Curcumin is the yellow pigment in turmeric spice. The chemical composition of turmeric has been studied. The most important chemical components of turmeric are a group of compounds called curcuminoids, which include curcumin (diferuloylmethane), desmethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Curcumin constitutes 3.14% (on average) of powdered turmeric and gives the spice its peppery taste.

A pharmacological review was undertaken by Ammon & Wahl (1991), Jurenka (2009), and others to validate curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin, the active compound in the spice, exhibits antispasmodic activity. It was seen to stimulate bile secretion in animals and help treat liver disorders.

Araujo and Leon (2001), Anand et al. (2007), and Aggarwal et al. (2009) have noted the anticancer, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and gastrointestinal actions of curcumin. It is also helpful in treating liver and other ailments.

Anticancer properties of turmeric have also been reported (Basnet et al., 2011). Jagetia and Aggarwal of the Department of Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, USA, writes, “Interestingly, curcumin at low doses can also enhance antibody responses. This suggests that curcumin’s reported beneficial effects in arthritis, allergy, asthma, atherosclerosis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cancer might partly be due to its ability to modulate the immune system.”

Curcumin boosts BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein and brain hormone that increases the growth of new neurons and fights various degenerative processes in the brain.

Researchers from the Cancer Biology Research Center, South Dakota, claim curcumin may be an effective chemopreventive and therapeutic agent for preventing and treating cervical cancer. They found that curcumin treatment suppresses growth in cervical cancer cells by altering the HPV-associated molecular pathways.

The anti-cancer action of curcumin is attributed to its ability to inhibit a cancer master switch called nuclear factor kappa beta. Inflammation is said to fuel the nuclear factor kappa beta activity, which is claimed to account for 95% of all cancers. Cancer activity is also indicated by high levels of interleukin 6 (IL6) in the blood.

Preclinical and phase 1 clinical trial in various cancers have shown that curcumin may prove to be useful in the chemoprevention of colon cancer in humans (Azuine & Bhide, 1994). It has further been shown that curcumin inhibits proliferation and helps kill cancer cells. These are attributed to the ability of this molecule to interfere in the functioning of cancer-causing genes (Bar-Sela & Schaffer, 2011) positively.

Ar turmerone isolated from turmeric is said to suppress the growth of leukemia cells (Kuo et al., 1996).
Sharma et al. (2004) have shown that the efficacy of curcumin, which is an antioxidant derived from turmeric, is due to its action on glutathione S-transferase enzyme, inhibition of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production, and suppression of oxidative DNA adduct (M1G) formation.

Additional reading references:

Natural Solutions for Cancer

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