Turmeric Curcumin Reprogramming Cancer Cell Death

curcumin

Description

Turmeric is a spice grown in India and other tropical regions of Asia. It has a long history of use in herbal remedies, particularly in China, India, and Indonesia. The root and rootstock, or rhizome, of the plant contain curcumin, which is considered to be the active ingredient. Curcumin is not related to cumin, which is a spice made from the seeds of a different plant.

Overview

Turmeric is a common food flavoring and coloring in Asian cooking. Animal and laboratory studies have found that curcumin, an antioxidant that is an active ingredient in turmeric, demonstrated some anti-cancer effects in the lab. But human research is needed to determine curcumin’s role in cancer prevention and treatment in people. Several types of cancer cells are inhibited by curcumin in the laboratory, and curcumin slows the growth and spread of some cancers in some animal studies. Clinical trials are underway to find out if it can help humans as well.

Curcumin is being studied to find out whether it helps other diseases such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and stomach ulcers. It is also being studied to see whether it can help lower “bad cholesterol” and improve outcome in kidney transplants. A few early studies have been done in humans, but much more human research is still needed to find out if curcumin can be effective in these uses.

How is it promoted for use?

Some proponents believe turmeric may prevent and slow the growth of a number of types of cancer, particularly tumors of the esophagus, mouth, intestines, stomach, breast, and skin.

Turmeric is promoted mainly as an anti-inflammatory herbal remedy and is said to produce fewer side effects than commonly used pain relievers. Some practitioners prescribe turmeric to relieve inflammation caused by arthritis, muscle sprains, swelling, and pain caused by injuries or surgical incisions. It is also promoted as a treatment for rheumatism and as an antiseptic for cleaning wounds. Some proponents claim turmeric interferes with the actions of some viruses, including hepatitis and HIV.

Supporters also claim that turmeric protects against liver diseases, stimulates the gallbladder and circulatory systems, reduces cholesterol levels, dissolves blood clots, helps stop external and internal bleeding, and relieves painful menstruation and angina (chest pains that often occur with heart disease). It is also used as a remedy for digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and illnesses caused by toxins from parasites and bacteria.

Because lab studies suggest that curcumin can help slow the growth of cancer cells, some people say that it can do the same in humans.

What does it involve?

Turmeric root is on the Commission E (Germany’s regulatory agency for herbs) list of approved herbs, used for dyspepsia (upset stomach) and loss of appetite. It is available in powdered form as a spice in most grocery stores. It can also be made into a tea or purchased as a tincture, capsule, or tablet, and is sometimes sold in combination formulas with other herbs. Ointments or pastes made from turmeric can be applied to the skin. Although there is no standardized dose for turmeric, some practitioners recommend taking a teaspoon of the powdered spice with each meal. The dried root of turmeric normally contains from 3% to 5% curcumin.

Because curcumin is thought to be the most active component of turmeric, many buyers seek out purer formulas of curcumin rather than whole turmeric. Some sellers market supplements that claim to be standardized to contain 95% curcumin compounds. Others sell mixed products that are supposed to promote the absorption of curcumin into the bloodstream.

What is the history behind it?

The use of turmeric was described in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine as early as the seventh century AD. In various Asian folk medicine traditions, turmeric has been used to treat a long list of conditions, including diarrhea, fever, bronchitis, colds, parasitic worms, leprosy, and bladder and kidney inflammations. Herbalists have applied turmeric salve to bruises, leech bites, festering eye infections, mouth inflammations, skin conditions, and infected wounds. Some people inhale smoke from burning turmeric to relieve chronic coughs. Turmeric mixed with hot water and sugar is considered by some herbalists to be a remedy for colds.

In India and Malaysia, there is a custom of making turmeric paste to apply directly onto the skin, a practice now under study for the possibility that it may prevent skin cancer. The bright red forehead mark worn by some Hindu women is sometimes created by mixing turmeric with lime juice. Chefs frequently add turmeric to their creations because of its rich flavor and deep yellow-orange color. The seasoning is an important ingredient in Indian curries. It is also used to add color to foods such as butter, margarine, cheese, and mustard; to tint cotton, silk, paper, wood, and cosmetics; as a food preservative; and to make pickles.

What is the evidence?

Curcumin, an active ingredient in turmeric, is an antioxidant. Antioxidants are compounds often found in plants that can protect the body’s cells from damage caused by activated molecules known as free radicals. Laboratory studies have also shown that curcumin interferes with several important molecular pathways involved in cancer development, growth, and spread. Researchers have reported that curcumin inhibited the formation of cancer-causing enzymes in rodents.

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