Turmeric and Parkinson’s disease

Turmeric and Parkinson’s disease

Turmeric roots and powder on wooden table

Turmeric is a plant related to ginger. Its fleshy golden roots, called rhizomes, contain uniquely beneficial compounds called curcuminoids. It has been used in India in both cooking and in ayurvedic medicine for centuries and is regarded as a sacred herb. These curcuminoid compounds make turmeric an anti-inflammatory herb, which researchers are studying for use in treating arthritis, cancer, diabetes, colitis, Alzheimer’s (AD), and Parkinson’s disease (PD).

In studies on humans, curcumin was found helpful in treating ulcerative colitis.1 In another, people with prediabetes were assigned to take either curcumin or a placebo. Over nine months, 16.4% of the people in the group using placebo went on to develop diabetes. None of the curcumin-treated individuals were diagnosed with diabetes.2

Neurodegenerative diseases such as AD and PD are caused by inflammation which damages cells in the nervous system. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory compounds have led to a number of studies for treating both PD and AD.

However, studies of curcuminoids for PD have been conducted in labs and on animals such as mice, because these can be dissected and examined; thus, human studies are lacking so far. However, a review published in Current Neuropharmacology states:

“… the review focuses in detail on the effectiveness of curcumin and its mechanism of actions in treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and brain malignancies.”   Also: “The therapeutic effects of curcumin were further strengthened in … curcumin-consuming populations such as India whereby long term consumption of curcumim showed remarkably lower incidence rate of neurodegenerative cases.3

Turmeric is known to be safe, has been consumed for hundreds of years in Asian countries, and has been found to be protective for those with prediabetes (diabetes is associated with PD, though doctors aren’t certain why). It is used in making popular foods and condiments such as mustard and pickles, as well as in curry dishes.

Research has mostly used an extract of turmeric called ‘curcumin’ but this is not the only beneficial component of turmeric. Others include turmerin, turmerone, elemene, furanodiene, curdione, bisacurone, cyclocurcumin, calebin A, and germacrone. So I believe it is best to use turmeric rather than curcumin. Absorption of turmeric and its components is limited, but studies have found that absorption can be greatly increased by adding freshly-ground black pepper to the turmeric.

Are there any concerns or side effects with use of turmeric?

In animal studies using curcumin – not whole turmeric — extremely large amounts given intravenously have been found to act as an MAO-B inhibitor. There are no human studies on use of capsules of curcumin which are taken orally, and at much lower dosage. However, if you are using Azilect® (rasagiline), or Eldepryl (selegiline) which are MAO-B inhibitors, you should discuss use of turmeric or curcumin with your physician or pharmacist.

Turmeric may increase oxalate levels in urine, and contribute to the formation of kidney stones in persons susceptible to stones.

Turmeric may also slow blood clotting. If using anticoagulants such as warfarin, ask your doctor or pharmacist about use of curcumin and/or turmeric.

An animal study suggests that turmeric may chelate iron, lowering iron levels in the body. Persons who are anemic therefore should discuss use of turmeric with their physicians, who may wish to monitor blood levels of iron.

Using turmeric in cooking

Assuming that none of the above concerns apply, use of turmeric in cooking can be helpful and protective against a number of diseases, and possibly against Parkinson’s disease as well. If you care to search the Recipes on this site, you will find some that include this ancient and even sacred herb.
Recipe: Black-Eyed Pea Slices

For more information on turmeric and its medicinal effects, see Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin

And for a recipe for Golden Paste, a handy condiment for smoothies and cooking, see Turmeric Recipes – Golden Paste


1Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2015 Aug;13(8):1444-9.e1. Curcumin in Combination With Mesalamine Induces Remission in Patients With Mild-to-Moderate Ulcerative Colitis in a Randomized Controlled Trial. Lang A1, Salomon N2, Wu JC3, Kopylov U1, Lahat A1, Har-Noy O1, Ching JY3, Cheong PK3, Avidan B1, Gamus D4, Kaimakliotis I5, Eliakim R1, Ng SC3, Ben-Horin S1.

2 Diabetes Care 2012 Jul; DC_120116. Curcumin Extract for Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes.
Somlak Chuengsamarn, Suthee Rattanamongkolgul, Rataya Luechapudiporn, Chada Phisalaphong, Siwanon Jirawatnotai.

3Curr Neuropharmacol. 2013 Jul; 11(4): 338–378. Curcumin and its Derivatives: Their Application in Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience in the 21st Century. Wing-Hin Lee,1,* Ching-Yee Loo,1 Mary Bebawy,2 Frederick Luk,2 Rebecca S Mason,3 and Ramin Rohanizadeh1

Tags: Turmeric, curcumin

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