Treating Alzheimer's with Turmeric

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Can Turmeric Help with Alzheimer’s?

The spice turmeric may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease (See Preventing Alzheimer’s with Turmeric), but what about treating Alzheimer’s disease with turmeric? An exciting case series was published in 2012 (highlighted in my video, Treating Alzheimer’s with Turmeric): three Alzheimer’s patients were treated with turmeric, and their symptoms improved.

In case number one, an 83-year-old woman started losing her memory and feeling disoriented. She started having problems taking care of herself, wandering aimlessly and became incontinent. After taking a teaspoon of turmeric per day however, her agitation, apathy, anxiety and irritability were relieved and she had less accidents. Furthermore, she began to laugh again, sing again, and knit again. After taking turmeric for more than a year, she came to recognize her family and now lives a peaceful life without a significant behavioral or psychological symptom of dementia.

Case number two was similar, but with the additional symptoms of hallucinations, delusions and depression, which were relieved by turmeric. She began to recognize her family again and now lives in a peacefully serene manner. And the third case, similar as well, included an improvement in cognition.

Researchers concluded that this was the first demonstration of turmeric as an effective and safe “drug” for the treatment of the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia in Alzheimer’s patients. They call it a drug, but it’s just a spice you can walk into any grocery store and buy for a few bucks. They were giving people like a teaspoon a day, which comes out to be about 15 cents.

Two trials using curcumin supplements rather than turmeric, however, failed to show a benefit. Curcumin is just one of hundreds of phytochemicals found in turmeric. Concentrated into pill form at up to 40 times the dose, no evidence of efficacy was found. Why didn’t they get the same dramatic results we saw in the three case reports? Well, those three cases may have been total flukes, but on the other hand, turmeric, the whole food, may be greater than the sum of its parts.

There is a long list of compounds that have been isolated from turmeric, and it’s possible that each component plays a distinct role in making it useful against Alzheimer’s disease. Hence, researchers suggested that a mixture of compounds might better represent turmeric in its medicinal value better than curcumin alone. But why concoct some artificial mixture when Mother Nature already did it for us with turmeric? Because you can’t patent the spice. And if you can’t patent it, how are you going to charge more than 15 cents?

I’ve previously addressed the thorny issue of patenting natural plant remedies in my video: Plants as Intellectual Property – Patently Wrong?

The whole-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts theme is one that comes up over and over:

What else might the cheap, easily available spice turmeric do? It may help fight arthritis (Turmeric Curcumin and Rheumatoid Arthritis and Turmeric Curcumin and Osteoarthritis) and cancer:

But it’s not for everyone: Who Shouldn’t Consume Curcumin or Turmeric?

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Discuss

Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


58 responses to “Can Turmeric Help with Alzheimer’s?

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    1. Well, based on the post I’d say tumeric, but these citations might help you.
      From Dr Weil:
      –Turmeric is derived from the rhizomes (underground stems) of the plant Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family. It is responsible for the yellow color of Indian curry and American mustard. Curcumin, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, is the most active constituent of turmeric.–

      The page also notes:
      –Don’t use turmeric if you have gallstones or bile duct dysfunction. Pregnant women shouldn’t use it without their doctors’ approval. In rare cases, extended use can cause stomach upset or heartburn. (Note that piperine can slow the elimination of some prescription drugs including phenytoin [Dilantin], propranolol [Inderal], and theophylline. Some evidence also suggests that curcumin can interfere with a chemotherapy agent used to treat breast cancer, so if you’re being treated for this disease, be sure to discuss the advisability of taking curcumin with your physician.–
      http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400915/Curcumin-or-Turmeric.html

      And from Live Strong:
      –Turmeric contains approximately 2 percent curcumin by weight, so a tablespoon of turmeric, which weighs 6.8 grams, contains about 0.136 gram curcumin, or 136 milligrams. In addition to curcumin, turmeric also contains smaller amounts of the curcuminoids demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin.–
      http://www.livestrong.com/article/543411-how-much-curcumin-is-there-in-powdered-turmeric/

      Mark G

    2. I think, simply to enhance your health, turmeric with a little black pepper is a great addition to your daily diet. If you have a specific problem you’re dealing with, perhaps taking more than the 1/4 teaspoon Dr G recommends along with curcumin would make sense.

      GreenMedInfo.com has a huge database of research on turmeric and curcumin if you want to delve deeper into uses of this valuable root vegetable.

    3. I would suggest you to consume turmeric, curcumin is extracted from turmeric. If you are from Asian country, especially India, Turmeric is part of there cooking and for healing small health issues.

    4. Tumeric
      Mix with coconut oil, also an Alzheimer’s deterrant, to effect absorbsion
      Add black pepper for the same reason
      And a bit or Himalayan salt for a trace mineral boost and to make it more palatable..
      Approx 7 parts tumeric to 3 parts coconut oil
      I spread it on bread or crackers for daddy but myself, I eat it by the spoonful

  1. Vitamin companies are just as guilty as pharmacology companies in giving us false hope with their “specific” molecule concotions that we see sitting on the shelves of health food stores across the country. I have probably spent thousands of dollars over the years on worthless junk from the health food industry. And then there are all the multi level marketing vitamin companies whose main purpose in life is to make a profit for the few at the top of the money chain. If you look at our great great great grand parents living back in the 1890’s many of them lived to a ripe old age without vitamin supplements. However, being a vegan I do take B-12 spray under the tongue just to be on the safe side.

    1. I understand what you are saying about how we used to live without vitamin supplements, etc. In many ways, those were the good old days! However, due to massive increases in industrialization and large corporations recklessness and greed; our soil, water and air have become incredibly depleted of nutrients and replaced with toxic chemicals. If you want to be healthy and have a long happy life, it is critical to be aware of where your food comes from and eat as clean as possible. But even so, it is also imperative that you supplement with vitamins and herbs; depending on your particular health situation. There are a number of good, quality supplement companies out there, you just have to do your research, as with anything else.

    2. The bottom line… despite what we’d like to think, not many companies go through all the trouble involved in starting a business, just to improve our health or exercise their great ethics. It’s about profit, and that is us. Trust is a beautiful thing, but rarely warranted when there is money to be made. Besides, take a look around our world and see what humanity has wrought to date…I’ll trust nature, thanks.

  2. How do you consume a teaspoon of tumeric per day? You can’t just swallow it, can you? Won’t it taste weird in a smoothie or added to oatmeal?

    1. No, you can’t consume by itself. You can cook it with eggs, add to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt/cottage cheese; endless possibilities. The potency is greatly increased if you add black pepper and healthy oil while cooking; like coconut oil.

      1. Why do you think there are “healthy oils”?
        I know there are a lot of unsupported assertions on the internet about “healthy fats” and “healthy oils” like coconut oil but, as far as I know, this is all marketing hype and wishful thinking. There’s no real evidence that isolated, concentrated fats like eg butter and oils are healthy and quite a lot that they are unhealthy eg
        http://nutritionfacts.org/questions/whats-the-latest-verdict-on-the-proclaimed-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil/
        http://nutritionfacts.org/video/olive-oil-and-artery-function/
        http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-saturated-fat-studies-buttering-up-the-public/

        1. Coconut Oil has been around for centuries, and I truly do not believe it is “marketing hype” or “wishful thinking”. However companies do appear to be capitalizing on it the past few years. Although I believe in moderation of healthy oils, coconut oil has been demonized for too long. The following article will give you a little more information on the benefits:
          http://draxe.com/coconut-oil-benefits/

          1. Lots of things have been around for centuries. That does not mean they must be good for us.

            And the common technique, used by eg pushers of saturated fat and coconut oil, is to dismiss the evidence showing these things are unhealthy buy claiming that they “demonise” saturated fat or
            coconut oil. It is the standard justification for ignoring inconvenient evidence.

            Dr Axe sells supplements. I do not trust internet marketers. Harvard’s view of coconut oil is more measured:
            http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/coconut-oil

            1. Virtually all health and medical sites on the internet are selling something, even the link you sent had articles for sale. Similar to you, I don’t trust most mainstream Drs.
              The article you linked by Dr. Willett says to “trust vegetable oils like olive oil and soybean oil”. Soybean oil? Although the health benefits of whole soy has been widely debated, soybean oil is highly processed; most all of it is genetically modified and sprayed with Monsanto’s Roundup. IMO, that is pure poison.

              1. I do not think that Harvard sells anything!

                Also, I do not think any oil is good for us but the point is that there are problems with coconut oil as there are with all other oils. “healthy oils” is a claim but the evidence is very weak.

      2. To add to what Tom Goff says, whether or not the oil itself is good or bad for you in and of itself, it is the fact that all oils lack any significant amount of micronutrients. They are just 99.99% fat. As such they by necessity force other nutrient containing foods out of your diet to make caloric room for them. A single tablespoon (14 g) of coconut oil contains 121 calories. If this single tablespoon of oil were eliminated from your diet it would make caloric room for an additional 1/2 cup of brown rice or black bean and up to 15 cups of kale or spinach. That much kale is equal to 1/2 lb, so it wouldn’t be impossible to eat that much, especially if steamed. A 1/2 lb of kale contains 10 g of protein, 9 g of fiber, 360 mg of calcium, 1200 mg of potassium and 345 ug of folate.

        So refined oils definitely represent an nutritional opportunity cost.

        1. Helpful info. Do you ever tire. I wish I had your tenacity. At my age, 61, it get a little harder. What can a person, like me do, to improve, memory and the vitality I once had, but foolishly wasted. I need a rocket scientist to help me. Do you know any? ;)

          1. I can’t turn around at the office without bumping in a half dozen, so I do know a few. Plus my wife wakes up next to one every morning :-).

            My advice is to not eat anything known to harm the epethilial cells lining your arteries. Besides the obvious association with heart disease, cardio-vascular disease effects every organ in your body since everything depends on a good supply of blood to function well, most specifically the brain. In fact it was just called “vascular disease” since cardio-vascular makes it sound like it just impacts the heart, important as that is. We know that the endotoxins in meat caused by bacteria (which is present in all meat) cause stress to the endothial cells. The bacteria are killed during cooking but the endotoxins are not effected by the heat. Also when the percentage of any given meal is much above 10%-15% the stress to the endothelium increases as well. This includes plant sources of fat. So a nice healthy salad that ends up swimming in olive oil (because it is so heart healthy!) ends up hammering your entire vascular tree for several hours. The same is true for vegetable stir-fries glistening with tasty peanut oil.

            Also I would say that steady regular exercise is critical, again because if nothing else it keep the vascular tree and the heart in good shape to make sure that all parts of your brain are well oxygenated.

    2. I am using just 1/4 tsp Turmeric. in a smoothie and I also take 1 capsule of curcumin. I had bad arthritis 3 years ago and now at age 82 quite comfortable.

      1. Wow, that’s so great for you Ron! I know of an 87 year old man who went plant based AND included turmeric every morning at age 85 and his spinal stenosis pain disappeared! Great stuff!

    3. I do. I often take 1/2tsp – 1tsp up to three times a day before/during meals off the spoon and wash down with water or non-dairy milk (oat is my favourite). A pinch of black pepper is also chewed down. And a small amount of ginger powder is also eaten.

      Examples:

      1. I take it off the spoon when consuming a smoothie as I don’t like how it alters the taste; plus it stains anything it touches! If I have fresh turmeric root I will throw some into the smoothie though; I leant the hard way in eating fresh turmeric root… my teeth resembled a heavy smoking 60 year olds!! I always add crushed ginger to my smoothies.

      2. If cooking a lightly sautéed meal then I’ll add the turmeric powder to the cooking food. Fresh or powdered ginger is also added along with video pepper.

      3. When I’m eating my hummus dips I’ll most often take it off the spoon again as I prefer to not heavily alter the taste of the hummus.

      I add ginger with turmeric as I believe them to act synergistically together. I read a study (on pubmed) about it a few years ago.

    4. In How Not To Die, Dr. Greger advises one way to take in turmeric is to simply fill non-gelatin capsules with turmeric spice (that you’d use for cooking) and take one per day. encourages use of turmeric. I don’t particularly like the taste of turmeric but was so convinced of the value I decided to order a simple pill filling system. Ordered a pound of turmeric spice and fairly simply made 50 pills. “Pills” sounds worse than it is-it’s simply a way of daily taking in a recommended spice in a reliable way. This system seems to be working fine for me.

    5. I just sprinkle it, together with black pepper, on brown rice, potatoes, beans, other vegetables, and salads. Together with any other spices that take my fancy at the time.

    6. I add it to my oatmeal and I think it makes the oatmeal taste better. But I don’t just add turmeric. I also add some cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, tiny sprinkle of ground cloves and a little black pepper. BTW, I also make it with a 50/50 mix of water and light vanilla soy milk which add a richness to it. We also will top it with blueberries or cook raisins in with the oatmeal to plump them up. I’ll also on occasion toss some chop some pecans on top as well.

    7. I find it difficult. But you can make a cup of turmeric tea – sort of like chai tea – soy or other milk heated up with 1/2 t turmeric, 1/2 t ginger, pinch cinnamon, pinch cloves, pinch black pepper, sweetener.

      Or mix into applesauce (Vermont Village is good), or make a capsule.

    8. I add it to my hummus every day…so easy to eat it this way for me anyway. You might try it…and if you eat the hummus, it counts as a serving of beans, too! It’s a win-win situation. My dipper is usually a leaf of red cabbage. AND I *always* add some ground black pepper to the hummus & turmeric!

  3. Time and again we see that the WHOLE food trumps an isolated component of same, yet popping a pill
    is almost always the default approach for everyone I know. I guess they figure it will balance out those ramen noodles, burgers and fries?

    Ha, I got left off the list at a dinner gathering recently and was invited only afterwards to see a visiting relative, because the hostess said “I don’t know how to cook for you”. First off, I always bring something to share if invited in case there is no other option, and this isn’t the first time it’s happened so I decided to speak up. Since I have never been fond of meat, not eating the pork roast or whatever, is nothing new for me, and there are always vegetables/salad and a potato to accompany it. The only difference would be I don’t slather on the butter and sauces, but I think the real issue is that it makes it too real that I eat differently and I’m not so sick anymore, but they are….and she doesn’t want to deal with that. She uses the same “I don’t know how to cook like that” excuse when she admits they should eat better, so I had to “offer” that it isn’t exactly a culinary feat to nuke a potato or veggies, and/or make a simple salad, open a can of beans, throw stuff into a pot and make soup, eat a piece of fruit etc., and just leave out dairy and fat. Her face drooped and for a second I felt bad…until she said…”but that’s the best part”! Sigh

    1. Oh brother. I would say, “It is important to me to be included in these gatherings just like everyone else, whether I eat or not. So, don’t worry about feeding me, I’ll bring my own food and probably even share if anyone is interested.” That way there are no excuses like, “but I’d have to leave out the best part” and you will have clearly communicated that what is important to you is to be included in the gathering. This may not change anything. I’m just sharing my 2 cents. I feel for you Vege-tater. Sometimes people get mean when they want to justify their bad habits.

      1. Thanks Thea. She KNOWS that I want to be included, she’s known me forever, and we’ve been through it all before. It’s just so much easier for her to not deal with it, period. Same thing happens when they go out to restaurants, it isn’t about her knowing how to cook for me… but I didn’t go there. I don’t think she is being mean to me, I think she is making it easier for herself to stay buried in denial, and it was time to re-frame her excuse. ;)

      2. What a wonderful way to disarm people’s fears about being poor hosts to those of us who eat differently. Thank you for suggesting those gentle words, Thea. My WFPB lifestyle over the past 2-1/2 years has been awkward for both me and my hosts from time to time, so I’m grateful for a way to put all of us at ease.

    2. The first change must happen between the ears. Presently, most people think that every meal must be as close to a feast as they can muster. So eating superrich foods and too much of them became the norm.

      Nope. You can safely assume that any beastie in the wild is on the hungry side. Ready for a meal. That is the natural state of life. We had to adjust our attitudes to a happy medium to live in the healthy zone

      1. Yep, and our formerly scrawny feral cat beastie was brilliant enough to make the connection that you eat a whole lot better when you get those big creatures to take pity on you! He is now a big blue loving lap cat…who also appreciates whatever WFPB stuff I’m eating. If only I could get him to stop bringing me home his version of a meal!

  4. I think this tumeric is mostly hype… in India they have Cancer and Alzheimer’s like in North America and they eat tumeric every day in their food .

    1. Michael Green: I’m sorry if this is a repeat post. I typed out a reply and it seems to have disappeared. But if my original effort really went out, then this will be a repeat reply to you.
      .
      Yes, India also has cancer and Alzheimer’s. But the point is that India has *much* less of certain types of cancer and Alzheimers. This absence of certain diseases is probably not all due to turmeric (a plant based diet likely also contributes to the absence of these diseases), but as this site has shown, there is good reason to believe that turmeric helps in lowering the risk of getting those diseases.
      .
      A healthy diet is not a guarantee of never getting sick. The point of this site as I see it is that a healthy diet is a way to dramatically lower the risk of dying early from the major diseases suffered by Americans and countries that eat like Americans. What does that mean? Consider: This is equivalent to saying that not smoking significantly lowers the risk of getting lung cancer. Sadly, there are people who never smoke a puff of a cigarette in their life and still get lung cancer. Does that mean that the smoking connection to lung cancer is mostly hype? No. This smoking talk is about lower disease risk. Just like the turmeric talk is about lower disease risk. I hope that makes sense.

      1. I appreciate your clear response, Thea, putting this issue in perspective which once again reminds us of the amazing complexity of our bodies and the fact that while we cannot answer all questions now, much as we’d like to have 100% answers. the fact that we cannot totally totally eliminate sickness with a healthy diet certainly does not negate the wisdom to cutting our risk.

        1. Thanks Joan! With all the areas of exposure we can’t control, it sure is nice to have something we *can* do to lower our risks.

  5. It will probably make the brain go yellow, but who cares when it is so helpful and protective. I used to eat a lot of greens, sweet potato, carrots, etc, once, and my skin went yellow, but it’s acts as a natural sunscreen, they say.

    1. Mr. Greger can you direct me to an article/video where I can learn what is the best way of consuming Turmeric? I can use the powder as it is in oatmeal as others are saying? Boil it with food – is this ok – is the effect as intended this way? I fail to find something explicit which will tell me how to consume it as a preventive measure. I am 35 and all ok, for years now on vegan type of food

      1. Thanks for your question!

        Before using turmeric, I recommend you watch this video to ensure that turmeric is appropriate for you or not. To answer your question, I will use the practical recommendations provided by the University of Maryland:

        – Cut root: 1.5 to 3 g per day
        – Dried, powdered root: 1 to 3 g per day
        – Standardized powder (curcumin): 400 to 600 mg, 3 times per day
        – Fluid extract (1:1) 30 to 90 drops a day
        – Tincture (1:2): 15 to 30 drops, 4 times per day

        On the other hand, I found one scientific review that suggests ingesting at least 1.5g of turmeric:

        “Practical recommendations for obtaining curcumin in the diet might be to add turmeric to sweet dishes containing cinnamon and ginger, as turmeric blends nicely with these spices; to increase the consumption of dishes made with curry powder, a spice blend that contains turmeric as an ingredient; or to consume turmeric milk, a traditional Indian elixir made with milk, turmeric powder, and a little sugar, if needed to make it more palatable.”

        Hope this answer helps!

  6. I have always been a huge fan of tumeric, having tumeric milk each evening before bed and having read this article I will definitely be continuing, but also adding curcumin in also.

  7. Dr. Gregger seems a great guy but the videos are not vision friendly. Too much information in form of text and the way he speaks is confusing. Specially his way of talking is not understandable for non-native English speakers. I would suggest to speak concisely and clearly. For example, Gary is also an informal speaker but he is always understandable. I have watched a couple of videos here but could not get the message.

    1. Babar: One nice feature of NutritionFacts that seems to help other people with your type of problem is to read the transcript either by itself or along with the narrative of the video. Just click the button ‘transcript’ to the right of the video and then look at the area directly below the video in order to see the transcript. That way you can read the information as slowly as you need.

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