Turmeric: How can this Indian Spice be considered a Nootropic?

Turmeric is one of the most studied herbs in Chinese, unani and ayurvedic medicinal practices. It is a potent analgesic, used to treat pain and inflammation. Turmeric has many other health benefits such as treating high cholesterol levels, symptoms of hay fever, allergies and reducing the risk of heart diseases. Another interesting use of turmeric is that it contains some remarkable nootropics properties and helps in improving the brain functioning.


Turmeric is a perennial shrub native to southern Asia. It is a member of the plant family Zingiberaceae and in chinese it is called jianghuang which literally means “yellow ginger.” The primary active ingredients in turmeric are a group of chemical compounds named curcuminoids, which include curcumin, desmethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. The best studied ingredient is curcumin which is the principal component of turmeric and is bright yellow in color. It is widely used as a condiment, food color, herbal supplement and also for cosmetic purposes. Turmeric also contains essential volatile oils such as turmerone and zingiberene.

Mechanism of action

Turmeric acts in the nervous cell system on molecular level to enhance neurogenesis. Curcumin in it enhances the Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factors. Therefore, it increases the levels of brain hormones e.g. serotonin and dopamine and also works as a powerful anti-oxidant which helps to protect your brain from infections and chronic inflammation.

Turmeric is also used in treatment of digestive disorders, skin problems, cancer treatment, diabetes neuropathy and obesity. It also gives protection from DNA damage, hepatotoxicity, chest and abdominal pain.

Down below, we’re going to explore how Turmeric benefits your brain.

benefits of turmeric

Brain benefits of turmeric

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF): Research indicates that the compound curcumin boosts the process of neurogenesis. New neurons production in brain is essential for increasing memory, learning and mood. Low levels of this factor can lead to dullness, depression, schizophrenia and brain fog.

Neurotransmitters: This turmeric also boosts the hormones like serotonin and dopamine which make you feel good. These hormones are essential for good mood, active cognition, focus and increased libido. Turmeric works almost like MAOI’s and SSRI’s anti-depressants used to treat depression. It can sometimes augment the effect of antidepressants like Prozac.

Neuroprotection: The curcumin is a potent antioxidant and helps protect your brain from chronic inflammations and related infections. Chronic inflammation in brain further leads to depression and memory loss. Curcumin also reduces the risk of plaque formation in brain that is associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer.

Turmeric as an anti-depressant

A study was conducted to assess the efficacy and safety of using turmeric for treatment of depression. The results showed that the best response (77.8%) was with the batch of patients treated with a combination of turmeric and Prozac. The Prozac only batch of people showed a 64% improvement in symptoms and the turmeric only batch came in at 62.5%.

The researchers concluded that turmeric could be used as an effective and safe treatment for patients suffering with severe depression.

Turmeric for Stress

Turmeric has long been used in traditional ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat stress-related disorders. The antidepressant effects of turmeric are already proven in human studies. So the researchers indicate that may be curcumin can also alleviate stress caused by HPA dysfunction. Anyhow, no strong scientific evidence is available to prove its’ mechanism of action and further studies are required to confirm this.

turmeric and brain health


Turmeric is a fat soluble ingredient so you should consume it with a high quality fat to get maximum absorption. You can use cold-pressed and organic coconut or extra virgin organic olive oil.

 Side effects

Turmeric is a natural herb and considered safe when taken at moderate doses. Taking large amounts of turmeric several times a day can cause stomachache, nausea and ulcers. If a person has gallstones or obstruction in bile passage then he should avoid turmeric supplement. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should not take turmeric supplement at all.

And because turmeric can act as an anti-coagulant, you must stop its supplementation 2 weeks before any surgery. Turmeric can also enhance the effects of anti-coagulant medications.


Turmeric boosts brain health and function in several ways. It enhances neuroplasticity and production of BDNF. It is a growth hormone responsible for the creation of new neurons in your brain. Higher levels of BDNF can boost the brain functions such as learning, memory and productivity and can reduce risks of brain related diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

If you use turmeric or its active ingredient curcumin, it will help to boost your memory and mind sharpness and will elevate your mood especially if you are in depression.

Turmeric boosts dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. These are the “happy hormones” of your brain. Turmeric and its active ingredients have been studied and used effectively because of its nootropics properties from centuries.

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