You’ve probably used the spice turmeric at least a few times before, but it probably wasn’t something you thought about in relation to your eyes. Most people typically encounter turmeric only as a spicy addition that shows up in their kitchen when they’re cooking Indian food. However, research shows that turmeric, a member of the ginger family, has demonstrated significant effects as an herbal remedy for eye health.
The active ingredient in turmeric is a compound called curcumin, which is an effective antioxidant that has shown promise in treating and preventing some forms of retinitis pigmentosa. This genetic condition, which eventually leads to extensive loss of vision or total blindness, involves a gradual degeneration of cells in the retina crucial to vision.
One potential cause of this progressive degeneration is a gradual buildup of improper proteins inside the eye, triggered by an inherited and undesirable gene. Because the condition is genetic, it’s possible to identify both carriers of the condition and those who will eventually exhibit its symptoms. Many studies indicate that turmeric, with its high concentration of curcumin, may act by inhibiting one of the proteins believed to lead to retinitis pigmentosa. This knowledge may enable those carrying these genetic markers to prevent, minimize, or delay the effects of their condition
Turmeric’s antioxidative qualities have also led some researchers to theorize that it may have benefit for patients suffering from glaucoma, as it reduces the oxidative stress that is believed to contribute to the disease’s progression. Antioxidants prevent the formation of free radicals, which are known to eventually cause degeneration within the human eye (and the rest of the body). This antioxidative quality, along with turmeric’s anti-inflammatory qualities, mean that it may have benefits for patients with a variety of other eye conditions, including macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and uveitis. By inhibiting inflammation, turmeric also contributes to lowered blood pressure, which is helpful since high blood pressure is known to unnecessarily stress the eye’s health. Turmeric also contains Vitamin C and Vitamin E, as well as Niacin, all of which are known to possess antioxidant qualities and to have a connection to eye health.
A potential explanation for the effectiveness of curcumin may lie in turmeric’s unique ability to pass through the blood vessels directly into the retina, which enables it to have heightened impact on the health of rods and cones inside the eye.
Turmeric is available as a spice, obviously; however, it is also easily found in capsule and liquid form in higher concentrations. Have you ever tried turmeric for eye health? What about for other conditions? Let us know your experience!
Dr. Jenna Zigler
Other Dry Eye articles by Dr. Zigler: 4 Tips to Stop Waking Up With Dry, Painful Eyes; Which Antidepressants Cause Dry Eye; Fish Oil for Fighting Dry Eye Inflammation; and What Not To Eat If You Have Dry Eye