June 21, 2012

Update on Curcumin's Potential for Treating Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and Cancer, etc, etc....

I've written several posts over the past few months about curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, the curry spice that Indians call the "holy powder." Curcumin has a lengthy history in ancient cultures, both for its culinary and medicinal attributes.

It has been described by today's scientific researchers as "the unsung hero" among many more widely touted nutrients. Strangely, while it hasn't received a lot of publicity, it has been the subject of more scientific study than any other compound, and most of those studies have been very encouraging about its potential to treat such ailments as:
  • Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, MS and other neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Arthritis 
  • Depression
One of the leading researchers on curcumin is Ajay Goel, PhD, director of epigenetics and cancer prevention at the Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Lab at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. He has studied curcumin for 15 years and notes that curcumin is the only botanical whose clear efficacy has been demonstrated by science. Almost 5,000 peer-reviewed studies now exist to support curcumin's beneficial effects. (See my previous post for a report on a recent interview with Dr. Goel.)

Curcumin has powerful antioxidant properties, which means it can fight inflammation. Most of the diseases in the list above are accompanied by inflammation and, according to some research, prompted by it. Curcumin also appears to combat ongoing cellular damage. These dual attributes -- combating inflammation and cellular damage -- could affect virtually all the body's tissues, including the brain. What's especially exciting to me (and millions of others) is curcumin's potential to fight Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Most of the promising early research on "the holy spice" involved testing on mice. An impediment to obtaining the same results with humans was the lack of product potency to cross the blood-brain barrier. Most commercial turmeric for culinary use contains only 2-8% active curcumin.

Recent research, however, has produced a curcumin derivative -- BCM-95 -- that has been shown in several studies to possess a bioavailability six times greater than conventionally prepared curcumin. So, a 400mg dose of BCM-95 delivers the same usable amount of curcumin as 2,700mg of the standard extract.

Although there is no RDA (Recommended Daily Allotment) for curcumin, a daily dose of 400-1,000mg is used in most studies. Up to ten times that amount has been used in some therapeutic studies.

Curcumin and Me
I have Parkinson's and prostate cancer. And I have a huge fear of Alzheimer's. I know that the standard recommendation with preliminary studies, such as those with curcumin, is to wait for the outcome of large-scale trials. But at age 83, I say the hell with that.

I've been taking curcumin for over a month now, but I didn't know about the BCM-95 version until a few weeks ago. I now take a 400mg pill of BCM-95 after breakfast, lunch and dinner. That total -- 1,200mg -- is similar to what many researchers are using.

Right from the start, I experienced a greatly improved sense of well-being and a renewed energy. The arthritic back pain seemed to ease up after a few days on curcumin, but that positive trajectory has leveled off. And there's no easy way to tell how curcumin might be affecting my Parkinson's and prostate cancer.

Recent Research Studies
I've been so intrigued by curcumin's potential that I set up a Google alert for it. (In case you aren't aware of  Google alerts -- you can choose any topic of interest and their software will flag any new information about it, and send you email updates. I set up a "daily" notification schedule, so I'm not bombarded with updates throughout the day.)

I've been surprised by the volume of new research results I've received over the last month. Here are some of them:
  • Researchers at Oregon State University, collaborating with colleagues at the University of Denmark, discovered that curcumin supports an increase in the levels of the cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (aka CAMP), a protein that helps the immune system fight infection. (I have a young Nepali couple living with me, and Bhawana told me that her family in Kathmandu grew turmeric/curcumin and always used it, mixed with warm milk, whenever anyone in the family had a cold or runny nose. They also used it to treat open wounds. So the new study validates the folklore.)
  • Curcumin has been recognized as having great potential to treat Alzheimer's due to its anti-amyloid and antioxidant properties. But its insolubility in water has restricted its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Researchers in Tokyo report successfully synthesizing water-soluable PLGA-coated curcumin nanoparticles and combining them with Tet-1 peptide to produce a drug "with multiple functions in treating Alzheimer's disease."
  • Fruit flies are increasingly used as subjects in neurodegenerative disease studies. Researchers at Linkoping University in Sweden administered curcumin to five groups of flies that had developed Alzheimer's symptoms. The flies on curcumin lived up to 75 percent longer -- and maintained their mobility longer -- than the others.
  • A randomized pilot study by researchers at the Nimala Medical Center in India "provides the first evidence for the safety and superiority of curcumin treatment in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and validates the need for future large-scale trials to validate these findings in patients with RA and other arthritic conditions," the researchers report.
I have in my files a half-dozen other recent studies that show promising results for the use of curcumin in treating small cell lung cancer, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, Parkinson's disease, and breast cancer. 

It's amazing how much curcumin research is going on, and how almost all of it shows great promise for the compound's use in treating a range of ailments. What amazes me even more is that curcumin's potential receives so little media attention.


Josiah said...

You end your article with "What amazes me even more is that curcumin's potential receives so little media attention."  We would be inundated with media hype if Big Pharma had a stake in the product.

Parkinson Pete said...

OK John, time to cough up the goods. Can you post a couple of curcumin vs. placebo and curcumin vs. mainstream medication clinical trials that demonstrate that curcumin both out performed the placebo or medication in the relief of PD symptoms and had no noticable side effects doing it?

If curcumin worked the active molecule, as with ibuprofen and aspirin and many other drugs, would be quickly synthesized and produced in some expensive new drug sold by big Pharma. Why would anyone buy the natural product from unknown sources with inconsistent potency when they could buy a sythesized version assuring consistency and origin, as well as 'testing after the fact' for continual monitoring, as most, if not all FDA approved medications are required to do?

John said...

Hi Pete -- My fears of dementia apparently are justified.  I originally responded to this post on the Patients Like Me forum where we've chatted before and forget you'd posted here. As I said there, the most trusted site to use for research on things like this is the NIH's PubMed -
If you go there and search "curcumin and Parkinson's" you'll find over 40 hits. On the Patients Like Me forum, I excerpted findings from several of those research studies but that was too lengthy a report. I'll just quote here the conclusion of one of those reports:
 "Curcumin exhibits antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, crosses the blood-brain barrier and is neuroprotective in neurological disorders. Several studies in different experimental models of PD strongly support the clinical application of curcumin in PD." 

Annie said...

John, I'm 55 and I have found out that I may have PD or ET. Where can I get this BCM 95 that you are taking? Health food stores? My Mother has PD also, I am finding out, it can run in families. Annie 

John said...

I get mine online. What I'm using is Life Extension's Super Bi0-Curcumin (a BCM-95 product).  I take it after each meal but what with eating out and forgetfulness, i probably average taking it closer to two times a day.  The one I use is 400 mg, so that's 800 mg a day.  Most of the scientific studies being done on curcumin seem to use either 500 or 1000 mg. But studies have shown no ill effects on most people from taking much higher daily dosages.

Annie said...

I just ordered my Super BIO Curcumim on Amazon, $22.oo. Thank you for helping me with this! I read all the reviews and most have been helped by this herb. I wish you better health every day....God Bless you, John :)     Annie

Dsk_rkng said...

Curcumin is being promoted by the National Parkinson's Association website . I am 45 and Have just been diagnosed with Young Onset Pd. Have to agree with Pete's comment though about the  Pharmaceutical Co's. They would be all over this if it was answer to all researchers say it is. That being said It wouldn't hurt to had turmeric seasoning to  foods.    

Rhonda said...

 Like I said in previous post I am 45 and just diagnosed with PD. Its taken the last 2 1/2 years( the worst two years of my life ) for I dont know how many doctors to figure out what was wrong with me. i went from having a anxiety disorder, panic attacks, agoraphobia, depression and whatever other  mental disorders they could spell, all of which were according to them making me shake like a leaf 24-7. Was also diagnosed with tremors at on time. When the last neurologist that I saw two weeks ago said I had PD I dont think I believed him( having been told every thing under the sun by all the other quacks) even know he spent and hour and half with me testing my motor skills and talking to me. Have been on Senitmet for two weeks now and for the first time in two years I feel like a human being. I have cried but not because I have Pd but because I finally  know what's wrong with me and I can get on with raising my two kids and my life. I know I have a long road ahead of me but by reading articles like yours and other blogs I am gaining knowledge that will help me deal with whats ahead. Thank You for sharing your story. I look forward to reading it and all you have written. Rhonda  

gleeson1929 said...

Your reaction to the diagnosis almost exactly parallels mine. See the "About Me" story at the top of the right column and the reference to the post I did on why the year after my diagnosis was one of my best ever. Hope this holds true for you as well. --- John

gleeson1929 said...

Trouble is that the turmeric seasoning has a tough time crossing the blood-brain barrier. That's why, despite my reluctance to pop yet another pill, I'm taking the curcumin BCM-95 supplement. -- John

gleeson1929 said...

Of course I can't really tell is the curcumin is busy chipping away at the Parkinson's and prostate cancer, but I did experience a boost in energy when I started taking the curcumin BCM 95 pill. -- John

A said...

Hi John, my father (75) has just recently been diagnosed with PD. He's being given lenodopa and I wanted to check, apart from BCM 95, what other supplements do you think would help treat his PD? I am thinking also about the articles I've seen on reservatrol and omega-3, wondering if you've tried them as well? Thank you!