Believe it or not, curcumin has something in it that repairs muscle better than anything presently known. Derived from the spice turmeric, curcumin speeds recovery without injections or side effects.
Although the data is preliminary, it appears that when curcumin is taken orally, it has the ability to home in on injured muscle. Once there, it changes the biochemistry of baby muscle cells, causing them to grow faster and clump together quicker to create new tissue. According to the study, curcumin caused muscle cells to fuse together twice as fast as they ordinarily would.
It's not known exactly how curcumin works. Researchers do know, however, that curcumin suppresses a factor that influences growth factors. This factor, NF B (nuclear factor kappa B), plays a prominent role in immunity and cell growth. Immediately after muscle injury, the immune system dispatches cells to the area. Their job is to destroy old tissue and begin new construction. NF B is one of the lines of communication immune cells use to get things done. By influencing NF B, curcumin modulates the repair process.
The regeneration of muscle is a complex phenomenon. Curcumin works in part by changing the arrival time and status of chemical messengers known as cytokines. Cytokines appear at the scene early on, and they have a powerful effect on inflammation and cell growth. A cytokine known as IL-6 (interleukin-6), for example, makes muscle cells multiply. Another one called TNF (tumor necrosis factor) keeps cells from growing up, developing. By suppressing one, and enhancing the other, curcumin can speed things up.
The authors of the study believe that curcumin works by other mechanisms that probably involve growth factors, but this has not been proven yet. In other attempts to make muscles regenerate, researchers have tried injecting synthetic growth factors or transplanting myoblasts–all with limited success. Curcumin seems to be a much safer, more effective treatment – at least in the early stages. The effects of curcumin are felt early on–right after injury when the body first sends out the repair squads.
So if you want to try curcumin for muscle regeneration, make sure you take it as soon as the injury occurs. The authors of the study predict that curcumin may be useful not only for accidental injuries or sports, but also to help repair surgical damage.
Thaloor D, et al. 1999. Systemic administration of the NF- B inhibitor curcumin stimulates muscle regeneration after traumatic injury. Am J Physiol 277(2 pt 1):C320-29.
Wound treatment may be enhanced by curcumin, it turns out. In an experiment using groups of curcumin-treated and untreated rats and guinea pigs, researchers discovered "faster wound closure" in the treated animals compared to their untreated counterparts. Subsequent biopsies of the wounds showed redevelopment of epidermal cells, increased migration of various other cells to the wound site like myofibroblasts, fibroblasts and macrophages, and extensive re-growth of blood vessels.
As a follow-up to a study, scientists reached similar results among diabetic rodents who experienced impaired healing. The researchers found improved blood vessel formation, increased cell migration to the wound site, and higher levels of collagen, a fibrous protein found in connective tissue, bone and cartilage.
Sidhu GS et al. Enhancement of wound healing by curcumin in animals. Wound Repair Regen 1998 Mar-Apr;6(2):167-77.
Sidhu GS et al. Curcumin enhances wound healing in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats and genetically diabetic mice. Wound Repair Regen 1999 Sep-Oct;7(5):362-74.