Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on
August 20, 2021
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on:

Does Turmeric Boost Memory?

Turmeric is linked to a myriad of health benefits, including studies suggesting that turmeric can help fight pancreatic cancer, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. So, does turmeric improve memory and help fight brain fog

I will answer that question and more. So, keep on reading. Also, make sure to bookmark this post so that you can come back to it anytime you need. 

What is Turmeric Exactly?

Turmeric is a popular spice that is made from the root of Curcuma longa. It contains a compound called curcumin that helps reduce swelling. 

Turmeric is widely known for its golden-yellow hue and its warm and bitter taste. This spice is commonly used to color or flavor cheeses, curry powders, butter, and mustards. 

And since the chemicals found in turmeric, specifically curcumin, are known to reduce swelling, turmeric is often used in treating physical conditions that largely involve inflammation and pain. 

Most people use turmeric to alleviate the following conditions: 

However, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the efficacy of turmeric in these conditions. 

Turmeric History

People have been using turmeric for over 4,000 years now. This spice originated from the Vedic culture in India, where turmeric holds a religious significance other than being a revered household spice. 

Later on, this golden-yellow spice reached China by 700 AD, East Africa by 800 AD, West Africa by 1200 AD, and Jamaica by the 18th century. 

And according to Unani and Ayurvedic systems as well as Sanskrit medical treatises, turmeric has long been used as a medicine in South Asia. In 250 BC, Susruta’s Ayurvedic Compendium recommended adding turmeric to an ointment to help alleviate the effects and risks of food poisoning. 

Fast forward to today, turmeric is widely cultivated in tropical countries with the same purpose of being added as a tasty spice and used as a medicine for specific health conditions. 

How Turmeric Helps Brain Function

Nowadays, most studies agree that turmeric, especially its compound curcumin, has rich anti-inflammatory properties. This ability to help fight inflammation makes turmeric a viable choice to treat several forms of dementia

Turmeric studies on animals show that the spice reduces inflammation in the brain while helping slow down the development of amyloid plaques, albeit the how is not fully understood by researchers yet. 

On the other hand, one study found that adults between the ages of 51 and 84 who take Theracurmin twice a day – a supplement containing 90 mg of curcumin, have improved their cognitive function and memory. 

Turmeric Compound Could Boost Memory and Mood

Turmeric has become extra special for most because it is packed with a compound called curcumin. Several studies suggest that curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that can protect your cells from damages caused by free radicals while having rich anti-inflammatory properties

Also, a recent study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry shows more evidence that curcumin can protect the brain effectively.

Dr. Gary Small and his colleagues from the Longevity Center at the University of California tested curcumin, via a dietary supplement, on 40 adults between the ages of 51 to 84 who have mild memory problems.  

Within 18 months, the study participants were randomly divided into two groups – one group took the supplement with 90 mg of curcumin twice a day, and the other took the placebo. 

At the end of the study, the group who took Theracurmin, the dietary supplement with 90 mg of bioavailable curcumin, significantly improved their brain function, especially memory. 

Also, the participants who received the Theracurmin supplement reported slight improvements in mood than those who took the placebo.

Curcumin as an Antioxidant

The yellow color in turmeric is caused by curcuminoids, the chemical components richly present in the herb. These compounds and their antioxidant properties, especially in curcumin, get the attention of people in the scientific community. 

Lab tests have found that curcumin can break down amyloid-beta plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Also, research from Japan shows that turmeric can relieve dementia symptoms and can help improve overall cognitive function. 

One of the authors of another supporting study said that: 

Curcumin as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and lipophilic action improves the cognitive functions in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. Due to various effects of curcumin, such as decreased Beta-amyloid plaques, delayed degradation of neurons, metal-chelation, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and decreased microglia formation, the overall memory in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease has improved.” 

How to Incorporate Curcumin into Your Diet

There are several ways you can add turmeric into your food and drinks, but here are the most common and easiest methods: 

  • Make some turmeric tea. 
  • Add turmeric to your frittatas, tofu, and egg scrambles 
  • Whip up turmeric into your salad dressings 
  • Add turmeric in your bone broth with coconut milk 
  • Season your roasted vegetables with turmeric 
  • Add turmeric into your rice 
  • Spice up your green smoothies with some turmeric 
  • Add turmeric into your soups 
  • Season your meat and fish with turmeric 
  • Sprinkle your nuts with a little bit of turmeric 

What to Know Before You Take Turmeric Supplements

Nutritional and dietary supplements of curcumin and turmeric are widely available. Rhizomes, turmeric’s underground stems, are normally dried and used to create extracts, teas, tablets, and capsules. 

And since turmeric supplements are commercially available, you do not need a doctor’s prescription to acquire them. However, we strongly recommend that you consult your neurologist or physician before trying any supplement. 

Even though curcumin and turmeric are generally safe, they can cause gastrointestinal problems when consumed in large amounts. 

Also, it’s essential to consult your doctor before starting your curcumin supplement so that it does not interact negatively with other drugs you may be taking. 

Turmeric Side Effects

In the study that had 40 participants of ages between 51 to 84 taking the Theracurmin supplement twice daily, it was found that the side effects of curcumin or turmeric, in general, were mild. 

Only four of the participants who are taking the turmeric supplement reported slight gastrointestinal symptoms and other abdominal discomforts, but so did two of the participants taking the placebo. 

Also, one participant who is taking the curcumin reported a feeling of slight pressure and heat in the chest

Dr. Small, the first author of the study, revealed that they would be conducting a follow-up study with a larger number of participants, including people genetically at risk with Alzheimer’s and individuals with mild depression. 

Curcumin and Alzheimer’s Disease

A systematic review of pre-clinical and clinical studies of the effect of curcumin on healthy aging and Alzheimer’s disease shows that curcumin, the most active compound in turmeric, is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that can help prevent the risks of Alzheimer’s. 

A study from UCLA revealed that curcumin helps macrophages (a type of white blood cell that helps remove dead cells and stimulates your immune system to take action) in clearing the amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease. 

Another massive characteristic of Alzheimer’s is the chronic inflammation of nerve cells, and since curcumin has a potent anti-inflammatory effect, it may have a critical role in curing Alzheimer’s disease and other memory-related issues, such as brain fog symptoms and the causes of a foggy brain

Turmeric and Dementia

It is important to note that limited evidence from studies on humans proves that turmeric can prevent or cure dementia. However, several studies conducted on cellular models of dementia and mice show that curcumin, one component of turmeric, can be beneficial. 

Also, another chemical in turmeric called turmerone has been studied in a lab. In animal studies of turmerone, it has been shown that this compound can stimulate stem cells to create new brain cells – this is something that, in theory, can help with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia and other memory-related problems like brain fog issues

Practical Tips to Improve Your Memory

Besides leveraging the benefits of turmeric to your memory, getting rid of brain fog, or overall brain function, it is also important to take practical steps to improve your memory and maintain a healthy brain. 

Here’s how you do it: 

  • Play brain games to activate lesser-used areas in your brain.
  • Eat brain foods, such as walnuts, avocados, and blueberries can improve your memory and help reduce brain fog
  • Exercise – this is probably the most overlooked and underrated yet most effective method in improving your memory and overall brain health. 
  • Get enough sleep
  • Manage your stress as much as you can. Over time, chronic stress can damage your hippocampus and kill your brain cells that help form new memories and store old ones. 
  • Maintain a healthy iron level because an iron deficiency can have adverse effects on your brain, specifically on your capacity to pay attention and create new memories.
  • Practice focusing your attention by setting a short period of time to focus on a certain task with little to no distractions – this will help you move short-term memories to long-term ones more effectively. 

So, Does Turmeric Improve Memory?

The answer is a definite YES based on theory and several studies on turmeric being beneficial to memory and overall brain function. 

If the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin in turmeric show promising results in alleviating dementia and Alzheimer’s, how much more on brain fog and other memory problems, right? 

However, remember that we still need more studies conducted on humans to prove the efficacy and safety of turmeric. So, make sure to follow our blog for the latest studies and updates on brain health.

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