Eye Drops Made From Turmeric Could Prevent Blindness in Glaucoma Patients, Researchers Say

Researchers in London found that the future of vision-loss treatment could be found inside the turmeric root plant. Elizabeth LEMOINE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

A bright orange spice used in Indian curry recipes, turmeric could offer hope for one of the leading causes of blindness.

Researchers in London found that turmeric eye drops might be able to slow the progression of vision loss in people with glaucoma. A group of diseases, glaucoma causes damage to the eye's optic nerve and can lead to blindness. In a paper published on Monday in Scientific Reports, researchers found that the future of treatment could be found inside the root plant, also known as golden saffron.

A trial in rats with similar eye conditions found that the drops slowed the progression of disease. If the researchers are able to replicate these results in humans, this could have huge ramifications for the more than 60 million people worldwide who live with deteriorating vision.

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An ophthalmological practice in Geneva, Switzerland. Researchers in London found that eye drops made from the plant turmeric might be able to stop vision loss in glaucoma patients. Getty Images

"We believe our findings could make a major contribution at helping the lives of people affected by these devastating diseases," the study's lead author, Francesca Cordeiro, said in a statement.

Glaucoma mainly involves the loss of retinal ganglion cells, a type of neuron located near the surface of the retina. Researchers have been trying to figure out how to stop the loss of these cells, which could slow the progression of vision loss.

When the team of researchers from UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, Western Eye Hospital and Imperial College London set out to make the turmeric eye drops, they already knew of research that had shown that the chemical curcumin, derived from turmeric, could help with vision loss. In fact, this plant has been used medicinally for centuries in South Asia. Western medicine is just starting to recognize that is might help with treating a range of conditions.

Earlier this month, University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers mapped how this spice could impair the growth of cancer. Another study found that turmeric could be an effective treatment for burns. A study that came out in March found that the plant could help prevent Parkinson's disease.

A problem that continues to surface is that curcumin does not easily get absorbed into the bloodstream. In order to see results, people would have to consume large amounts of the plant, and they might still not see any benefits.

The researchers in London thought that an eye drop could solve this issue, providing a more effective and easier way to administer treatment for glaucoma.

After twice-daily use of eye drops in the rats for three weeks, the researchers noticed a significant slow in deterioration of the cells in the retina. The treatment was also tolerated well, with no signs of eye irritation or inflammation.

This research comes at a time when populations around the globe are living longer, and age-related diseases, like glaucoma, are becoming more common, making it more important than ever for scientists to find a solution, Cordeiro said.