Curcumin eyedrops can stabilise the problem and even reverse it in its early stages, say researchers from Imperial College London.
Medicine is limited in its treatments for glaucoma, an eye problem that destroys retinal cells and can result in blindness. It affects around 60 million people around the world every year, and 10 per cent will eventually lose their sight.
But using curcumin eyedrops twice a day stopped the loss of retinal cells, and this was within three weeks of starting treatment, the researchers found in experiments on laboratory rats.
Curcumin supplements had similar positive effects in earlier studies on glaucoma, but the Imperial researchers think that eyedrops are more reliable and can better target the problem area.
The researchers also think that the eyedrops could be used to diagnose other conditions. Curcumin also already been found to help prevent mental diseases such as Alzheimer's and some cancers, and has anti-inflammatory qualities, which suggests it might also be a treatment for heart disease and arthritis.
Curcumin is an ingredient in turmeric, a spice that is most commonly used in curries and which gives them their yellow colouring.