Turmeric is one of the hottest supplements around today. Thousands of studies support its medicinal properties, and it may help relieve symptoms from a myriad of common diseases.
You may have heard about people using turmeric supplements for pain management, and wondered, can it help relieve the pain and other symptoms caused by neuropathy?
In this article we are going to delve into what turmeric is, how it works, and how it can help those suffering from the pain and discomfort of neuropathy.
What is Turmeric and How Does it Work?
Turmeric is a spice native to Asia that has thousands of years of historical medicinal use in Ayurveda, a traditional holistic system of medicine in India. (1) The primary active compound in the turmeric root is known as curcumin.
Many studies have been conducted on both curcumin and turmeric with similar benefits found.
Turmeric and curcumin exhibit the following two properties that are likely responsible for the majority of their positive impacts on human health:
- Anti-inflammatory: Turmeric reduces inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation may be a primary driver towards the majority of chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, obesity, and certain cancers.
- Antioxidant: Free radicals are tiny molecules produced inside of our bodies in response to normal biological processes. Other factors can contribute to excess free radical production, including stress, pollution, and a poor diet. When there are too many free radicals, they can cause oxidative damage to the cells of our bodies. Oxidative damage is linked to chronic disease risk and accelerated aging.
Research suggests that it’s through its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that turmeric, and it’s primary health-promoting polyphenol curcumin, can help those suffering from many diseases.
How Turmeric Helps Neuropathy Symptoms
1. Turmeric Helps Control Blood Sugar
High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) is characteristic of pre-diabetes and diabetes. This elevated blood sugar can cause damage to nerve cells by harming the blood vessels that keep the nerves healthy and by directly damaging the nerve cells themselves.
Studies suggest that turmeric can function as a hypoglycemic agent, meaning that it may be able to lower blood sugar levels. (2) In an animal study, an oral curcumin formula administered to rats led to improved glucose tolerance. It appears that curcumin led to an increase in insulin release, consequently lowering blood sugar levels.
Through enhancing the body’s ability to release insulin and control blood sugar levels, people with diabetes and pre-diabetes may be able to avoid nerve damage caused by hyperglycemia.
2. Turmeric Lowers High Triglyceride Levels
High blood sugar is not the only cause of nerve damage. Hyperlipidemia, which is high serum triglyceride levels, can also damage nerves and increase the risk of developing neuropathy or worsening current neuropathy symptoms. (3)
Animal studies have found curcumin treatment to decrease serum triglyceride levels, improving overall cholesterol through increasing good (HDL) cholesterol and decreasing bad (LDL) cholesterol. (1)
By helping to normalize triglyceride levels, turmeric and curcumin may reduce the nerve damage associated with hyperlipidemia.
3. Turmeric Protects Against Inflammatory Damage to Nerves and Blood Vessels
Damaged nerves become inflamed, and it’s this inflammation that can lead to nerve pain and damage. There are even some instances where nerves are compressed, leading to inflammation, damage, and the related neuropathy symptoms.
Through its anti-inflammatory effects, turmeric can help to relieve some of this inflammation. This reduction in inflammation may lead to an improvement in neuropathy symptoms. (4)
4. Turmeric Improves Nutrient Delivery to Nerve Cells
Our nerve cells depend on the oxygen and other nutrients delivered to them by our blood vessels for optimal health and function. When there is an excess production of free radicals, molecules responsible for oxidative damage, and insufficient antioxidant activity, our blood vessels can become damaged. This damage results in a decrease in nutrient delivery to our nerves, leading to their deteriorating health.
Because turmeric possesses antioxidant activity, it can help to slow or stop this route of neuropathy disease progression. (5)
5. Turmeric Promotes Nerve Cell Growth
Nerve cell repair and growth is critical for healthy neurons. Animals studies have found curcumin to induce neurogenesis, or the growth of nerve cells, in adults. By promoting cell growth, turmeric may help to boost the health of our nervous systems. (6)
6. Turmeric Relieves Pain
For many, the most severe symptom of neuropathy is chronic pain that is difficult to treat. Studies and user reports have found turmeric to produce analgesic properties through many mechanisms, such as reducing inflammation, promoting healing, and reducing oxidative damage. What this means is that turmeric supplementation may reduce your perception of pain. (7)
Turmeric vs. Curcumin: Which Should You Use for Neuropathy?
When you directly consume turmeric, very little of the healthy compound curcumin is absorbed in your body. This is because curcumin has low bioavailability unless it’s taken in such a way as to boost its absorption.
Because of this, many high-quality supplement producers have created turmeric supplements with piperine, a compound found in black pepper that can boost the absorption of curcumin by 2000%, or curcumin supplements that have been formulated to enhance curcumin absorption through a variety of patented mechanisms. (8)
One Reddit user shared that high dose curcumin, rather than turmeric powder, helped their neuropathy, demonstrating that it may be the type and quality of supplement that you choose which dictates your experience.
Both turmeric and curcumin supplements may help, just be careful to only purchase high-quality supplements that have taken the necessary steps to ensure high bioavailability of the curcumin within.
Turmeric has been used for thousands of years as a folk medicine. Recent scientific advances have allowed us to understand how turmeric can benefit us and given us the tools to increase its ability to do so.
High-quality turmeric and curcumin supplements are those that increase how well our bodies can use curcumin, the polyphenol primarily to thank for turmeric’s wide-reaching health benefits. If you want to see if turmeric can improve your neuropathy symptoms, look for a quality supplement today.