Treating Epilepsy Naturally with Turmeric

The Brain

Research suggests turmeric is a natural herbal remedy for epilepsy, a chronic condition that causes recurring seizures. Some types of seizures, and the drugs to treat them, can also result in learning and memory problems. Studies show that turmeric compounds can also help improve the effectiveness of anti-epileptic drugs. Turmeric could allow lower doses of these drugs too, which would reduce their negative side effects. (iv.3161)

Causes of Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder worldwide. Environment and genetics can both play a role, but the underlying mechanisms of epilepsy are still not thoroughly understood. This may be why conventional anticonvulsant drugs to control seizures are often only minimally effective. (iv.3164)

Similar to other brain disorders, overexcited brain cells are an important factor in triggering seizures. Conditions or injuries can cause overexcitement and imbalanced neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. These include: (iv.3165)

The excitotoxicity in the brain makes multiple neurons abnormally send out electrical impulses all at once—causing a seizure. Epileptic seizures create further imbalance neurotransmitters in the hippocampus and cortex regions of the brain and can cause neuron brain cells to die. (iv.166)

WHAT ARE NEUROTRANSMITTERS?

The brain uses compounds such as amino acids to transmit signals between cells in the brain called neurons. These chemical signals are how the cells communicate with each other, and are necessary for the brain to function. (iv.162-163)

When the amino acids act as signaling molecules they are called neurotransmitters. Some, such as glutamate, are considered excitatory neurotransmitters. Excitatory means when they bind to receptors on the neuron receiving the signal they activate an electrical impulse. This impulse triggers the receiving neuron to release more neurotransmitters. (iv.162-163)

Other neurotransmitters (such as GABA) are inhibitory. When they bind to neurons they stop them from producing an electrical impulse and releasing more neurotransmitters. In effect, inhibitory neurotransmitters naturally regulate the activity of excitatory ones. (iv.162-163)

However, sometimes chronic disease or injury creates a potentially harmful chemical imbalance. In epilepsy, the brain produces too much glutamate and not enough GABA. This creates an excitotoxic state in the brain, and can induce seizures (and other conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases). (iv.162-163)

How is Epilepsy Treated?

Conventional treatment drugs, such as valproate, normalize the neurotransmitter balances and reduce brain damage. However, anti-epileptic drugs cause toxic side effects. Long-term use of some of these medications can even impair brain functioning. (iv.167)

Which Turmeric Compounds May Help?

Results of many research studies suggest that taking turmeric supplements or adding the spice to your diet could protect your brain from seizures. According to study evidence, the compounds in turmeric may also provide benefits similar to conventional drugs—but without the potential toxic side effects. (iv.166168)

In fact, in animal studies pretreatment with many of the antioxidant compounds found in turmeric helped prevent epilepsy developing after injury or from heavy metal (such as iron) accumulation in the brain. Some turmeric compounds have anticonvulsant properties and may also work to protect brain cells from the harmful chemical changes in the brain caused by seizures. (iv.166168)

Table IV.14: Benefits of Turmeric Compounds in Epilepsy
TURMERIC COMPOUND STUDY RESULTS

CURCUMIN

  • Improved neurochemical changes caused by seizures. (iv.166)
  • Prevented neuron brain cell death. (iv.166)
  • Reduced number of and severity of seizures and other abnormal physical behaviors (such as jerking and increased urination). (iv.167)
  • Pretreatment and concurrent treatment with curcumin improved learning and short-term memory ability (hampered by epilepsy). (iv.167169)
  • Relieved symptoms of depression(iv.167)
  • Increased survival. (iv.167)
  • Reduced levels of CREB are associated with seizures. Curcumin helps stimulate expression of CREB transcription factor in the brain, which in turn increases GABA levels and reduces risk of seizure. (iv.165)
  • Anti-epileptic drugs such as valproate, phenytoin, phenobarbitone, and carbamazepine only reduce seizures. Combining curcumin with lower doses of these drugs prevented the loss of learning and memory abilities caused by seizures. (iv.161)
  • Curcumin helps inhibit seizure-inducing Brain tumors. It also blocks mTOR protein activity that promotes cancer growth and toxic imbalances of glutamate that can lead to seizures. (iv.164170)
  • Promotes growth of neurons in hippocampus part of the brain, an area damaged by certain types of epilepsy. (iv.164)

ALPHA-LINOLENIC ACID

(an omega-3 fatty acid)

  • Omega-3 fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid reduce the frequency of seizures in patients with epilepsy. (iv.164)
  • Lessens excitotoxicity in the brain and helps protect neurons. (iv.164)

α-TERPINEOL

  • Reduces seizures in animal epilepsy models. (iv.171)

AR-TURMERONE

ALPHA- AND BETA-TURMERONES

  • Anticonvulsant properties. (iv.172)
  • Turmeric oil reduced seizures in animal and zebrafish models of epilepsy. Turmerones are the primary components of turmeric oil. (iv.172)

BORNEOL

  • Inhaling essential oils containing high concentrations of borneol delays seizures in epileptic animal models. (iv.126159)

CINNAMIC ACID

EUGENOL

GERANIOL

  • Herbal oils that contain high amounts of geraniol have anticonvulsant effects. (iv.171)

LIMONENE

RESVERATROL

  • Inhibits abnormal electrical activity in brain cells. (iv.164)
  • Reduces frequency of seizures in animal models of epilepsy. (iv.164)
  • Helps prevent neuron damage and death. (iv.164)
  • Blocks mTOR protein activity in the brain that can lead to seizures. (iv.164)

VITAMIN C

VITAMIN E


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