Can Curcumin Improve Brain Function and Lower Your Risk of Brain Disease?

Peter always had lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness. He lost interest in things he used to enjoy like going out fishing with friends, writing short stories and poems, going out drinking, and playing football during weekends. All the time he felt very tearful.

“I feel constantly tired, have no appetite, and am suffering from various aches and pains every day. I cannot sleep properly, too.” He answered in an unusually low voice when I asked him why he had changed recently.

“I also have feelings of stress, anxiety, and low mood especially during difficult times.” He continued.

Peter was suffering from depression. The American Psychiatric Association describes depression as “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.”  

One day Peter read in a local newspaper about the health benefits of curcumin. Towards the end of the article, there was a paragraph suggesting that curcumin could improve brain function and lower the risk of brain disease.

He decided to find out if it could cure his depression. Every day he put some curcumin in his food during every mealtime for a week and started noticing his life becoming better and the depression disappearing. Peter is no longer suffering from depression. Did curcumin cure his depression?

Curcumin is a bright yellow-orange chemical produced by Curcuma loga (turmeric) plants. Turmeric is a perennial herbaceous plant of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). Curcumin is the principal curcuminoid of turmeric. It is used as a herbal supplement, a cosmetic ingredient, and also for food flavoring and coloring.

Apart from depression, there are so many different types of brain diseases. They include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), autism spectrum disorders, brain and nerve tumors, brain and spine trauma, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy-seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune disorders.

The symptoms of brain injury include vomiting, nausea, speech difficulty, bleeding from the ear, numbness, paralysis, memory loss, problems with concentration, high blood pressure, a low heart rate, and irregular breathing.

Treatment of brain disorders depends on the type of brain condition you have. It can be treated using a medication, rehabilitation, or surgery. Sometimes a change in your lifestyle and the type of drinks and foods you consume may help. Quitting the use, abuse, and misuse of recreational substances that may put your mental health in danger is recommended by many general practitioners (GPs) and psychiatrists.

However, the question remains unanswered. Can curcumin improve brain function and lower your risk of brain disease?

Scientific evidence:

Ying Xu and colleagues, 2006, assessed whether curcumin may alleviate stress-induced depressive-like behaviors and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction. They found out that chronic curcumin administration reversed the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression, and phosphorylation of response element-binding protein (CREB). They concluded that their results gave enough evidence in support of the fact that curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress.

However, this study was done on rats. Results obtained from animal experiments may be different from those obtained from human investigations. Thus, more work needs to be done on humans.

Laura L. Hurley and colleagues, 2013, investigated the antidepressant potential of curcumin in a non-induced model of depression. They found out that curcumin resulted in a dose-dependent increase in hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). It also reversed the behavioral effects of depression. They concluded that “the data provide evidence for an antidepressant-like effect of curcumin, possibly through increased neurotrophic activity, in the Wistar Kyoto (WKY) model of depression, and support the notion that curcumin may prove an effective and lasting natural antidepressant.”

Suzhen Dong and colleagues, 2012, assessed behavioral performance and hippocampal cell proliferation in aged rats after a 6- and 12-week curcumin-fortified diet. They found out that curcumin enhanced non-spatial and spatial memory, as well as dentate, gyrate cell proliferation as compared to control diet rats. Their conclusion was that curcumin could be effective in delaying or even reversing brain diseases and age-related diseases that arise from or cause brain malfunction. However, the studies were done on rats. More investigations are needed on this subject and they need to be done on large numbers of human subjects.

Side effects of curcumin consumption:

Although curcumin is reported as safe to eat, some people suffer from side effects soon after consuming it. Some of the side effects of curcumin consumption are diarrhea, headache, rash, yellow stool, nausea, an increase in serum alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels.


In addition to improving brain function and lowering the risk of brain disease, curcumin is a natural anti-inflammatory compound. It drastically increases the body’s antioxidant capacity, lowers your risk of heart disease, and delays aging and fights against age-related diseases.


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