Turmeric has a theoretical benefit for you if you have peripheral neuropathy. While scientific evidence for turmeric appears promising as of 2010, clinical studies are needed before the medical community can recommend turmeric as therapy for peripheral neuropathy and other conditions, according to a 2010 scientific review in “The Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.” Always consult your doctor before trying an alternative medicine therapy, especially if you have a health condition or take medication.
Peripheral neuropathy is the term for damage to your peripheral nervous system. There are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms vary from prickling sensations, tingling and numbness to burning pain to muscle wasting to organ dysfunction. You can inherit this condition or acquire it. Physical injury, an infection or a systemic disease like an endocrine disorder, cancer or diabetes can lead to peripheral neuropathy. Other causes include hormonal imbalances, alcoholism, vitamin deficiency and vascular damage.
Turmeric’s benefits for you if you suffer from nerve damage are largely theoretical. The evidence for using turmeric is mainly anecdotal and based on animal studies, according to “The People’s Pharmacy Quick and Handy Home Remedies.” For example, a 2007 study published in the “American Journal of Human Genetics” concludes that turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, may be a good therapy for inherited peripheral neuropathies. This study was done on mice, however, and benefits found in animal studies don’t always translate to benefits for humans.
Just how the curcumin in turmeric produces neuroprotective action is under scientific investigation. Top theories as of 2010 are that its benefits are mainly due to curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, note S. K. Kulkarni and A. Dhir, authors for the review published in “The Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.” The fact that it affects neurotransmitter levels in the brain and also helps prevents cell death are another part of the dynamic, note Kulkarni and Dhir.
While curcumin demonstrates protective action for neuropathy and other disorders of the body, it has poor oral bioavailability, according to Kulkarni and Dhir. Bioavailability refers to your body’s ability to absorb and utilize a substance. Curcumin’s bioavailability is limited due to rapid metabolism in your liver and intestinal wall. However, curcumin’s bioavailability can be enhanced, according to a 1998 study published in “Planta Medica.” This is done by combining it with the bioavailability-enhancing agent called piperine, a constituent of black pepper.
- “The People’s Pharmacy Quick and Handy Home Remedies”; Joe Graedon and Terry Graedon; 2011
- “The Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences”; An Overview of Curcumin in Neurological Disorders; S. K. Kulkarni and A. Dhir; 2010
- “American Journal of Human Genetics”; Oral Curcumin Mitigates the Clinical and Neuropathologic Phenotype of the Trembler-J Mouse: A Potential Therapy for Inherited Neuropathy; M. Khajavi, et al.; 2007
- “Planta Medica”; Influence of Piperine on the Pharmacokinetics of Curcumin in Animals and Human Volunteers; G. Shoba, et al.; 1998
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet; February 2011
- National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: Diabetic Neuropathies; February 2009