(Natural News) The Indian spice turmeric has been getting a lot of attention lately for its health benefits, and many people now take turmeric supplements regularly for their anti-inflammatory effects. However, did you know that curcumin, the main bioactive component in turmeric, has outstanding benefits for the brain? It boasts several brain-friendly properties that are earning it the nickname of nutritional “gold” for your brain.
There are a lot of ways that curcumin enhances brain health. Because it boosts the flow of blood to your brain, it can improve your concentration and memory. In fact, one study found that a single dose of curcumin led to significant improvements in healthy senior citizens’ working memory and attention in the space of just an hour. Another study concluded that curcumin supplements can improve blood flow just as well as physical exercise.
This antioxidant can cross the blood-brain barrier to protect the cells in your brain from suffering free radical damage and other effects of aging. It also raises the level of a protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which spurs the creation of new brain cells.
Studies have also shown that curcumin could prove valuable in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin can break up the plaques that are found in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains, and it also reduces other factors that play a role in the illness, such as oxidative stress, metal toxicity, and inflammation. It’s also worth noting that populations where turmeric is consumed regularly, such as India, have lower rates of Alzheimer’s.
Mental health benefits
Curcumin can also serve as a natural antidepressant thanks to its ability to increase dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that are linked to depression. One study that saw three groups of patients with depression being given either Prozac, curcumin, or both found the curcumin supplements to be just as effective as Prozac in treating depression. Those who took both Prozac and curcumin reported the most depression relief.
Moreover, some research has pointed to chronic inflammation being a cause of depression; curcumin’s ability to fight inflammation could be another reason it’s so effective at addressing depression. Best of all, it is far safer than the antidepressants that are typically prescribed by doctors.
Curcumin is also believed to help relieve anxiety and stress. Although this is an area that hasn’t been widely studied, one study has shown that curcumin can minimize depression and anxiety in those with major depressive disorder. It has also been found to alleviate premenstrual syndrome-related anxiety in women as well as other emotional and physical symptoms of PMS.
Another study, this one published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, found that taking curcumin in conjunction with fenugreek can reduce anxiety, fatigue, and stress among those who are dealing with extreme occupational stress. Meanwhile, a study published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences found that curcumin supplementation can even bring about notable improvements in compulsiveness and memory loss among those suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder.
As you can see, there are lots of great reasons you may want to increase your intake of turmeric, and it’s easy to consume in a wide variety of foods. It’s just as welcome in a soup or smoothie as it is in traditional curries. When it’s consumed in food, turmeric is considered extremely safe. However, turmeric supplements should be avoided by those who take blood thinners or are scheduled for surgery because they raise the risk of bleeding. You should also keep in mind that turmeric should be consumed with black pepper; the compound known as piperine, found in pepper, increases its absorption 20-fold.
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