Curcumin and Autism

Curcumin is the phyochemical component in tumeric.  The rhizome or root of this plant is known as being the most useful.  Curcuminoids are the active from used for its healing properties.

Neuroinflammatory (brain inflammation) responses play a pivotal role in the development of autistic behaviours. Studies show that curcumin suppresses oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction, TNF-α and MMP-9 in PPA-induced autism in rats. Therefore, curcumin can be developed as a potential therapeutic adjunct for autism spectrum disorders (ASD).1

Curcumin is a very important compound in the phase 2 detoxification pathway.  This is the conjugation pathway where the liver cells add another substance (eg. cysteine, glycine, or a sulphur molecule) to a toxic chemical or drug, to render it less harmful.  This makes the toxin water soluble and better able to be excreted from the body via bile or urine.

If the phase one and two detoxification pathways become overloaded, there will be a build up of toxins in the body. Many of these toxins are fat soluble and incorporate themselves into fatty parts of the body where they may stay for years, if not for a lifetime. The brain and the endocrine (hormonal) glands are fatty organs, and are common sites for fat-soluble toxins to accumulate. This may result in symptoms of brain dysfunction and hormonal imbalances, such as MS, autism, speech delays, and ataxia. Many of these chemicals (eg. pesticides, petrochemicals, mercury and lead) are carcinogenic and have been implicated in the rising incidence of many cancers.

The research of Dr. William Walsh, Ph.D2, and Dr. Anjum Usman, MD, have found alterations in the functioning of metallothionein protein (MT) in children with autism.  This impairment impacts  brain development and causes extreme sensitivity to toxic metals and other environmental substances.   This supports and begins to explain why environmental toxicity combined with genetic susceptibility leads to autism.

Curcumin is being used in heavy metal detoxification protocols to help support phase 2 detoxification pre and post chelation treatment.

  1. Bhandari R1Kuhad A2.  Neuropsychopharmacotherapeutic efficacy of curcumin in experimental paradigm of autism spectrum disorder.  Life Sci. 2015 Nov 15;141:156-69. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2015.09.012. Epub 2015 Sep 25.


2.  William J. Walsh, Ph. D.  Disordered Metal Metabolism in Autism Spectrum Disorders. New Developments: Volume 7, Number 1 – Fall, 2001