Supporting Brain Health with Turmeric


Supporting Brain Health with Turmeric

Turmeric, a spice found in almost every store cupboard, has been used across the world for centuries thanks to its health-supporting properties. Nutrition research is catching up with this traditional remedy and there is now a huge body of evidence demonstrating turmeric’s positive effects on the body, and especially the brain.

The brain is the powerhouse of our entire being, controlling every aspect of our lives. From the way we move, how well we feel, right down to the thoughts we think – all of this and more is made possible by the incredible organ that is the brain. It manages memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, thought, breathing, temperature, hunger and every single process that regulates our body and allows us to be alive. Despite the brain being arguably the most vital organ for our existence, many people do not give it the attention it deserves; issues relating to poor brain health are not uncommon, and evidence suggests may even be on the rise. For example, it is estimated that rates of dementia, a degenerative brain disorder, will affect 139 million people in 2050, up from 55 million in 2020[1]. Furthermore, 1 in 6 people report being affected by a common mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression, in any given week in England alone[2]; globally, approximately 280 million people are thought to have depression[3].

While these statistics are staggering, thankfully there are many lifestyle interventions that be implemented to both manage and improve brain health – with nutrition being a pivotal piece of the puzzle. Let’s explore this evidence in more detail…

But first, why turmeric?

Turmeric is a staple in many of our spice collections, but it boasts many more benefits than just its flavour. Turmeric is the food source most abundant in the polyphenol curcumin, a chemical which gives it its bright yellow appearance. Curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to be beneficial for health in a number of ways, including reducing pain, improving muscle recovery, supporting gut health and even regulating mood[4]. Curcumin has a small molecular weight and as such can, unlike most other nutrients, successfully cross the blood-brain barrier, where it exhibits various neuroprotective effects, in turn supporting the health of the brain.

How can turmeric support brain health?

Several studies have demonstrated that turmeric supplementation can prevent cell death in the hippocampus, a part of the brain which plays key roles in emotional regulation, learning and memory[5]. As well as preventing cell death, there is evidence that turmeric supplementation can promote the growth of new cells in the brain, too – this is known as neuroplasticity, and is a vital mechanism for a healthy brain. It is thought that turmeric aids in neuroplasticity by increasing production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus; BDNF is pivotal for neuronal survival and growth and acts as a neurotransmitter modulator[6].

Furthermore, curcumin has been shown to improve the synthesis of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid and is the most prevalent fatty acid found in brain tissue. Playing a key role in brain development and function, it is sourced primarily from fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel; however, many in the Western world are not consuming adequate omega-3, and deficiency has been linked to low mood and mental health disorders. The body can also make its own when needed from another omega-3 fatty acid Alpha-Linolenic Acid, or ALA. That being said, the conversion rate of ALA to DHA is very low, approximately just 0.5%; curcumin supplementation has been shown to significantly increase this[7]. As DHA is crucial for reducing inflammation in the brain and has been proven to be supportive in the treatment of depression, curcumin supplementation may be a useful addition in this sub-population, particularly in those who do not consume much fish.

Turmeric may also support brain health thanks to its supportive role in hormone regulation; curcumin, turmeric’s active molecule, has been shown to modulate the production of key neurotransmitters in the brain. Serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters involved in mood and pleasure responses, among many other roles, play an important part in mood status, with low levels being linked with depressive and anxious states. A number of controlled trials have found curcumin supplementation increased levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, leading to improved mood outcomes for participants when compared to placebo treatment[8]. Finally, consumption of turmeric may protect the brain from damage associated with chronic cortisol production. Cortisol is the body’s major stress hormone and it increases heart rate and blood pressure when raised; chronic high levels have also been linked to damage to the hippocampus and pose a major risk factor for dementia development. Curcumin can lower cortisol production, which in turn can reduce the stress response and reduce brain disease risk[9].

How much is required to support brain health?

While dosage varies, the average amount of curcumin used in most studies is 1000mg/day, for at least 6 weeks. However, curcumin only makes up around 3% of turmeric – meaning you would be required to eat over 33,000g a day to meet this quota! Of course, this isn’t realistic; instead, taking a curcumin supplement is a much more viable option. Furthermore, curcumin in turmeric sourced from food is not readily absorbed by the body. Our Curcumin capsules contain 500mg turmeric root extract, concentrated to a minimum of 20% curcuminoids, and its UltraSOL Nutrient Delivery System increases relative absorption of total curcuminoids over standard curcumin by 46-times, resulting in a much higher absorption rate compared to food use.

In conclusion, turmeric is rich in the anti-inflammatory molecule curcumin, which has been shown to positively influence brain health via various mechanisms. Curcumin both prevents brain cell death and promotes neuroplasticity; it may also promote fatty acid synthesis in the brain, modulate neurotransmitter production and decrease the stress response. As such, turmeric supplementation may be a useful choice for promoting brain health across the lifespan.

[1] Statistics about dementia (2023) Dementia Statistics Hub. Available at: (Accessed: May 4, 2023).

[2] How common are mental health problems? (2023) Mind. Available at: (Accessed: May 4, 2023).

[3] Depressive disorder (depression) (2023) World Health Organization. World Health Organization. Available at: (Accessed: May 4, 2023).

[4] Hewlings, S.J., Kalman, D.S. 2017. Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods, 6(10), e92

[5] Tizabi, Y., Hurley, L.L., Qualls, Z., Akinfiresoye. 2014. Relevance of the Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Curcumin in Neurodegenerative Diseases and Depression. Molecules, 19, 20864-20879

[6] Lopresti, A.L. 2017. Curcumin for neuropsychiatric disorders: a review of in vitro, animal and human studies. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 31 (3), 287-302

[7] Wu, A., Noble, E.E., Tyagi, E., Ying, Z., Zhuang, Y., Gomez-Pinilla, F. 2015. Curcumin boosts DHA in the brain: implications for the prevention of anxiety disorders. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 1852 (5), 951-961

[8] Kulkarni, S.K., Dhir, A. An Overview of Curcumin in Neurological Disorders. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 72 (2), 149-154

  1. [9] Lopresti, A.L., Maes, M., Meddens, M.J.M., Maker, G.L., Arnoldussen, E., Drummond, P.D. 2015. Curcumin and major depression: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial investigating the potential of peripheral biomarkers to predict treatment response and antidepressant mechanisms of change. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 25, 38-50
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Elisabeth Philipps

Karen Devine

Karen Devine

Shelley Harvey

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