Curcumin may protect the brain after a traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are shockingly common in the United States. According to an organization called BrainLine, TBIs – which can range in severity from mild to severe – are sustained by over 2.8 million Americans each year. Around 50,000 of these patients will die, a further 282,000 will have to be hospitalized, and 2.5 million will be released from an emergency department after treatment. A TBI is a contributing factor in at least 30 percent of all injury-related deaths in this country, and the direct and associated costs of TBI can amount to a staggering $60 billion in a single year.

A TBI is defined as a penetrating head injury, or a blow, jolt or bump to the head from an external source strong enough to disrupt the normal functioning of the brain. Treatment can include anything from simple monitoring and pain relief for mild cases, to ensuring adequate oxygen and blood supply, maintaining blood pressure and taking steps to prevent any further damage in more serious cases.

One of the biggest concerns of medical practitioners when a TBI occurs is to prevent any further damage to the brain. A recent study by researchers from the China Medical University, published in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, found that curcumin, found in the spice turmeric, can protect against such further damage.

Curcumin provides protection against oxidative damage

One of the primary causes of secondary damage after a TBI is oxidative stress. A study published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine in 2009 explained:

Oxidative stress, an imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants, contributes to the pathogenesis of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Oxidative neurodegeneration is a key mediator of exacerbated morphological responses and deficits in behavioral recoveries.

Previous studies had already established that curcumin protects against such oxidative stress but could not clarify exactly why. The more recent study by the Chinese research team looked at the mechanisms responsible for the neuroprotective role of curcumin. The scientists were particularly interested in determining the role of the Nrf2 pathway in curcumin’s ability to prevent oxidative stress. Nrf2 is defined as “a basic leucine zipper protein that regulates the expression of antioxidant proteins that protect against oxidative damage triggered by injury and inflammation.”

For their study, the team induced TBIs in mice and then injected them with curcumin 15 minutes later. The brains of these mice were then examined after a further 24 hours.

The study abstract reported on the findings:

In wild type mice, curcumin treatment resulted in reduced ipsilateral cortex injury, neutrophil infiltration, and microglia activation, improving neuron survival against TBI-induced apoptosis and degeneration. These effects were accompanied by increased expression and nuclear translocation of Nrf2, and enhanced expression of antioxidant enzymes. …

These findings demonstrated that curcumin effects on TBI are associated with the activation the Nrf2 pathway, providing novel insights into the neuroprotective role of Nrf2 and the potential therapeutic use of curcumin for TBI.

Other amazing health benefits of curcumin

Protecting the brain from secondary injury after a TBI is by no means the only reason to start taking curcumin. As reported by HealthLine, it is also known for:

When choosing a curcumin supplement, it is important to source one that is non-GMO, non-irradiated and preferably contains piperine (BioPerine) which enhances curcumin absorption by as much as 2,000 percent. (Related: Learn more at

Please be advised that TBIs are always viewed as emergencies since the patient’s condition can deteriorate rapidly, and that medical attention should be sought as soon as possible.

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