4 Potential Benefits Of Curcumin For Alcoholism [Evidence-Based]

curcumin for alcoholism and alcohol abuse

Name: Curcumin, Turmeric, Curcuma longa , Haldi
Goes well with: Kudzu, Ashwagandha, Holy Basil
Number of scientific references: 27
Level of Evidence: Level I What is this?

Note: Curcumin benefits in alcoholism by protecting brain health and reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. It protects from alcohol-induced liver injury. It’s antidepressant and anxiolytic properties may help mitigate alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These findings are yet to be validated by human studies, but curcumin as an add-on therapy for alcoholism may aid in systemic recovery.

The toxic effect of excessive alcohol consumption on the nervous system depends on factors such as age, amount of alcohol consumed and duration of exposure.

In adults, chronic or binge alcohol consumption can adversely affect the central and peripheral nervous system and may even lead to a loss of white matter in our brain.

Squeglia and colleagues conducted a three year follow up study involving 40 healthy teens (12-17 years of age). Within the 3-year period, half of the adolescents transitioned to heavy drinking.

The researchers observed that those adolescents who transitioned to heavy drinking had smaller brain volume in the frontal region (front of the brain) and they experienced greater reductions in brain volume in subcortical and temporal regions.

Brain shrinkage in alcoholism has been strongly linked with impaired decision making. This, in turn, may interfere with the motivation process to stick to the treatment and a healthy lifestyle and may even contribute to relapse.

Neuroprotection is a clinical term which means protecting the brain and nervous tissue. Conventional therapy aims to reduce alcohol dependence and maintain sobriety but protecting brain health and supporting its recovery from alcohol abuse is something that modern medicine does not focus on.

Curcumin, the active ingredient present in turmeric, has been widely researched upon especially about neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions.

Curcumin can help with alcohol addiction as a neuroprotective agent: it can protect brain health from alcohol toxicity and support its recovery. It can also combat alcohol-induced oxidative stress and protect from liver damage.

These potential benefits of the phytonutrient are yet to be validated in human studies but keeping in mind other human studies that have confirmed similar therapeutic actions of curcumin; it would be safe to use it as an adjunct therapy for alcoholism.

Suggested Curcumin Supplements for Alcoholism

Please consult a health practitioner before taking any health supplements. Please read the ingredient list before purchasing any supplement.

Standardised 95% Curcumin with Bioperine

These supplements are for those individuals who prefer a higher concentration of standardised Curcumin and Bioperine.

These are derived from natural spices turmeric and black pepper. Some supplements may also contain turmeric root powder in addition to standardised extracts.

Bioperine is a patented extract of piperine from black pepper that improves curcumin’s absorption by 2000%. Please read the ingredient list before purchase.

Curcumin and Bioperine Supplements: Buy from Amazon (US, UK, Canada)

Curcumin and Bioperine Supplement: Buy from iHerb (Global)

Patented Curcumin Formulations

Here are some other patented curcumin formulations that are designed to improve its bioavailability.

Longvida is a patented formulation is developed by UCLA scientists and Verdure Sciences. It is designed specifically for brain health. It packs curcumin in a fat soluble matrix (Solid Lipid Particle Technology) and is 65 times more bioavailable than unformulated version. It provides only 80mg curcumin for every 400mg formulation.

Theracurmin is developed by Theravalues Corp, Japan. It is a colloidal nanoparticle dispersion where nanoscale particles of curcumin are stabilised by mixing in glycerine and vegetable gum to develop a stable water-soluble formulation. It is 27 times more bioavailable than unformulated version.

Please read the ingredient list before purchase as the product may contain soy.

Nutrivene Longvida Curcumin
Natural Factors CurcuminRich Theracurmin
longvida suppplement

Image Credit: Nutrivene, International Nutrition, Inc.

theracurmin supplement

Image Credit: Natural Factors

Provides 500mg of Longvida per capsule Provides 30mg Theracurmin per veg capsule

Buy from Amazon (US, UK, Canada)

Buy similar product from iHerb (Global)

Buy from Amazon (US, UK, Canada)

Buy from iHerb (Global)

4 Potential Benefits Of Curcumin For Alcoholism

Curcumin is one of the active components present in turmeric. Turmeric is a spice native to India and curcumin, and other curcuminoids impart an orange-yellow colour to the spice.

Curcumin has multiple pharmacological properties that can be beneficial for treating and supporting recovery from alcoholism. Most of these findings are limited to animal studies.

1.Curcumin protects brain health from side effects of excess alcohol

Science has confirmed that excessive alcohol consumption triggers a process of oxidative damage and inflammation that damages neurons and leads to cognitive deficits.

It crosses the blood-brain barrier and affects or brain’s chemistry. It activates our brain’s immune cells to trigger uncontrolled inflammation.

It also increases our gut permeability and this, in turn, allows toxins produced by unhealthy gut bacteria to enter our system. Disruption of gut microflora and exposure to toxins fuels neuroinflammation.

In an animal study, curcumin dose-dependently (better effect at higher doses) reduced cognitive impairment, inflammation, oxidative stress and prevented alcohol-induced cell death of brain cells (Neuroscience, 2013).

Rajakrishnan and colleagues have proven that curcumin offers neuroprotection from alcohol-induced brain damage by increasing the levels of glutathione (one of the tools are brain and body uses for natural antioxidant defence) and by reducing signs of oxidative damage.

A recent study published in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 2017 revealed that curcumin prevents alcohol-induced neurodegeneration in the hippocampus by activating nerve growth factors.

Hippocampus is the part of the brain that is actively involved in memory retention. Nerve growth factors such as Brain Derived Nerve Growth Factor, are a family of proteins that support growth, development and regeneration of the nervous tissue.

Quick Gist: Chronic alcohol consumption not only affects our cognition but can even lead to shrinkage of brain volume and damage brain cells. Curcumin is a neuroprotective agent and can help the brain recover from deleterious side effects of excess alcohol intake.

Animal studies demonstrate that curcumin elevates the brain’s natural antioxidant defences and reduces alcohol-induced inflammation. It can even activate nerve growth factors to support regeneration and development of brain cells.

2.It may help mitigate alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Curcumin has proven antidepressant property (evidenced by human studies) which it mediates in multiple ways such as reducing inflammation, elevating antioxidant defences, increasing nerve growth factor levels and even by restoring brain chemistry.

This may help reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms, anxiety, sleep disturbances, cognitive deficits caused by excessive alcohol intake.

Circadian rhythm refers to our biological clock or our sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleep pattern.

Alcohol consumption disturbs our brain chemistry and adversely impacts our circadian rhythm. A study published in Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, 2007 explored the role of curcumin on alcohol-induced disturbance of the circadian rhythm.

Alcohol withdrawal did not restore the circadian rhythm and also did not restore levels of neurotransmitters. Curcumin administration partially restored neurotransmitter levels and also brought about improvements in circadian rhythm.

Kudzu is a herb proven to reduce alcohol cravings. Singh and colleagues conducted an animal study where they examined the potential of puerarin (obtained from kudzu), polyenylphosphatidylcholine (obtained from soy) and curcumin (obtained from turmeric) for reducing alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Puerarin from kudzu was effective in reducing alcohol withdrawal symptoms but did not reduce inflammation. Polyenylphosphatidylcholine and curcumin were only effective in reducing inflammation.

Combination of puerarin and polyenylphosphatidylcholine or curcumin effectively reduced both addiction-related and inflammation-related abnormalities.

Further in 2013, the same research group demonstrated that nanoparticles of puerarin and curcumin have a synergistic action and are effective in reducing inflammation.

These findings suggest that combination therapy with kudzu and curcumin can effectively control alcohol withdrawal symptoms and simultaneously support systemic recovery. More research should be conducted on the safety of the duo.

Quick Gist: Curcumin may help protect cognition and restore brain chemistry. It is clinically proven to reduce depressive symptoms and may also assist in normalising sleep pattern.

Curcumin in combination with kudzu can effectively reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms and support recovery. Further research in the form of human studies is required.

2.It protects from alcohol-induced oxidative stress and assists in detoxification

Chronic excessive alcohol intake impairs our natural antioxidant defences and induces a state of oxidative stress (imbalance between prooxidant and antioxidant agents in the body).

This can lead to liver damage, hypertension and damage to other organs of the body as well.

Curcumin is a potent natural antioxidant. It improves the level of antioxidant enzymes and reduces the level of prooxidant agents in acute alcoholism and protects liver health.

A pre-clinical study (Biofactors, 2014) demonstrated that curcumin and capsaicin synergistically counteract alcohol-induced oxidative stress and prevents alcohol-induced brain damage.

Lipid peroxidative is a sign of oxidative damage where fats present in the cells are oxidised, and this leads to cell death. Alcohol consumption induces lipid peroxidation and damages liver cells.

Researchers state that daily curcumin consumption can protect from such oxidative stress.

Consumption of alcohol with a diet rich in unhealthy fats is said to aggravate oxidative stress. Turmeric’s active component may help protect from such damage and protect both heart and vascular health.

N-acetylcysteine is a strong antioxidant and also has antidepressant property. It is a precursor to glutathione- our natural antioxidant defence. Curcumin in combination with NAC is found to strengthen antioxidant defences against alcohol toxicity and reduce the level of inflammatory agents.

Theracurmin is a patented formulation developed by Theravalues Corp., Japan. It comprises colloidal nanoparticles of curcumin which is 27 times more bioavailable than unformulated version. Curcumin by itself has poor water solubility and is not absorbed well in the body.

The researchers who developed Theracurmin conducted a study wherein they treated individuals experiencing alcohol intoxication with 100ml water with or without 30mg Theracurmin.

It was observed that participants who consumed Theracurmin had lower acetaldehyde levels in the blood. No significant reduction in blood alcohol levels was observed.

Researchers concluded that Theracurmin could lower acetaldehyde levels after alcohol intoxication and this may reduce hangover symptoms.

Quick Gist: Curcumin is a natural antioxidant. Alcohol consumption causes systemic oxidative stress, and dietary inclusion or supplementation with this phytonutrient can effectively strengthen our natural antioxidant defences and help fight alcohol-induced toxicity.

3.Curcumin protects from alcoholic liver disease

Alcohol and its metabolites at high concentrations can act as hepatotoxins- toxic for the liver. They injure liver cells and cause scarring of liver tissue or fibrosis. Similar damage can occur to the pancreas as well.

Multiple pre-clinical studies have found that active ingredients of turmeric can protect liver health from alcohol-induced damage.

Hepatic stellate cells are vitamin A-storing cells present in the liver, and their activation in liver damage leads to the formation of scar tissue. Curcumin prevents liver fibrosis by inhibiting alcohol-induced activation of hepatic stellate cells.

It enhances antioxidant capacity of the body and reduces the formation of reactive oxygen species to protect from and prevent alcohol-induced liver damage.

Nuclear factor kappa B is a group of proteins that have multiple functions including regulating inflammatory processes. It is also involved in the progression of the alcoholic liver disease.

Curcumin switches off the genes that control Nuclear factor kappa B to prevent alcoholic liver disease.

The alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the earlier stages of alcoholic liver disease where the liver is damaged and hence can’t break down fats. The fats get accumulated in the liver further leading to scarring of liver tissue.

Turmeric’s active ingredient benefits in alcoholic fatty liver disease by regulating fat metabolism and formation of fatty acids in the body.

Interestingly, findings of one animal study suggest that curcumin may have dual effects of alcohol-induced liver injury; at high concentration, it may accelerate the damage. Further research is required to confirm this activity.

Quick Gist: Curcumin protects from alcoholic liver diseases in multiple ways: by improving antioxidant status, reducing inflammation, regulating fat metabolism, preventing scarring of liver tissue.

It can be considered as an add-on therapy especially at early stages of alcohol-induced liver damage.

4.It may relieve alcoholic neuropathy symptoms

Alcohol-related peripheral neuropathy is a complication of alcoholism which can impact sensory, motor or even autonomic nervous system. There is quite a bit of a debate on whether alcoholic neuropathy is a toxin (alcohol-induced) or a nutritional (vitamin B deficiency) neuropathy.

In one of my earlier posts, I have discussed the potential benefits of curcumin for peripheral neuropathy. It’s neuroprotective, and pain-relieving activities can help in this condition.

Kandhare et al. demonstrated via an animal study that curcumin and Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) together prevent and remedy alcohol-induced neuropathy by inhibiting pro-inflammatory agents.

In the study, the duo improved nerve function, reduced inflammation, oxidative stress and lowered DNA damage in the nerve.

Sildenafil, a drug used to treat erectile dysfunction, apparently holds benefits for neurological diseases as well. A recent study published in European Journal of Pharmacology, 2017 showed that curcumin and sildenafil alone or in combination improves nerve function and reduces neuropathic pain in alcohol-induced neuropathy.

Quick Gist: Excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to oxidative stress and nutritional deficiencies which may lead to nerve damage and peripheral neuropathy.

Curcumin can help prevent alcohol-induced neuropathy by reducing inflammation and protecting nerve health.

Dosage of Curcumin For Alcoholism

No study in humans till date has evaluated the efficacy of curcumin for treating alcohol abuse and addiction.

Curcumin has low bioavailability and is not water soluble; this limits its efficacy. Black pepper and fats help increase its absorption.

The general recommended doses of standardised curcumin and Bioperine is 1000-2000mg per day. Bioperine is the patented formulation containing piperine from black pepper that helps improve absorption of curcumin.

Start with small doses such as 500mg per day and increase gradually over weeks. It is best to take the capsules after meals for better absorption.

Researchers have developed other formulations to improve curcumin’s absorption such as Meriva and Theracurmin.

Longvida is a patented formulation is developed by UCLA scientists and Verdure Sciences. It is designed specifically for brain health. It packs curcumin in a fat soluble matrix (Solid Lipid Particle Technology) and is 65 times more bioavailable than unformulated curcumin.

It provides only 80mg curcumin for every 400mg formulation and it can be taken at a dose of 400mg per day.

Theracurmin is developed by Theravalues Corp, Japan. It is a colloidal nanoparticle dispersion where nanoscale particles of curcumin are stabilised by mixing in glycerine and vegetable gum to develop a stable water-soluble formulation.

It is 27 times more bioavailable than unformulated curcumin and can be taken at a dose of 60-180mg per day. One study (in humans) has utilised a dose of 30mg of Theracurmin for reducing alcohol intoxication and hangover symptoms.

Please consult a health practitioner before taking curcumin supplements.

Precautions with Curcumin Use

Dietary curcumin or turmeric is safe for consumption. Studies assessing the safety limit of curcumin have found doses up to 8-12g safe on short-term. But for alcoholism dosages up to 2-3g should be effective and safe as well.

Sudden high doses of curcumin may cause gastric side effects such as acid reflux like symptoms, diarrhoea, nausea etc.

This can be avoided by starting with small doses and increasing the dose gradually over weeks. Also, you should avoid taking turmeric supplements on an empty stomach.

Curcumin has anti-platelet activity; if you have a bleeding disorder or if you take blood-thinning medications, please take it with caution. Discontinue the use of curcumin two weeks before surgery.

It has an immunomodulatory activity which is beneficial in autoimmune conditions, but you must take it with caution if already using immunosuppressants.

In case of active gallstones or gallbladder contraction, avoid turmeric supplements as it may cause gallbladder contractions which can be painful in such cases.

Turmeric as a spice is high in oxalates. Dietary intake of turmeric must be limited if one is susceptible to kidney stones. Curcumin supplements can help in such cases.

It interacts with drug metabolising enzymes; please maintain a 3-4 hour gap between taking curcumin and any medication.

Please consult a health practitioner before taking curcumin supplements.

Conclusion

Curcumin is a potential neuroprotective agent that can help support cognition and assist recovery of the brain from alcohol abuse.

Though not tested in human studies, the compound’s antidepressant, anxiolytic, nerve regenerating properties and ability to improve levels of nerve growth factors can help rectify the loss of brain volume as well as counteract cognitive impairment caused by alcoholism.

Additionally, it counteracts alcohol-induced oxidative stress, cellular injury, liver injury and may even protect from increased cancer-risk.

Explore the research backed benefits of curcumin for alcoholism and alcohol withdrawal.

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