Turmeric is a spice that lends curry its well-known flavor. A new substance culled from turmeric has been found to improve cases of stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Ischemic stroke is the leading cause of disability and the third leading cause of death of older people in the United States. TBI is the leading cause of death and disability in people under 45. In both conditions, those who survive frequently have serious behavioral and memory deficits. The only treatment for stroke is effective in 20% of cases, while TBI has no clinical treatment at all.
Researchers have developed new compounds based on natural products derived from plants. They tested whether they could influence the nerve cell damage and death that occur in brain injuries. One compound, “CNB-001,” derived from the substance curcumin found within turmeric, proved very capable of protecting neurons in animal studies.
Researchers showed that CNB-001 was at least as effective as the sole current treatment in preventing behavioral deficits caused by stroke. The study, published in “Journal of Neurochemistry,” also showed that the turmeric compound can directly protect nerve cells within the brain. What it does is maintain the cell signaling pathways that nerve cells need to survive.
In a study to be published early this year, researchers used rodents to show how CNB-001 dramatically reversed the behavioral deficits in both movement and memory that happen after TBI. As with stroke, CNB-001 was again found to maintain the critical signaling pathways required for nerve cell survival.
It means that one secret in saving the brain after such intense trauma may be found in turmeric — already a very popular supplement. It could also pave the way for more therapies to target more complex neurological conditions, such as stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers have also found some early evidence that natural compounds such as CNB-001 could help prevent changes in nerve cells caused by Huntington’s disease. These findings are still early, and it wouldn’t be prudent to suddenly go out and stock up on turmeric to ward off stroke.
What it does is show that answers to serious questions can be found in natural products. If you or anyone you know suffers a brain injury or stroke, work with your doctors to explore all possible options in preventing ongoing neural problems.