Kolkata, Sept 23 (IANS): Turmeric at the optimum dose is highly effective in soothing gastric inflammation and ulceration, which could be the key to developing new drugs against such stomach disorders, say Indian scientists.
Turmeric, which belongs to the ginger family of plants, has been used as an alternative medicine since the last 3,000 years. It is also known to have antiseptic properties.
Curcumin is its major component responsible for the spice's yellow colour and its therapeutic effects.
"It (curcumin) has been shown to be a good cure for gastric ailments like inflammation and ulceration. While its low doses are not effective, at high doses it might aggravate the situation. But we have come up with the optimum dose at which curcumin is therapeutic," Snehasikta Swarnakar, senior scientist at Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB)'s Drug Development Diagnostic and Biotechnology Division, who led the research, told IANS.
IICB is an institute under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India's premier industrial R&D organisation.
Gastric ulceration and inflammation occur as a side effect to indiscriminate use of pain-killers (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs) and also due to stress.
Researcher conducted on rats helped in successfully evaluating the optimum dose. "For rats, the proper dose is around 50 mg per kg of their body weight, which is equivalent to 100 mg per kg of body weight in humans," said Swarnakar.
The study, published in 2012 in the Anti-oxidants and Redox Signaling Journal, was also the first to shed light on the exact mechanism by which curcumin aids the healing process.
"This is the first study to reveal that the presence of curcumin in the system before or after ulcer development may promote formation of new blood vessels at the site of healing, and restore collagen fibres - the tissue that adds structural strength to body parts," said co-researcher Nilanjana Maulik of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington, US.
NSAIDs like indomethacin breaks up the blood vessel network in the stomach tissues and disrupts the collagen fibres - the tissue responsible for structural strength.
"Curcumin comes to the rescue by regulating the levels of two enzymes involved in the formation of new blood vessels, Swarnakar said.
One of the enzymes - MMP-2 - is a house-keeping enzyme that should be present in the system, and the other - MMP-9 - is inflammatory which is not required in the body.
"Curcumin increases the levels of MMP-2, while simultaneously lowering the MMP-9 level. This balance between the two enzymes is the key to its actions," Swarnakar said.