Turmeric is known as the “golden spice,” for its bright orange-yellow color. It is derived from an underground stalk, called a rhizome, of a tropical plant, much like ginger. It is one of the spices common to curry powder and is a staple in Indian cooking. It has long been used for its medicinal properties in ancient Indian medicine because of its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-cancer effects. Curcumin is the active ingredient of turmeric. It is the curcumin which has the anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. The curcuminoids account for about 2 – 9% of turmeric. The spice is also a source of vitamin C and magnesium.
Historically, turmeric has been used in ancient Indian medicine to treat heart disease, brain and cognitive disorders, arthritis, cancer, and digestive disorders. There are presently many ongoing studies evaluating curcumin and its role in cancer prevention, anti-aging, mood disorders, heart disease, digestive disorders, and disorders of the eye. One ongoing issue with turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin, is it’s limited bio-availability, which means that when it is ingested, a limited or reduced amount is absorbed. Only a small percentage of the active ingredients will be available for health benefits.
Turmeric and the Eye
While there is no clear conclusive evidence for treatment of eye disease with curcumin, there have been many animal studies in which curcumin holds promise as a potential treatment for various eye diseases:
Dry Eye Syndrome. There have been studies investigating curcumin to have therapeutic potential for treating dry eye disease.
Retinal Detachment. Curcumin is thought to reduce the cascade which results in secondary retinal detachments.
Diabetic Retinopathy. Curcumin has been studied to evaluate its capability to reduce neovacularization within the retina of diabetic mice.
Cataracts. Studies with mouse models indicate that curcumin may play a role in delaying the onset and progression of certain types of cataracts.
Autosomal Dominant Retinitis Pigmentosa. There is ongoing research to determine if curcumin helps reduce the progression of retinitis pigmentosa in those with the autosomal dominant mutation. (FFB website)
Turmeric (Curcumin) Supplements
Mentioned previously, the issue with turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin as a therapeutic treatment is its limited bio availability. Researchers have made efforts to improve curcumin’s bio availability by combining it with other substances. When evaluating which turmeric supplement to use, look for an additional substance like piperine. This black pepper extract is used to increase turmeric bio-availability. The supplement should also indicate that it has curcumoid extracts of 95% for optimal benefits. (Remember, supplement claims are not regulated by the FDA.)
Curcumin has been found to be a relatively safe and efficacious, in large dosages, and was approved as a “generally regarded as safe” compound by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, there is some documented drug interactions, such as with anti-coagulant or anti-platelet medications, chemotherapeutic agents, and affects enzymes that help metabolize drugs when turmeric is taken in large doses.(Linus Pauling Insitute)
Always consult with your doctor before launching into a new supplement regiment