Turmeric has been in the news for the past several years for a good reason. It is one of the best anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer herbs we know of. The following article and recommendations can help greatly if you suffer from pain and inflammation and want to prevent cancer and other degenerative diseases.
Name: Curcumin, Turmeric, Curcuma longa , Haldi
Goes well with: Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Scientific literature has found that curcumin may hold therapeutic potential in as many as 800 diseases. Over 200 studies in humans have investigated the benefits of curcuminoids in various health conditions.
Curcumin is one of 100 (or more) active compounds that have been isolated from the herb turmeric. Curcuminoids refer to curcumin and two other structurally similar compounds (bisdemethoxycurcumin and demethoxycurcumin) that are naturally present in the herb.
curcumin and curcuminoids are pleiotropic meaning they can regulate multiple enzymes and biochemical targets in the body. Because of this curcumin is seen as anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-arthritic, cardioprotective, anti-obesity, anti-microbial, immunomodulatory, skin protective, etc.
In the brain and nervous system curcumin is Neuroprotective. The anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-protein aggregation, anti-apoptotic, blood sugar lowering, anti-amyloid properties and the ability to stimulate neurogenesis and prevent neurotoxicity help protect the nervous system.
Suggested Curcumin Supplements for Peripheral Neuropathy
Please consult me or other health practitioners before taking any health supplements. Please read the ingredient list before purchasing any supplement.
Meriva or Curcumin Phytosome Formulation
Meriva is a patented formulation of curcumin that was developed by Indena S.P.A, Italy. It involves a curcumin-phytosome complex and is 5-6 times more bioavailable than unformulated curcumin.
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Curcumin can prevent diabetic neuropathy
Curcumin acts as a anti-diabetic by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. It subsequently protects bone health, heart health and metabolic health from diabetes-induced complications.
In combination with glyburide curcumin was found to reduce glucose levels and low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol levels) and improves good cholesterol levels in type 2 diabetes patients.
The combination therapy did not cause hypoglycaemia or excessively low blood sugar levels in any patient.
This blood sugar lowering property of curcuminoids helps prevent diabetes-induced complications and protects nerve health.
They relieve diabetic neuropathic pain in multiple ways:
- Inhibiting activity of enzymes that cause oxidative stress
- Regulating levels of angiotensin-converting enzyme 1 which is involved in development of diabetes complications
- Activating the natural opioid system to induce release pain relieving agents in the body
- Regulating levels of inflammation-causing agents- tumour necrosis factor
- Acting synergistically with insulin to protect the nerves from toxic effects of high glucose and reducing oxidative damage.
Apart from relieving neuropathic pain, the turmeric antioxidant also normalises nerve function in diabetic neuropathy.
A study published in Behavioural Pharmacology, 2012 compared the effect of the standard anti-diabetic drug- gliclazide alone or in combination with curcumin in diabetic neuropathy.
The comparison was drawn between gliclazide, gliclazide and curcumin combination and gliclazide and gabapentin combination. Gabapentin is prescribed to relieve neuropathic pain.
Combination therapy with curcumin reduced pain caused by high-temperature exposure. It reduced pain sensitivity to mechanical stimulus. It also reduced oxidative damage and inflammation causing agents.
Curcumin and gliclazide combination was as effective as gliclazide and gabapentin combination in reducing neuropathic pain, but the curcumin group experienced a better reduction in blood sugar level than gabapentin group.
It can protect nerves from chemotherapy-associated neuropathy
Chemotherapy induced neurotoxicity is identified as one of the common causes of peripheral neuropathy in cancer patients.Curcumin is proven to kill cancer cells by interacting with multiple biochemical targets in the body.
A Phase I clinical trial conducted in National Taiwan University College of Medicine demonstrated that high dose curcumin (8g/day) was effective in preventing cancer and halting disease progression in patients with precancerous lesions.
Meriva (a patented formulation of curcumin) is proven to reduce side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in cancer patients by boosting antioxidant response and reducing inflammation.
Medonca et al. conducted a study to investigate the effect of curcumin on cisplatin neurotoxicity. Cisplatin treatment inhibited neurite growth (this is indicative of developing neurons)
The turmeric antioxidant prevented this inhibition. It supported neurite outgrowth and protected from cisplatin neurotoxicity without affecting cisplatin’s anti-cancer activity.
Curcuminoid treatment before and in combination with oxaliplatin and cisplatin protects from chemotherapy-associated neurotoxicity and reverses the alterations in nerve function caused by chemotherapeutic agents.
It can prevent cell death, loss of nerve function caused by chemotherapy toxicity and can also support remyelination of damaged nerve cells.
Curcuminoids have proven anti-cancer property and protect from chemotherapy-induced toxicity. Preclinical studies demonstrate that curcumin protects from chemotherapy-associated neuropathy and restores healthy nerve function.
Curcumin’s antioxidant property helps protect the body from systemic oxidative stress caused by chronic alcohol consumption. It also protects from neuroinflammation and cognitive dysfunction in alcoholism.
Researchers have found that its combination with vitamin E improves nerve function and reduces DNA damage in an animal model of alcoholic neuropathy. Curcuminoids inhibited the activity of pro-inflammatory agents in the body to relieve symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy.
A recent study published in The European Journal of Pharmacology, 2017 highlighted that curcumin, at high and low doses, is effective in alleviating alcoholic neuropathic pain. Also, its combination with sildenafil was found to improve nerve function and structure of damaged nerves.
Curcumin shows therapeutic potential in alcoholism associated neuropathy by its neuroprotective and antioxidant property. It reduces alcohol-induced neurotoxicity, alleviates nerve pain and restores nerve function in alcoholic neuropathy.
Curcumin’s pain-relieving action is effective for various conditions such as arthritis, post-surgical pain, abdominal spasms, sciatica etc. It effectively reduces inflammatory pain.
Similarly, it is useful for nerve pain relief. At a biochemical level, curcuminoids interact with multiple biochemical pathways and targets to relieve neuropathic pain:
- Acts as an epigenetic agent and switches off genes that contribute to neuropathic pain
- Reduces level of inflammatory agents like COX-2
- Interacts with neurotransmitters and the natural opioid system to induce pain relief
- Inhibits the action of stress hormone cortisol which otherwise contributes to neuropathic pain
- Interacts with Transient receptor potential vanilloid, TRPV1 to relieve nerve pain (this is the same receptor that capsaicin interacts with to relieve pain)
- Regulates pain relief targets in the spinal cord to improve pain bearing threshold
Jeon et al. have proven that administering curcumin at early stages of peripheral neuropathy can help prevent the development of neuropathic pain.
Di Pierro et al. conducted a small clinical trial where 141 patients with neuropathic pain were treated with curcumin. The patients were diagnosed with lumbar sciatica, lumbar disk herniation, and/or lumbar canal stenosis or with carpal tunnel syndrome.
They were treated with dexibuprofen (400mg twice a day) and Lipicur. Lipicur is a multi-ingredient formulation containing lipoic acid, piperine and Meriva.
Lipicur reduced neuropathic pain by more than 66% in the patients with lumbar sciatica and carpal tunnel syndrome. Also, the use of Lipicur reduced the use of dexibuprofen by 40%. Lipicur can be an effective add-on therapy to achieve better results in neuropathic pain treatment.
Curcumin lowers inflammation, activates the natural opioid system and even regulates neurotransmitters to reduce neuropathic pain. If used during early stages of peripheral neuropathy, it can help in the prevention of neuropathic pain.
It can be effective add-on therapy for neuropathic pain relief treatment, and it can even reduce dependence or the need for conventional painkillers.
Curcumin is a neuroprotective agent
As a neuroprotective agent, curcumin aids in the prevention of various neurological diseases. It prevents apoptosis (cell death) of brain cells by protein from neurotoxicity, reducing inflammation and counteracting oxidative stress.
Prevention of neurotoxicity is one of the mechanisms by which it benefits in peripheral neuropathy. It protects from toxicity caused by high glucose levels or chemotherapeutic agents in the nervous tissue.
Prasad et al. have found that curcumin protects from neurotoxicity caused by environmental toxins like acrylamide. It’s antioxidant property aids in detoxification, and its neuroprotective action protects from toxin-induced neuropathy.
Curcuminoids mediate neuroprotective effect in diabetic neuropathy by reducing oxidative damage and increasing the level of natural antioxidant enzymes.
Curcuminoids regulate the activity of Nerve Growth Factors- proteins that are essential for development and survival of nerve cells. They are proven to support remyelination (formation of myelin sheath) of damaged nerve cells and restore nerve function.
The combination of these therapeutic activities makes curcumin a potential protective agent in peripheral neuropathy treatment. It not only reduces symptoms of neuropathy but also protects from further damage.
Dosage of Curcumin For Peripheral Neuropathy
There is no specific dose of curcumin prescribed for neuropathy relief. A general recommended dose is 500-1000mg of standardised 95% curcumin is advised for general health benefits and can help in neuropathy.
The dosage, however, would differ based on the severity of the condition. Start with small doses such as 500mg per day for a week and then scale up gradually every week. Doses up to 8g have been found to be safe but a dose of 2g per day should suffice for severe cases.
Curcumin has low bioavailability in the body. Piperine present in black pepper can help improve the absorption. Also, it is fat soluble.
There are various formulations of curcumin available in the market, and there is no specific one that is recommended for neuropathy. Here is the one curcumin supplement types that I am suggesting (you are free to use any formulation):
- Meriva (this patented formulation contains curcumin with phytosome complex to enable absorption)
Precautions with Curcumin Use
Curcumin is safe and well tolerated. The most common possible side effects possible (at high doses) is gastric discomfort such as nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating etc.
To minimise these side effects, you should start with small doses and increase gradually. Also, take curcumin after meals to avoid any gastric reflux-like symptoms.
It has anti-platelet activity; take with caution in case of bleeding disorders or if you are taking antiplatelet medications.
It has an immunomodulatory activity which is beneficial in autoimmune conditions, but you must take it with caution if already using immunosuppressants.
Curcumin causes gallbladder contraction. In case of gallbladder obstruction or gallstones, this level of contraction may cause pain.
Turmeric as a spice is high in oxalates. Dietary intake of turmeric must be limited if one is susceptible to kidney stones. Curcumin supplements can help in such cases.
It interacts with drug metabolising enzymes; please maintain a 3-4 hour gap between taking curcumin and any medication. Please consult a health practitioner before taking curcumin supplements.