Stroke is a condition that develops when blood flow to part of the brain is prevented and the brain tissue is left devoid of oxygen and nutrients for a few seconds or more.
This leads to death of brain cells and causes damage to the overall functioning of an individual. Reasons behind loss of blood flow to the brain can help distinguish the types of strokes:
- Ischemic stroke: The blood flow is obstructed by a blood clot in the blood vessel supplying blood to the brain.
- Hemorrhagic stroke: This condition occurs when a weak blood vessel in the brain bursts and blood leaks into the brain.
Symptoms associated with stroke develop suddenly and thus do not aid much in predicting the condition. Headaches are associated with hemorrhagic strokes.
Facial muscle weakness, abnormal speech, loss of coordination and balance, changes in taste, hearing or vision are few of the common symptoms seen in stroke cases. Risk factors involved in stroke are high blood pressure, diabetes, family history, high cholesterol, race etc.
Stroke generally leads to damage that cannot be reversed. Therefore it would be wise to take steps to prevent the brain damage in first place rather that opting for a symptom based treatment.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a culinary spice that has been famous for centuries due to its medicinal value. Its use has been quoted in traditional medicine like Chinese medicine, Ayurveda and Unani.
Turmeric is known to have neuroprotective activity due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This article helps to understand turmeric’s potential in combating stroke.
6 Proven Benefits Of Turmeric For Stroke
Turmeric has neuroprotective and inflammation reducing properties that benefit in preventing and treating stroke.
1. It has anti-inflammatory property
Inflammation is observed in ischemic stroke. In response to the ischemic injury, the brain produces proinflammatory mediators and inflammatory cells that stay for a long time and in turn contribute to brain injury.
In a research study conducted by Gokce et al. in 2016 curcumin on administration in animal models with ischemia-reperfusion injury (a condition where loss of blood flow and its return causes damage to the tissue) was found to reduce levels of inflammatory cytokine expression.
This lead to the conclusion that curcumin attenuates inflammation and reduce the damage of neural cells affected by stroke.
Another animal study conducted published in the journal of Neurology. Spine in 2014 reported that curcumin significantly prevented ischemia-reperfusion injury by reducing levels of proinflammatory cytokines.
What does this mean?
Curcumin present in turmeric has been found to reduce levels on proinflammatory cytokines. As inflammatory mediators that remain for a prolonged period are known to contribute to brain injury, intake of turmeric can prove to be beneficial in treating inflammation of the nerve cells caused by stroke.
2. It has antioxidant property
Oxidative stress has found to contribute to ischemic brain injury which is followed by a cerebrovascular attack. Hence to prevent worsening conditions of stroke, it is important to include antioxidants in the diet.
Turmeric is a potent antioxidant. In an experiment carried out by Wu et al. in 2013 it was found that curcumin significantly reduced levels of oxidative stress a model of the brain with ischemic injury.
Curcumin was also found to increase the binding activity of nuclear-factor-erythroid 2-related-factor (Nrf2) which in turn is capable of protecting neuronal cells against oxidative damage.
Another study published in Protoplasms in 2013 formulated curcuminoids into nanoparticles to examine its oxidative effects on animal models of stroke.
The results suggested that curcuminoids are effective anti-oxidants that can treat cerebral ischemia. The compounds were found to reduce oxidative stress associated with brain injury resulting from stroke.
What does this mean?
Reactive oxygen species increase lesions thus increasing the risk of ischemic strokes. Curcumin has found to reduce oxidative stress and increase expression of nuclear factors that protect the neuronal cells against oxidative damage. Hence turmeric can be beneficial in protecting the nerve cell damage from stroke.
3. It has neuroprotective activity
Turmeric has great neuroprotective activity and has found to be a strong agent in treatment and prevention of various neurodegenerative diseases.
An experimental study carried out by Wang et al. in 2005 suggested that administration of turmeric reduces oxidative damage and cell death in an animal model of stroke.
Results showed that curcumin levels increased significantly in the plasma and brain within one hour of administration. The study concluded that curcumin was effective in treating neuronal damage due to oxidative stress which is an important cause of neuronal damage caused by ischemia-reperfusion brain injury.
Another study published in Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences in 2011 reported that curcumin found in turmeric is a powerful antioxidant and has neuroprotective effects; moreover, it can cross the blood-brain barrier and reach the brain. Due to these properties, it shows protective effects against ischemic stroke and related depression.
An observational study published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology in 2007 reported the neuroprotective efficacy of turmeric which has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The study concluded that curcumin could be used for protection and treatment of major age related neurodegenerative diseases like stroke.
What does this mean?
Turmeric has proved to be beneficial in curing various disabling neuro degenerative diseases including stroke. It shows neuroprotective effects that can prevent brain injury caused by strokes.
4. It can repair stroke damage
Stroke may damage the brain cells and cause them to die. This may be because the brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients during a stroke. Research studies have found that turmeric plays an important role in preventing the damage to brain cells caused by stroke.
A research study published by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 2011 reported that curcumin –hybrid compound was formulated to repair damage caused by a stroke at a molecular level. Curcumin reaches the brain and is known to the moderate survival of neurons.
Curcumin can be used as a drug to prevent clotting in strokes that block arteries. The study also reported that this curcumin hybrid compound protected brain cells from damage by regulating four major pathways enhancing the rate of growth and survival of neurons.
Another study published in Stem Cell Research and Therapy in 2014 showed that aromatic turmerone, a bioactive compound found in turmeric boosts the proliferation and differentiation of stem cells in the brain.
The study concluded that this bioactive compound is capable of inhibiting microglial cells (immune cells present in the brain) which are beneficial for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
What does this mean?
Two bioactive compounds found in turmeric, aromatic turmerone and curcumin have found to play an important role in repairing and regenerating brain cells affected by stroke and other neurodegenerative diseases.
5. It can prevent risk of strokes
Turmeric has been found to reduce the occurrence of hemorrhagic stroke. A study published by the Medical College of Georgia in 2008 reported that curcumin reduces the size of blood clots and this may be mainly due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
High levels of cholesterol can block normal blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke. A study published by Ovbiagele et al. in 2008 reported that curcumin reduced levels of hypercholesterolemia in animal models subjected to stroke.
Curcumin administration was found to lower cholesterol levels and increased levels of good cholesterol even at low doses.The study also suggested that curcumin inhibits platelet aggregation thus prevents blood clots in the arteries.
What does this mean?
It has been found that strokes usually occur due to high levels of cholesterol or formation of blood clots in the arteries preventing normal blood flow to the brain. Curcumin in turmeric has been found to prevent blood clotting in the arteries and lower levels of bad cholesterol in the blood.
Thus intake of turmeric on a regular basis can prevent the risk of a stroke.
6. It protects cognition and stroke related depression
Depression and impaired cognition are common in patients after a stroke attack. A study published in Brain research in 2009 reported that curcumin, when administered in an animal model of focal ischemia, was found to upregulate levels of certain transcription factors thus protecting brain damage.
Certain clinical trials suggest the use of turmeric for treating depression. In an experimental study carried out by QX et al. in 2017 curcumin was administered to patients suffering from depression to investigate its effectiveness.
It was found that curcumin was safe, effective and well tolerated by the patients. Curcumin significantly reduced symptoms of depression in the patients.
What does this mean?
Curcumin has found to be effective and safe in treating depression and cognitive impairment, both of which play an important role in treating patients affected by strokes.
Dosage of Turmeric For Stroke
There is no specific dose of turmeric for patients with stroke. Dietary turmeric is often considered safe for consumption, and it can be incorporated into the diet on a daily basis by patients suffering from this condition to see effective results.
Golden Paste is a recipe which incorporates turmeric with black pepper and healthy fats for better absorption. Here is the recipe for Golden Paste made from turmeric powder. If making it from fresh roots then find the recipe here.
Consumption of turmeric must start with small doses such as ¼-1/2 tsp a day for a week and if no gastric side effects are seen increase the intake gradually by ¼-1/2 tsp every week. The recommend dose is 1-2 tsp 2-3 times a day (precisely 1 tsp 3 times a day).
Avoid taking turmeric on an empty stomach and if taking large doses avoid taking it the same time of taking medications. Maintain a 3-4 hour gap to avoid interaction of turmeric with the medicines. (Read Does Turmeric cause acid reflux? Black pepper in GP: Does it cause drug interaction?)
The ideal dose of turmeric differs from person to person; some require less while some require more. It depends on what suits you and what dose your stomach can tolerate.
Turmeric Milk and Turmeric tea are delicious ways to take turmeric. To identify good organic brands of turmeric please check our recommendations on best organic turmeric brands.
If opting for supplements, consult a health practitioner prior to avoid allergic reactions or adverse effects.
Although consumption of Dietary turmeric is very safe, a few precautions need to be considered when it comes to using turmeric supplements (Read Precautions with Turmeric Use Side effects of Turmeric):
- Avoid in pregnancy and lactation
- Avoid if suffering from gall bladder obstruction
- Avoid if suffering from a bleeding disorder
- Discontinue prior to surgery
Avoid taking turmeric on an empty stomach to avoid acid reflux symptoms. (Does turmeric cause acid reflux?)
If one is suffering from a bleeding disorder, small doses of turmeric in diet are safe but it is best to consult a doctor before taking turmeric or turmeric supplements in this case. (Read Is turmeric a blood thinner?)
A general precaution needed to be taken before incorporating turmeric in the diet is that turmeric may have drug interactions with stomach acid reducing medication, antidepressants, blood sugar reducing drugs etc.
Curcumin, active ingredient found in turmeric is known to interfere in drug metabolism. Hence it is advised not to take curcumin supplements concomitantly with any other medicine.
If suffering from cancer or on cancer therapy please consult a doctor before taking turmeric supplements.
Stroke is the second most common cause of death worldwide and is the leading cause of disability. Optimal and quick care is essential for patients who have suffered from stroke.
It is vital to develop treatment options which can stop and reverse the neurological damage caused by stroke at a swift pace.
The neuroprotective property of turmeric has proven to be beneficial in various neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s etc.
This property has also been proven effective against stroke in various ways.