Curcumin is a natural polyphenol component of Curcuma longa Linn, which is currently considered one of the most effective nutritional antioxidants for counteracting free radical-related diseases. Several experimental data have highlighted the pleiotropic neuroprotective effects of curcumin, due to its activity in multiple antioxidant and anti-inflammatory pathways involved in neurodegeneration. Although its poor systemic bioavailability after oral administration and low plasma concentrations represent restrictive factors for curcumin therapeutic efficacy, innovative delivery formulations have been developed in order to overwhelm these limitations. This review provides a summary of the main findings involving the heme oxygenase/biliverdin reductase system as a valid target in mediating the potential neuroprotective properties of curcumin. Furthermore, pharmacokinetic properties and concerns about curcumin's safety profile have been addressed.
Keywords: curcumin; free radicals; heme oxygenase; neuroprotection; safety profile.