problems must avoid it for it could worsen the condition. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are usually advised to avoid all herbal supplements including turmeric.