Turmeric, to many of us, is just a spice that we keep at the back of our spice cupboards and add to curries every now and then. Few have discovered the real value of this bright and beautiful root! In terms of flavour, it adds a lovely peppery, warm and slightly bitter flavour that compliments spicy dishes beautifully. It’s super for spicing up meals, but did you know that turmeric can actually help to improve your MS symptoms? Recent research has revealed that it has some potent healing qualities that can aid recovery in a number of conditions, including MS and cancer.
Eating it regularly also helps to prevent such illnesses from arising in the first place. Studies have found that communities which consume turmeric on a daily basis, such as those in India, have a very low incidence of MS. It is clear that this happy spice has neuroprotective and healing effects and can be highly beneficial for people with MS.
In this post, I would like to explore the specific benefits of turmeric for MS and explain how, including it in your MS diet it works to aid recovery. I am also going to delve into the wealth of research that has been recently conducted on turmeric as a health aid. Lastly, we’ll have a look at what forms of turmeric are best to use to receive it’s maximum benefits.
Turmeric’s Secret Ingredient
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin. This secret ingredient seems to be the source of turmeric’s healing ability. Natarajan and Bright, the researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, believe curcumin may interrupt the production of IL-12, a protein that plays a key role in the destruction of the myelin by signalling for the development of neural antigen-specific Th1 cells. These are the immune cells that attack the myelin sheath. Sounds complicated but basically, it just tells this wayward protein to get lost which results fewer auto-immune attacks. What a legendary compound!
Five MS-Related Benefits of Turmeric
There are so many fabulous health benefits of turmeric. However, I want to highlight five important ways it can help people with MS manage their illness more effectively.
1. Treats Depression
Curcumin has been shown to work in a similar way to an antidepressant. Depression is a common symptom of MS and those who have experienced it will agree that it can be very debilitating. It can also worsen other symptoms such as fatigue. A recent study has shown that people suffering from depression, who take 1000 mg a day of a curcumin-rich extract of Curcuma longa, react just as well as they do to a standard dose of 20 mg fluoxetine, the active ingredient in Prozac. 
Animal studies have shown that curcumin helps depression by inhibiting the enzyme monoamine oxidase in the brain. Monoamine oxidase neutralises neurotransmitters, this boosts the concentration of serotonin, dopamine and noradrenalin in the brain which are chemicals depressed people are low in. 
Basically, Turmeric is a great way to treat this MS symptom naturally!
2. Protects Against Free Radical Damage
Many foods are known for their antioxidant value, including blueberries, green tea and tomatoes, but it’s not too often that you find a spice that is loaded with as much antioxidant value as turmeric. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant, which helps protect the body against free radical damage. The antioxidant power of turmeric is what makes it so effective at healing. MS is amongst a myriad of conditions that are either caused by, or worsened by, free radical damage. So, the more anti-oxidant action we get, the better!
3. Acts as an Anti-Inflammatory
Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties that will help relieve inflammation. It is so powerful that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs.  This can really help to calm inflamed nerves and relieve MS symptoms. How does it actually do this?
Curcumin actually targets multiple steps in the inflammatory pathway, at the molecular level. Curcumin blocks NF-kB, a molecule that travels into the nuclei of cells and turns on genes related to inflammation.
It’s also helpful as a preventative strategy. Turmeric is useful to give to your children to lower their chances of developing MS. Turmeric will play its part, but be sure to combine it with other anti-inflammatory foods in your MS diet.
4. Boosts the Immune System
Turmeric has been shown, repeatedly, to boost to the immune system and help it work more effectively. This results in better overall health and well being, and less likelihood of getting sick or coming down with a disease. I know that my MS symptoms really worsen when I have a cold or stomach flu so I try my best to keep my immune system strong and healthy.
Since I have been on this diet and started taking turmeric, I just don’t get sick anymore. I might get a slight sore throat but it never develops into anything more serious and within a few days I’m back to normal.
5. Boosts Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
For a long time most people have believed that neurons are not able to divide and multiply after early childhood. I remember being taught this by my biology teacher in high school! However, it is now known that this does happen. Neurons are capable of forming new connections, but in certain areas of the brain, they can also multiply and increase in number.  Wow!
One of the main drivers of this process is Brain-Derived Neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a type of growth hormone in the brain. Many common brain disorders have been linked to decreased levels of this hormone. This includes depression and Alzheimer’s disease and most probably MS. 
Amazingly, curcumin can increase brain levels of BDNF. By doing this, it may be effective at delaying or even reversing MS. It may also help to improve memory.
Research On Turmeric
Turmeric has been a hotly researched spice in the last few years as researchers are waking up to it’s healing potential. There have been numerous studies to test the efficacy of turmeric as an anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and antioxidant. Preliminary studies in mice suggest that curcumin may block the progression of multiple sclerosis. Researcher Dr. Chandramohan Natarajan of Vanderbilt University found that mice, specially bred to develop an MS-like illness called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), showed little or no signs of disease symptoms after being injected with curcumin, while animals without the treatment went on to severe paralysis. (EAE is an autoimmune condition used by researchers as a model for multiple sclerosis because it also results in the slow erosion of myelin.) 
The doses of curcumin that protected the mice against the development of EAE were pretty much the same, in human terms, to those found in a typical Indian diet. In Asian countries, such as India and China, where foods spiced with curcumin-containing spices like turmeric are common fare, reports of MS are extremely rare. 
There are a total of 688 studies, more than 400 of them published within the last four years that confirm curcumin’s remarkable neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties. However, more human trials are needed before we can firmly establish exactly how curcumin works to slow down the progression of MS. All we know for now is that there certainly is a healing process that starts taking place when it is eaten on a regular basis.
How To Eat It: Which Form is Best for Your MS Diet?
Turmeric is is available in three forms:
1. Raw Root Form: This is the raw and most natural form of turmeric. It looks very similar to ginger and can be used in similar ways. Juice it to get a potent, anti-inflammatory booster. It may need to be bought at a specialised nursery, online or a farmers market as it is not very commonly found in grocery stores. You might actually be able to sprout your own turmeric plant using one of the roots.
2. Ground Powder Form: It’s best to buy a good quality turmeric at an Indian market. Tumeric found in the spice bottles in supermarkets is not very potent and will not have the same effect. It can be used in so many different ways. Here are a few ideas :
- Toss it with vegetables for roasting. Turmeric’s slightly warm and peppery flavour works beautifully with cauliflower, potatoes, and root vegetables.
- Add it to cooked rice. A dash of turmeric brings color and mild flavor to a pot of basmati rice.
- Sprinkle it onto greens. It’s great on sautéed or braised greens like kale, collards, and cabbage.
- Use it in soups. It’s very yummy in butternut or sweet potato soup.
- Add it to your smoothie. Toss a spoonful into your smoothie to spice it up!
- Make turmeric tea. Simmer turmeric with almond/coconut milk and honey to make an earthy and comforting hot drink.
3. Supplement Capsules: A reputable turmeric supplement is a great way to get turmeric in you quickly and without any fuss. The only disadvantage is that you don’t get the delicious taste and flavour that turmeric has to offer.
I recommend Solgar Turmeric Root Extract. I have been using Solgar supplements for years with great results and this product is no exception.
I currently use a brand called TERRA NOVA which contains a very high content of curcumin. I do feel that it has definitely enhanced my MS diet regime!
Summing It Up
Turmeric is a spice that is showing much promise, as an all natural way, to fight the advancement of multiple sclerosis. It seems to have a calming effect on existing inflammation and a protective effect which helps to prevent future nerve damage. It is also delicious and can enhance a number of dishes in your ms diet. Every person with MS needs a steady supply of this spice. Take it in supplement form or if you want to savour it’s flavour, find a good quality source. I’m sure many of you are enjoying the benefits of turmeric already. I would love to hear about the difference it’s making in your health so drop me a comment and share your turmeric story!
Have a great week of healthy eating!