Turmeric can be a cure for cognitive damages associated with epileptic therapy, says a new research carried out by one of India’s premier health institutes.

Researchers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi investigated the effects of turmeric in rats and found that the age-old herbal paste is effective in curing impaired cognitive functions following epilepsy treatment.

Turmeric was administered in rats that suffered from phenytoin-induced cognitive impairment and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the process in which highly reactive molecules such as free radicals impair particular cellular functions.

The research team found that turmeric, when administered orally with phenytoin, significantly prevented cognitive impairment and oxidative stress. Turmeric was also shown to be effective in boosting memory and reducing stress in the study conducted at the Department of Pharmacology.

"Epilepsy requires long-term antiepileptic drug (AED) therapy, which is advised according to symptoms. However an effective prevention or cure for epilepsy hasn't been available and many drugs in use have side-effects," says K. H. Reeta, assistant professor of pharmacology at AIIMS.

Currently available anti-epilepsy drugs have several side effects although they are effective in treating the neurological problem. Phenytoin is a commonly used antiepileptic drug that has been found effective against all types of seizures. But it is known to cause cognitive impairment in patients as it damages essential macromolecules of the body, including DNA.

Toxicity is common among patients of epilepsy treated with phenytoin, and thus requires careful drug-level monitoring and supportive care. The goal of antiepileptic therapy is freedom from seizure without side-effects and research hasn’t been able to suggest a way forward.

The reasons for this include misdiagnosis of the type of seizure and prescription of the wrong antiepileptic drugs. Phytochemicals have been shown to possess a wide range of properties that facilitate effective treatment without side-effects, say the study.

Turmeric is used extensively in the Indian systems of medicine like Ayurveda, Unani, and Siddha. It is used as a carminative and stomachic in the treatment of digestive disorders such as flatulence, bloating, and appetite loss.

Turmeric, with its antibacterial action, prevents bacterial infections on wounds. Turmeric also has a long history of use for its anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects. As in India, it is used in China, Japan, and Korea for a range of indications including, amenorrhea.