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Can Turmeric Cure Insomnia? (Science-Based Review)

by Dale Cudmore | Updated: May 04, 2021

Turmeric isn’t exactly a new spice, but it’s been getting a lot more attention lately both in online and academic communities.

Currently, researchers are studying the anti-inflammation potential to potentially treat many different neurological conditions (1).

Naturally, insomnia comes up in this conversation. While no direct research has been done on this topic, I’ll go over all the closely related research with you in this post.

And to do that, we first have to look at curcuminoids, the compounds responsible for turmeric’s apparent health benefits.

What is Curcumin?

Curcumin is the main curcuminoid in turmeric.

It can be extracted from turmeric, and is used in a wide variety of food and even medicinal products. It often gives a yellow coloration, whether it’s on purpose or not.

What’s so special about curcumin?

While the substance is still being studied, being able to cross the blood-brain barrier is the main attribute that currently stands out.

It has an anti-inflammatory effect, which can then in turn have a lot of potential benefits.

Benefits of Curcumin in Turmeric

Let’s quickly look at the results of a few studies that looked at the effects of curcumin in one way or another:

  • In a mouse study, curcumin extract prevented anxiety like effects in sleep-deprived mice (2).
  • “Curcumin demonstrates neuroprotective action in Alzheimer's disease, tardive dyskinesia, major depression, epilepsy, and other related neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders.” (3)
  • Curcumin demonstrated an antidepressant effect in rats (4).

The last one is particularly interesting when it comes to insomnia. Depression is one of the most common causes of insomnia.

Obviously, research into the effects of curcumin is still relatively new, which is why you find mice studies instead of human studies for the most part.

SummaryWhile much more research needs to be done, early evidence seems to show that curcumin (derived from turmeric) has a general neuroprotective effect.

Will Turmeric Improve Insomnia Symptoms?

It’s tough to answer this question with any confidence because there is currently no direct research looking at the effects of turmeric on people with sleep trouble.

The closest thing is a study that looked at turmeric supplementation in breast cancer patients (5).

The findings were pretty impressive:

Turmeric supplementation for 21 days resulted in clinically relevant and statistically significant improvement in global health status, symptom scores (fatigue, nausea, vomiting, pain, appetite loss, insomnia), and hematological parameters.

How much did insomnia symptoms improve?

Subjects took a quality of life quiz that measured several health indicators. All were scored on a scale from 0 to 100.

For the case of insomnia, a higher score was worse. The median “insomnia” measurement improved from 16.04 to 4.09.

SummaryThere’s very little research looking at the effects of turmeric on insomnia. However, early research does show quite a bit of promise. More studies will need to be done to confirm if there is a reliable effect, and how turmeric supplementation would compare to other treatments.

How Much Turmeric Would You Need to Eat to Potentially See Benefits?

Based on what we’ve looked at, it’s hard to draw any conclusions.

However, let’s say you’re optimistic and want to see if turmeric can improve your sleep (if you have chronic insomnia, do this with doctor supervision alongside other treatment).

The study we just looked at above used a 21 day dose of 2 grams per day.

That’s about 1 teaspoon of turmeric, about the amount you’d find in a large helping of curry. It’s pretty realistic to get that much from food, but there are also over the counter turmeric pills.

A Word of Caution

First, more research needs to be done to prove that turmeric has a reliable positive effect on insomnia.

Second, taking concentrated pills of almost anything can be unhealthy or even dangerous. That’s why doctor supervision is always good when it comes to supplementation, and why you should follow dosage instructions on supplement packaging.

References

  1. Therapeutic Potential of Turmeric in Alzheimer's Disease: Curcumin or Curcuminoids?
  2. Possible nitric oxide modulation in protective effect of (Curcuma longa, Zingiberaceae) against sleep deprivation-induced behavioral alterations and oxidative damage in mice
  3. An Overview of Curcumin in Neurological Disorders
  4. Anti-depressant like effect of curcumin and its combination with piperine in unpredictable chronic stress-induced behavioral, biochemical and neurochemical changes
  5. Turmeric supplementation improves the quality of life and hematological parameters in breast cancer patients on paclitaxel chemotherapy: A case series

Medical Disclaimer: The information on SnoozeUniversity.com is not intended to be a substitute for physician or other qualified care. We simply aim to inform people struggling with sleep issues about the nature of their condition and/or prescribed treatment.


About the authorDale is the founder of Snooze University and a sleep researcher. I overcame my sleep issues and now I'd like to help you do the same by summarizing the latest sleep studies for you.