Turmeric (Curcuma longa) a member of the ginger family, is the subject of intense scientific research evaluating it’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities. It is the seasoning that gives curry powder its yellow color and has been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Indian medicine as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments. Curcumin, the active compound found in turmeric, has beneficial effects for a variety of diseases and conditions. And it is curcumin that gives turmeric its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.
In a recent report in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers investigated the association between curry consumption level and cognitive function in elderly Asians. Those who consumed curry “occasionally” and “often or very often” had significantly better scores on specific tests designed to measure cognitive function than did subjects who “never or rarely” consumed curry. The results of this study are not surprising given the strong association of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia with inflammation and the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin.. But the relationship of turmeric to brain health, and specifically to Alzheimer’s, goes much deeper. One of the important elements of Alzheimer’s disease is the finding of elevated amounts of a specific damaging protein in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers, amyloid protein. Indeed, amyloid is considered one of the hallmarks of this disease. New research published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research has shown that curcumin actually inhibits the formation of amyloid protein. So promising were these findings that the author of the study concluded that curcumin “could be a key molecule for the development of therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease.”