Nerve pain is a chronic condition that can cause disabling if not well handled. It originates from lesions in the somatosensory system often caused by trauma, disease or dysfunction. Such injuries can trigger central sensitization, ectopic nerve activity, and inflammatory reactions which in turn manifest as electric shock-like pain, pricking and burning. Nerve pain can be unbearable and requires aggressive therapy because it is not self-limiting.
Treatment for neuropathies remains a challenge since effective remedies are limited and conventional medicine has proven to do more harm than good when it comes to side effects. However, a study on natural remedies shows that curcumin, an active extract of turmeric is valuable in managing nerve pain, with minimal side effects. The studies suggest that the ability of turmeric to reduce nerve pain equals the actions of highly active prescription drugs like morphine.
How turmeric treats nerve pain
Curcumin contains antioxidant properties which are crucial in managing nerve pain. These properties help by improving the delivery of nutrients to the nerves and preventing oxidation from free radicals. Free radicals are small molecules produced by the body in response to biological processes. Other contributors of free radicals include pollution, stress, and a poor diet. When there is excessive production of free radicals and insufficient antioxidant activity, the blood vessels get damaged. Oxidative damaged is also linked to accelerated aging and chronic disease risk. This damage also decreases nutrient delivery to the nerves, leading to failing health. Turmeric’s antioxidant properties can help slow down or completely halt this route of neuropathy disease progression. Animal experiments have also proven that curcumin possesses anti-ischemic properties which ensure the active blood supply to the nerves.
Chronic pain is a severe symptom of neuropathy that is difficult to treat. Turmeric produces analgesic properties by reducing oxidative damage, reducing inflammation, and promoting healing. This means that turmeric supplements may reduce the perception of pain in a patient. Curcumin also contains anti-nociceptive activity which prevents the transmission of pain signals, thus providing relief to people suffering from nerve pain. Besides, turmeric supplement is useful in alleviating tingling sensations and numbness that make the pain unbearable.
Turmeric improves nerve cell growth, which is crucial for healthy neurons. Animal studies have shown that curcumin induces neurogenesis in adults. By promoting cell growth, turmeric can boost the health of the nervous systems. Curcumin has been attributed to increasing the brain hormone known as BDNF, which encourages the growth of neurons, improves their activity, strengthens and protects them. Healthy neurons translate to healthy nerves that are not at risk of pain.
Chronic illnesses such as diabetes caused by high blood sugar are a risk factor for nerve pain. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) damages nerve cells by destroying the blood vessels that are responsible for the health of the nerves and damaging the nerves themselves. In an animal study done with rats, curcumin was found to improve glucose tolerance. It has also been seen to enhance the body’s ability to produce insulin, consequently lowering blood sugar. With the blood sugar under control, people with diabetes and pre-diabetes can avoid nerve damage that results from hyperglycemia.
Nerve damage is also high serum triglyceride levels known as hyperlipidemia. It increases the risk of having neuropathy or worsens existing symptoms. An article in neuropathycure.org suggests that curcumin decreases serum triglyceride levels, improves cholesterol by decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL) and increasing good cholesterol (HDL). By normalizing triglyceride levels, turmeric may reduce nerve damage linked to hyperlipidemia.
Turmeric is anti-inflammatory. Damaged nerves cause an inflammation which translates to nerve pain. In some instances, nerves are compressed, resulting in inflammation, damage, and other neuropathy related symptoms. Chronic inflammation is a driver towards many chronic illnesses such as arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. All these diseases predispose an individual to nerve damage. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory activity is so powerful that it compares to that of some mainstream drugs. Through these properties, it can relieve inflammation and improve neuropathy symptoms.
Traditional medicine has for many years incorporated turmeric and its extract in the treatment. It has been helpful in Chinese medicine in treating conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease for years, but it has recently shown it can relieve nerve disease. It has mainly been useful because it does not have any side effects and is rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Its supplements used to aid nerve pain treatment is available, and user feedback has been satisfactory, so it is worth trying. However, for optimal results patients should exercise rational use as directed by experts. High-quality supplements increase the ability of the body to absorb the curcumin and alleviate neuropathy symptoms.