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Can Turmeric Improve Memory and Cognitive Function?

memory & cognitive


There is emerging research showing that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric can boost memory and cognition through its powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

Memory is our ability to encode, store, retain and later recall information that is stored in the human brain. You can think about it as the ability to use what has happened to you in the past to influence how you act now.

The word cognition means the mental abilities that work together while you are awake and help you process what’s happening in the world and subsequently make decisions.

Cognitive functions include the following:

• memory
• perception and attention
• executive functions (making decisions, problem-solving, doing things sequentially, withholding urges, pattern recognition, and flexibility)
• language
• processing speed
• visual and spatial abilities
• motor skills (moving a body part)
• social skills

Turmeric for Memory

There have been quite a few research studies on turmeric for memory. One of the most recent studies was a systematic review of randomized, placebo-controlled trials in older adults given curcumin. Dosages were between 90 and 4000 mg per day of curcumin. Researchers detailed three different studies that were quite effective within this set of studies.

Study 1 showed that a dose of 90 mg curcumin twice daily improved visual memory, attention, and selective reminding in those without dementia. The study lasted 18 months.

Study 2 tested a dose of 1,500 mg curcumin/day for one year. Researchers used the Montreal Cognitive Assessment tool and found overall improvement.

Study 3 found improvements in the ability to do mathematical subtraction tasks after only four weeks.

Turmeric and Preventing Memory Loss

Animal studies have shown that curcumin prevents memory deficits, cognitive decline, and according to the scientists, it suppresses behavioral deficits.

In humans these behavioral deficits include the whole set of unusual behaviors seen in those with Alzheimer’s disease. These behavioral deficits are worsened by greater amounts of inflammation in the brain.

A 2019 systematic review of 24 animal studies showed that curcumin was provided benefits for both short and long-term memory when taken for up to 84 days. The authors of this review also noted that the results of these studies were not due to a placebo effect from the curcumin indicating that curcumin’s promising role in preventing memory loss and cognitive decline should be investigated further in humans.

At the University of California at Los Angeles, scientists exposed rats to either a regular diet or a diet high in saturated fat, with or without curcumin for 4 weeks. Then they induced a mild brain injury.

When curcumin was supplemented in the diet, there was a dramatic reduction of oxidative damage in the brain. The curcumin normalized levels of BDNF, synapsin I, and CREB that the brain injury had altered. That’s a great antioxidant for the brain!

Turmeric for Alzheimer’s Disease - Link Between Inflammation and Brain Health?

In Alzheimer’s disease, the aggregation of amyloid-beta proteins in the brain is the culprit for why there’s so much memory loss and the inability to think and process information correctly. Once these protein aggregations form, the brain identifies them as abnormal and starts the process of inflammation to remove them. The problem is that often the brain doesn’t have the tools it needs to remove them.

The brain wants to heal itself. Inflammation always starts the healing process. However, if inflammation goes on for long periods of time, this then can become another type of problem.

Studies with animal models of Alzheimer's disease have shown that curcumin benefits the brain in certain ways. It lowers the number of oxidized proteins in the brain – an antioxidant function. It also lowers the cytokines that cause inflammation in the brain as well – an anti-inflammatory effect.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many human studies with Alzheimer’s patients that meet satisfactory scientific standards. Most of them simply don’t have enough patients to find statistical significance.

However, one Japanese study reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2019 gave patients with dementia and cognitive impairment a supplement of Huperzine A and curcumin. The Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale cognitive subscale (Japanese version) scores were significantly improved at 6-12 weeks. The supplements worked.

Genetic studies have shown that curcumin decreases the expression of genes that inflamed the microglia of the brain, COX-2, and IL 1B. It reduced levels of miR-155, a micro-RNA that drives neurodegeneration of the microglia. It was also found to restore neuroinflammatory networks that are disturbed in diseases of the brain and nervous system. That shows a lot of hope for those with memory and cognitive disorders.

Turmeric’s curcumin also protects the brain by inhibiting the formation of the amyloid-beta fibrils but it doesn’t stop there. If the fibrils have already formed, curcumin breaks them up.

Curcumin also inhibits tau phosphorylation. Tau is a group of proteins that play a key role in regulating how microtubules work in the cells, axonal transport, and growth of the nerves. Tau accumulations in the neurofibrillary tangles of those with Alzheimer’s disease have been reported in the literature. If there is a disruption of normal phosphorylation, then the tau proteins don’t work properly. But with curcumin at work inside the brain, tau proteins won’t be phosphorylated and won’t accumulate, thus preventing dementia to occur.

You can learn more about the benefits of turmeric for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by reading this article:

Turmeric for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

Choosing the Best Turmeric Supplement for Boosting Brain Function

Before you purchase any turmeric supplement, always read the label carefully whether it’s turmeric extract or turmeric powder. The extract contains much more of the active polyphenol, curcumin.

Note how much turmeric extract is in each capsule. Active Atoms Turmeric is formulated to contain the optimal dose of turmeric extract to fight inflammation. Each capsule contains 750 mg of premium turmeric extract. Most people only need 1-2 capsules of Active Atoms per day to get promote cognition, memory, and brain function.

Consider adding Active Atoms to your daily routine to boost your brain health along with addressing nutritional deficiencies, exercising, managing stress better, getting full nights of sleep, and working the brain with online brain games.

About Dr. Marc Robinson, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT