5 Benefits Of Turmeric In Neurofibromatosis

Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder that causes tumors in the nervous system.

These tumors develop in the cells that support the nerve cells rather than the nerve cells itself.

This disorder is classified into three types:

  • Neurofibromatosis type 1: It is a common type of this disorder and its symptoms are visible in childhood as light brown spots on the skin, larger than normal head circumference, tumor on the optic nerve, etc. It causes serious damage by compressing nerve tissue.
  • Neurofibromatosis type 2: It affects the nerves that are linked with hearing and can lead to hearing loss.
  • Schwannomatosis: Tumors arise in the nerves originating from the skull and compresses the nerve and adjacent tissue.

Symptoms of neurofibromatosis depend upon the type of disorder but generally include:

  • Light brown spots on the skin
  • Nodules on the iris of eyes
  • Tumor on optic nerve
  • Abnormal development of spine
  • Schwannoma or tumor of peripheral nerve cells
  • Gradual hearing loss
  • Poor balance
  • Vision problems
  • Pain
  • Numbness and weakness in arms and legs
  • Learning and thinking problems

Neurofibromatosis type 1 affects 1 in 3,000 individuals. It is an autosomal dominant disorder- that means a child is at a 50% risk of developing neurofibromatosis if a parent suffers from it.

Treatment generally involves surgery for removal of tumors.

Cancer therapy such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery is provided in case of malignancy. Antidepressants and anti-epileptic medications are provided to help manage pain.

Regular check-ups are required to assess the progression of the disease since neurofibromatosis can’t be cured.

What does research say about the role of turmeric in neurofibromatosis?

Turmeric’s therapeutic role in neurofibromatosis has been studied only to a limited extent. Curcumin, turmeric’s most potent bioactive ingredient shows some potential in neurofibromatosis treatment.

1. Curcumin may help prevent progression of neurofibromatosis

Neurofibromatosis occurs as a result of inactivation of tumor suppressor gene which leads to the growth of tumor.

The gene related to neurofibromatosis leads to the formation of a protein called merlin which when activated can prevent tumor growth.

Curcumin is found to inhibit the growth of schwannoma cells (tumor in the nerve sheath). It also activates an enzyme that further activates Merlin in order to stop tumor growth.

Curcumin produces reactive oxygen species which cause toxicity in the schwannoma cells and causes cell death.

However, curcumin in combination with a heat shock protein inhibitor is found to help in neurofibromatosis treatment.

Heat shock protein protects neurofibromatosis cells from curcumin’s toxic effects and hence an inhibitor is required to deactivate these proteins and potentiate curcumin’s therapeutic action.

Curcumin is identified as PAK blocker, PAK is an enzyme responsible for malignant transformation and also contributes to neurofibromatosis development.

Nuclear factor kappa B is a biological molecule that plays an essential role in inflammation and cell growth and proliferation.

Research shows that curcumin inhibits the growth of schwannoma cells and causes cell death by inhibiting the activity of nuclear factor kappaB.

Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor is a rare type of tumor that has been associated with neurofibromatosis. These cells are deficient in protein neurofibromin which contributes to the development of neurofibromatosis.

Curcumin is proven to increase the sensitivity of such tumor cells to cell death by producing reactive oxygen species which damage cellular tissue and cause cell death.

Curcumin related compounds prevent the formation of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor by inhibiting the activity of JAK/STAT3 pathway which is essential for cell growth, cell death, and tumor formation.

What does this mean?
Research suggests that curcumin can suppress tumor formation and prevent tumor growth in neurofibromatosis type 2. More research in this area is required for stronger evidence to confirm curcumin’s therapeutic effect in neurofibromatosis.

2. It can help with neuropathic pain

Curcumin’s role as an analgesic or painkiller is confirmed due to its anti-inflammatory activity. It also shows efficacy in treatment of neuropathic pain which occurs in neurofibromatosis.

Curcumin reduces neuropathic or nerve pain by decreasing the level of COX-2 enzyme which plays an essential role in pain and inflammation.

Curcumin also acts at a genetic level by influencing the activity of enzymes that regulate gene expression and thereby reduce the activity of proteins BDNF and COX-2 which regulate nerve pain.

Gabapentin is one of the medicines prescribed to help in the treatment of nerve pain or neuropathy in neurofibromatosis.

In the animal model of diabetic neuropathy, curcumin is found to be as effective as gabapentin in reducing neuropathic pain and increasing pain bearing threshold.

Prolonged neuropathic pain can also lead to depression. Data from a number of clinical trials show that curcumin supplementation works as an effective anti-depressant.

What does this mean?
Curcumin can serve as effective alternative in treating and preventing neuropathic pain. It can also help alleviate depression associated with chronic pain.

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3. It is a strong anti-cancer and anti-tumor agent

Tumors occurring in neurofibromatosis are non cancerous but at times malignancy can develop. Curcumin is a potent anti-cancer agent. It is effective in preventing cancer as well as treating it:

  • It destroys cancer cells.
  • It stops the blood supply to tumors.
  • It prevents cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.
  • It destroys cancer stem cells.
  • It damages DNA of cancer cells and prevents repair.
  • It interferes in the cell cycle pattern.
  • It has an anti-proliferative and anti-tumor effect.

Curcumin is found to be effective in blocking brain tumor formation and is therapeutic in various brain cancers like glioma and neuroblastoma.

What does this mean?
Curcumin has anti-cancer, anti-tumor and chemopreventive potential which can reduce development of malignancy in neurofibromatosis.

4. It is an effective add on to chemotherapy and radiotherapy

In addition to its anti-cancer property, curcumin also works as a chemosensitizer. It sensitizes cancer cells to the therapeutic effect of chemotherapeutic drugs.

It reduces drug resistance by influencing the activity of proteins that pump out toxic compounds from cells and protect the cell.

Additionally it also works as a chemoprotector- it protects normal cells from toxic effects of the drug. Similarly, curcumin also acts as a radiosensitizer and increases the therapeutic effect of radiation therapy.

Simultaneously it also protects normal organs from harmful effects of radiation therapy.

What does this mean?
Curcumin sensitizes cancer and tumor cells to chemotherapy and radiation therapy and also protects normal cells from toxic effect of such treatment.

5. It can boost overall health

Turmeric possesses numerous pharmacological properties that can benefit general health. Neurofibromatosis is sometimes marked with inflammation.

Curcumin is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent. It reduces inflammation by inhibiting production of inflammatory chemicals, reducing migration of immune cells to the site of inflammation and inhibiting the activity of master protein like nuclear factor kappa B which controls inflammation.

Curcuminoids present in turmeric are excellent antioxidants which curb oxidative damage, scavenge compounds that cause oxidative damage and boost antioxidant defence.

Curcumin is an immunomodulatory agent- it influences immune responses.

At low doses, it can even boost immunity and in case of hypersensitive reactions, it can inhibit inappropriate immune responses.

What does this mean?
Apart from suppressing tumor formation, turmeric can help in controlling inflammation, preventing oxidative damage and also boost immune responses.

Dosage

There is no particular dosage of turmeric for Neurofibromatosis.

Turmeric in the diet is safe.

One therapeutic way of taking turmeric is The Golden Paste. It contains fats and black pepper which enhances the absorption of curcumin in the body.

Turmeric Milk is another delicious way of taking turmeric.

There is limited research on turmeric and neurofibromatosis but it is quite likely that curcumin in concentrated form or as supplements would be required for the treatment.

The standard recommended dose is around 400-600mg of standardized 95% curcumin thrice a day; however no particular dose has been recommended for neurofibromatosis.

Most clinical trials involving curcumin administer a dose of 1000mg of standardized 95% curcumin.

Please consult a doctor before taking turmeric supplements. If you need help ascertaining a good brand of turmeric please check this link.

Precaution

Turmeric in the diet is not likely to cause any problem. Slight gastric discomfort is possible but it fades away eventually.

Turmeric supplements should be avoided in case of :

  • Pregnancy and lactation
  • Prior to surgical procedures
  • If suffering from gall bladder problems
  • If taking blood sugar lowering medicines, blood thinning drugs, antidepressants or stomach acid reducing drugs

Please consult a doctor before taking turmeric supplements.

Conclusion

Neurofibromatosis is a rare genetic disorder. Curcumin shows promise in the treatment of neurofibromatosis by virtue of its anti-tumor effect and neuroprotective property.

More research is required to further ascertain and confirm turmeric’s therapeutic role in neurofibromatosis.

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About the Author

Shruti (BE Biotech. & PGD Clinical Research)

Turmeric for Health's writer team consists of passionate writers from the fields of biotechnology, pharmacy, nutrition, Ayurveda & microbiology.Our writers are highly qualified with many having Ph.D., M.Tech & MSc degrees while others having B.Tech, BSc, B.Pharm. Our differentiation lies in researching and presenting ONLY FACTUAL SCIENTIFIC information. We spend 10s of hours to write a single article. Info of our articles is sourced from reliable scientific sources which are also provided as a link alongside for readers to refer if they want. You can read more about our team in the " About us" section.

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