Scientific Sessions 2015 - photo of a white lab ratThe active ingredient in the spice turmeric, called curcumin, may help shield the heart from damage after cardiac arrest and resuscitation, according to two animal studies presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2015.

In the first study, researchers evenly divided 24 rats into three groups. In the first group, rats were pre-treated with curcumin and received epinephrine during resuscitation; the second group received only epinephrine; and the third group received neither treatment.

Researchers found:

  • All eight rats in the curcumin/epinephrine group and the epinephrine-only group were revived, compared to only six rats in the no-treatment group.
  • Seven rats in the combined treatment group lived more than 24 hours compared to only one rat in the epinephrine-only group, and two in the no-treatment group.

“Epinephrine can be both helpful and harmful,” said researcher Wanchun Tang, M.D. “During CPR, epinephrine constricts blood flow to the limbs, allowing more blood to reach the heart and brain—but epinephrine also increases the heart’s need for oxygen, which can lead to damage because that need isn’t met during CPR.”

Heart damage was most severe in the epinephrine-only group, and least severe in those given curcumin plus epinephrine, indicating the curcumin was protective against damage associated with the epinephrine, researchers said.

In a similar study, 16 rats were divided into two groups: half were fed 450-550 grams of curcumin, based on their weight at the start of the experiment, and the other half did not receive curcumin.

Eight minutes after inducing an irregular heart rhythm in the rats, researchers provided CPR and defibrillation to restore normal heart rhythms.

Researchers found:

  • Seven rats in the curcumin group were revived, compared to six in the control group.
  • Ultrasound tests found all 16 rats had significant impairment to the muscular layer of the heart responsible for pumping blood (myocardium).
  • Rats that received curcumin had better heart function.