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Curcumin in the treatment of pain, diabetic neuropathy and Alzheimer’s Disease

Background: Curcumin, the pigment found in the spice turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been known to demonstrate a number of interesting, beneficial effects. Curcumin has been demonstrated to be an anti-inflammatory agent, an anti-oxidant, anti-angiogenic, anti-bacterial, anti-neoplastic (2,4) and it has been demonstrated to be effective in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.(3)

Curcumin has been demonstrated to inhibit cyclooxygenase-2, lipooxygenase, nuclear factor kappa-B and inducible nitric oxide sythase.

In addition to effects on inflammatory pathways, Curcumin has an independent effect on endogenous opiate pathways, as well.  That is, Curcumin is a primary pain reliever involved in the same pathways as are opiates.(1)

The addition of curcumin, a natural COX-2 inhibitor, to other anti-inflammatories synergistically (up to 1000%) augments the growth inhibitory effects in in-vitro and in-vivo models of arthritis and cancer, thus rendering effective action of the drug.  Decreased dosages of 1/10th can be demonstrated.(4)

Curcumin has been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of auto-immune processes, as well. Curcumin is beneficial in the treatment of autoimmune diseases by inhibiting a number of proteans and enzymes, such as cytokines IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-12, TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma and associated JAK-STAT, AP-1, and NF-kappaB signaling pathways in immune regulatory cells. (5)

For diabetic neuropathy, the use of Curcumin  indicates anti-nociceptive, that is pain relieving  activity and point towards the beneficial effects with insulin in attenuating diabetic neuropathic pain, possibly through the participation of NO and TNF-alpha.(6) The effects on diabetic pain seem to take up to 4 weeks, but may be observed much more rapidly.