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A Spice for the Eyes

TumericTurmeric, also known as “the golden spice,” has been around for more than 4,000 years. In India, where Radha Ayyagari, Ph.D., grew up, it’s used widely as both a food spice and an herbal medicine for treating a variety of diseases, including cancer, arthritis, urinary-tract infections and digestive disorders. It has been scientifically established that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is a potent antioxidant. So it’s perhaps no surprise that Dr. Ayyagari, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, San Diego, is developing an extract from turmeric that may be useful in slowing retinal degeneration.

Years ago, while reviewing scientific literature, Dr. Ayyagari discovered that curcumin is a catalyst for producing heat shock proteins, or HSPs, which play an important role in ensuring proper cell function. As so-called cellular chaperones, HSPs help prevent the misfolding of other proteins that occurs in the photoreceptors of people with autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (adRP).

Photoreceptors, or rods and cones, are the retinal cells that enable us to see properly. With adRP, usually one parent is affected and has a mutated gene that causes the disease. In turn, his or her child has a 50 percent chance of inheriting the mutated gene. Dr. Ayyagari, an FFB-funded researcher who’s also a member of the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board, believes that curcumin may be able to help slow the vision loss associated with adRP.

Not long ago, she tested her hypothesis in a lab by adding curcumin to cultured cells that have the P23H mutation of the rhodopsin gene. Also known as RHO, it’s the gene that provides instructions for making a protein called rhodopsin, which is needed for normal vision. The P23H dominant mutation is one of the most common causes of adRP. Dr. Ayyagari also administered curcumin to a rodent model of the disease, and results from both studies were positive, showing that curcumin helps stall vision loss.

I recently asked Dr. Ayyagari a few questions about her curcumin studies. Here’s some of what she had to say:

Dr. Radha Ayyagari

Dr. Radha Ayyagari

How did you get the idea to test curcumin for the treatment of RP?
In India, herbs and spices are commonly used to treat a variety of diseases. Because of its widespread use in treating multiple diseases, I decided to investigate the use of curcumin for RP. Today, many of the drugs that are commonly prescribed are derived from plants. Aspirin, taxol and digitalis are all examples of drugs derived from plants. I think there are a lot more herbs and spices that may help slow disease progression, but they have just not been evaluated yet.

You’re also working on another project, one that’s developing a curcumin-like compound?
Yes. I’ve teamed up with medicinal chemists in synthesizing a curcumin-like compound with 10 times the activity of natural curcumin. In order to avoid systemic side effects, we are planning to deliver the drug directly into the eye. I and my colleagues are currently searching for additional financial support that will help move these studies into human clinical trials.

What else is needed to do that?
Additional research, to further validate the safety and efficacy of the drug in multiple animal models of RP. At high concentrations, curcumin becomes toxic to the body. This is why we developed the drug to directly deliver to the eye. We are currently seeking financial support from non-profit groups and venture capitalists to move this research forward. Research is expensive, and without additional support, we will not be able to move forward.

In addition to her research on curcumin, Dr. Ayyagari is actively involved in trying to identify gene mutations in people affected by retinal diseases. As one of the specific aims in her FFB-supported grant, she is comparing the DNA of individuals affected by RP with the DNA of their unaffected siblings.

In the past, it has been difficult to identify new gene mutations in people with autosomal recessive RP—in which both parents carry one copy of the mutated gene but have no symptoms themselves—because it shows up in one generation, then disappears. By using this novel “DNA comparison” technology, Dr. Ayyagari has identified dozens of new gene mutations in multiple individuals with recessive RP.

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66 Responses to 'A Spice for the Eyes'

  1. Felicia Roberts says:

    i would like more information on the sibling DNA research for RP. My 6 year old son was diagnosed with rod come dystrophy by Emory this year. Thank you.

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      Dr. Ayyagari has funding from FFB and the NEI to develop new DNA testing strategies. She has identified several new disease genes by comparing affected to unaffected siblings. If you are interested in getting into her study, please send me an email to:

  2. Anjum khan says:

    My son is 28 years old. He was diagnosed with RP almost 13 yrs back. He uses a cane. I would like to be informed of any developments made in the research for a possible cite for RP. I live in Los Angeles. If needed, I can even drive down to San Diego All the best to you in your research

  3. Our youngest son Skylar suffers fro RP he’s almost 27yrs of age…his vision is pretty bad and he’s willing to try just about anything

  4. N D Rao says:

    I am rp patient. What should i do?

  5. i am usher syrdome (deaf and RP)
    WALGREE store. The bottle has 60 cap.
    450 MG.
    How many capsule should i take per day?

    Thank you
    Patrick Cave

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      It is not clear how much tumeric will be required to slow retinal degeneration. Dr. Ayyagari is currently trying to develop a synthetic curcumin analogue that has low toxicity as too much tumeric can be toxic. At any rate, you should always discuss taking any supplement with your personal physician.

  6. Doris Melgar says:

    I was diagnosed with RP 23 years ago I’m 57 now. I try any natural herbs, leaves roots, fruits that contains any nutrients for the eye. It helps to slow down the progress of RP, God gave us the trees, to feed us and the leaves to heal us.

    • Srivani says:

      Hi Doris Melgar
      I’m 30 years old ,I was diagnosed with RP recently and doctor told me that I may lose my vision within few years . Can you please suggest me the diet which you take because 23 years you have been suffering with this problem it’s good to see still posting. Please help me.

  7. chris says:

    My grandmother (70’s), father(50), and sister (23) all have rp at three different levels. Please email me about any breakthroughs please. My father actually has usher syndrome and is losing his hearing ad well. I would do anything to help him not lose his sight and hearing.

  8. Susan L says:

    When do you wxpwct this to be commercially available and would it help with retinal cell loss due to other conditions like extreme myopia?

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      Dr. Ayyagari’s curcumin extract may be commmercially available within the next three or four years if she obtains funding to support additional preclinical research. It is unclear whether it would help with cell loss due to extreme myopia.

  9. zahra says:

    I am sufferin from rp hereditery from father. My eldest son is 10 he has rp and my youngest dosent have. If some new research comes pls inform me

  10. charles davis says:

    My Father had RP and I feel he passed it on to me as I have it as well. I am not as pronounced as he was, but in the last 10 years, I have noticed a significant difference in vision.
    I truly hope that something can be done for this debilitating disease, especially for the young. I am almost 60 and thank God for what I do have. I am able to drive a motorcycle in the daytime with caution and pistol shoot among other things. Please keep your research moving forward!

  11. K n says:

    i tried curcumin at 400 mg twice a day and went to check visual acuity and fundal examination every month for 6 months. I was also taking ALA 1200mg along with lutein &zesxanthine and methylcobalamine for the same period. My doctor said your dry eye has disappesred,

    • Shanel says:

      Hello, I am doing an a piece about curcumin and would like to interview people who have had experience with it. Can you help me? Thank you.

  12. muhammad says:

    My son was diagnosed with Stargardt’s when he was 5 years old.
    His genetic test shows mutation in ABCA4 gene.
    Is there any help you can provide?

  13. Freda says:

    My daughter has been diagnosed with RP and it’s progressing please let me know how to incorporate the curcumin in her diet

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      Unfortunately, the studies on curcumin have not yet progressed to human clinical trials. In large amounts, curcumin can be toxic, so please consult with your daughter’s physician before making drastic changes in her diet.

  14. Dianne Dobbins says:

    I will be 65 soon. I have RP and which is getting much worse each year. I am very interested in clinical trials using curcumin as well as other trials. Please let me know as soon as this is available. I started taking Terry Naturally Extra Strength Curcumin 5 days ago. Thank you so much.

  15. Patty paul says:

    What is the suggested dosage of turmeric for RP patients???

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      To my knowledge, there is no established dose of turmeric for RP. Dr. Ayyagari is in the process of developing an extract of turmeric, which is more potent and has less toxicity.

  16. Ash Singh says:

    I am 57yrs old I was diagnosed with RP 10yrs ago.The Drs.said me that it’s genetic and no cure.I researched RP on internet and found Vit A slows the process.I have been taking Vit A and lutein for yrs and my vision has not altered for 10yrs.I hope this will be of help.I have also tried ayurvedic medication and I think that any natural herbs that’s good for the brain will help this process.I am optimistic I will never give up.

    • Risa says:

      Yes, thank you. I just got diagnosed and am taking omegas, vitamins lutein, and a few others. It’s not cheap so it’s good to read / see success stories.

  17. Esther stonaker says:

    How much turmeric can I use,,,I’ve started taking 500 capsule daily ….should I take more the capsule came from walmart

  18. Angela Wright says:

    I am 63 years old and was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 4 years ago and have been having eye injections in both eyes for diabetic retinopathy for the past 18 months. I have just added 400 mg Turmeric to my daily vitamin intake. I have also started the Diabetes Destroyer programme and added turmeric to my first daily milkshake, I had a slight tingling sensation in my eyes immediatly afterwards but this soon subsided and I am now convinced more than ever of the benefits of turmeric and including other natural health products for healing and restoring good health.

    Thank you for your research and your commitment to helping people with their sight.

    • Salli Jo says:

      Hello, Angela! I, too, have diabetic retinopathy and have monthly injections in both eyes to reverse swelling. My ophthalmologist tells me my swelling is advanced. I am very interested to begin using turmeric to help heal my eyes and hopefully preserve and improve my vision.I wish you well!
      Salli Jo, age 53, T1D

  19. reyas ali says:

    hi im trying to get in contact with dr. radha to let know that her study works perfectly! im a rp patent that lost my entire central vision and after reading her study on curcumin and administering it im over joyed to inform you that it did not only suppress this disease it reversed it from 0% to about 75 to 80%

  20. Alex says:

    it worked it worked in just a month taking a capsule on daily basis.
    Omg, I’m freaking out, it really really improved my vision!!!
    please all try it, they sell it at Walmart for 7 bucks!!!

    • sanjukta patnaik says:

      Dear Alex
      Is it true is it true , I just couldn’t believe this. Pl say once more my friend, please.

    • Jim Wangsness says:

      What sort of vision problem do you have? Also, what is the name of the brand you bought at Walmart? Thanks!

  21. joan kersh says:

    I take turmeric every day.the doctor told me on my visit that my eyes a low pressure. The doctor wants me to come back every six months. A little over normal.

  22. Lynette says:

    This is great. I have lumps in my breast I have been using tumric for a long time and it is good thankyou

  23. I have been diagnosed with RD. I am taking Areds 2 vitamins and my wife and I both are taking 1/2 teaspoon twice daily of Turmeric on crackers with peanut butter. Yesterday{05-03-2016)I had a follow up eye exam. My RD level had improved a lot and the doctor was very happy. Could the good results be due to the Turmeric that I am taking along with the Areds 2. I had told my wife that I could see better before having the eye exam yesterday.

  24. sanjukta patnaik says:

    Dear Sir
    Kindly post recent testimonies also. How can I get latest developments in RP cure. Please please help me.

  25. suman says:

    I am taking turmeric twice a day since 60 days. My vision improved a little. Feel it works. Pl guide me to be more precise in administration.


  26. Joon says:

    Do you have any interim report on Dr Radha’s study?If her study has entered human trial ? Please give an update.

  27. Miguel says:

    Good evening, thank you, is it good to drink turmeric tea for a person that undergo surgery for retinal detachment? And lazer? Thank you.

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      Dear Miguel, I have not seen any published preclinical or clinical data that would suggest that turmeric might be able to help people with retinal detachment. Tumeric (curcumin) may be able to help slow retinal degeneration in people with dominant RP by stabilizing mutant protein folding. I have not seen any published preclinical or clinical data that would suggest that turmeric might be able to help people with retinal detachment.

  28. sanjukta says:

    Have you abandoned the research? There is no news since very long. Please write.

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      Dear Sanjukta, Dr. Ayyagari is continuing her research on the use of curcumin for the treatment of RP. I will contact her to find out the progress and post. It is good to know that other researchers have found curcumin to be promising in slow neurodegeneration. Here is a link to an abstract of a paper that shows that curcumin has a neuroprotective effect on the diabetic rat brain.

  29. Matthew Simon says:

    I’m curious to know of Tumeric might be beneficial to improving ones vision if he or she were near-sighted. I’m not referring to anything extreme, just something like maybe 20/50 – 20/80

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      Dear Matthew, To my knowledge, there is no scientific data that would suggest that Tumeric (curcumin) might be able to benefit individuals with myopia (near sightedness).

  30. Ranu laskar says:

    My son 6yrs old .suffering from
    Lca problem .if any suggestion pliz help.

    • Dr. Tim Schoen says:

      Dear Ranu, Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) is a rare, hereditary disorder that leads to retinal dysfunction and visual impairment at an early age – often from birth. Of all the retinal degenerations, LCA has the earliest age of onset and can be the most severe. There are at least 12 genes that when mutated, cause LCA. You should consider genetic testing for your son to try and identify the mutant gene responsible for causing his LCA. If he happens to have a mutation in the RPE-65 gene, he may be able to get into this trial, even though he is less than 18 years of age. For information on genetic testing, please see the following web link to download a PDF document:
      You should also consider enrolling your son in FFB’s “My Retina Tracker”, a free registry that monitors clinical trials that are recruiting for various retinal diseases. For more information on “My Retina Tracker” please see the following web link:
      Finally, you may find it helpful to periodically check the website: http://WWW.CLINICALTRIALS.GOV which is maintained by the National Institutes of Health and contains a searchable list of clinical trials for most known diseases. Each clinical trial listing will provide you with information on what the study is about, the requirements for participating and contact information. Thank you for your support that is helping to accelerate the development of new safe and effective treatments for inherited retinal disease.

  31. Karen singer says:

    I use whole root organic turmeric. Why not go right to the source. I order it from amazon. Com. Also look into organic black seed . Known to cure everything.

  32. John Berlanga says:

    I have advanced Keratoconus I hope this can help someone, my eyesight improved taking 3 teaspoons of Organic Ground Turmeric with a class of water this may be due to reduced inflammation? Keratoconus is a progressive eye disease in which the normally round cornea thins and begins to bulge into a cone-like shape, could this be a result of inflammation and body response? Thank you

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      Hi John, unfortunately the Foundation is not able to answer provide recommendations regarding medical care or treatments for a specific patient. We recommend you consult your doctor for your individual medical needs.

  33. Bobby Casey says:

    I have been taking Curcumin for years to slow my RP and I have had P23H now for 5 years or longer and still have most of my sight with only a few blind spots. My question is how many MG of the actual Curcuminoids do I need to get. Everything is 95% Bioavailble but curcuminoids is what matters. you can take 4,000mg of turmeric or cumcumin and not be getting enough Curcuminoids.

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      Hi Bobby, Adults and children considering any supplementation should first consult their eye doctor to determine if the regimen is right for them.

      • Bobby says:

        I have spoke to my doctor and the director for the foundation fighting blindness and they both said it wouldn’t hurt me but don’t have a recommendation for dosage.

  34. Hello,

    I like this blog it is very caring.

    Thank you for share us

  35. Sanjukta says:

    Sir, I have been taking turmeric fresh root 10gms every day since 3years. But I don’t find any improvement in my vision. But the progression is very very slow. I am very worvery worried. Pls help me.

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      Hi Sanjukta, It is not clear how much turmeric will be required to slow retinal degeneration. Dr. Ayyagari is currently trying to develop a synthetic curcumin analogue that has low toxicity as too much tumeric can be toxic. You should always discuss taking any supplement with your personal physician.

  1. […] have another reason to enjoy the food here. Recent research by Dr. Radha Ayyagari, highlighted by FFB’s Eye on the Cure blog, underscores the connection of turmeric with retinal health. Need I say more? I heard over the […]

  2. […] Autosomal Dominant Retinitis Pigmentosa. There is ongoing research to determine if curcumin helps reduce the progression of retinitis pigmentosa in those with the autosomal dominant mutation. (FFB website) […]

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