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Benefits of Turmeric

Posted May 20 2010 6:11pm

                                                         Benefits of Turmeric

Turmeric, a wonder spice, has been found to reduce inflammation, ease flu symptoms, strengthen immunity, speed healing, prevent cancer, and promote digestive health.  

ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2010), one of the principal components of the Indian spice turmeric, seems to delay the liver damage that eventually causes cirrhosis, suggests preliminary experimental research.

Baghdasaryan et al.  Gut, 2010; 59: 521-530


Curcumin, which gives turmeric its bright yellow pigment, has long been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders.

Previous research has indicated that it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which may be helpful in combating disease.

The research team wanted to find out if curcumin could delay the damage caused by progressive inflammatory conditions of the liver, including primary sclerosing cholangitis and primary biliary cirrhosis.

Both of these conditions, which can be sparked by genetic faults or autoimmune disease, cause the liver’s plumbing system of bile ducts to become inflamed, scarred, and blocked. This leads to extensive tissue damage and irreversible and ultimately fatal liver cirrhosis.

Indian turmeric powder (Credit: iStockphoto/Nilesh Bhange)

The research team analysed tissue and blood samples from mice with chronic liver inflammation before and after adding curcumin to their diet for a period of four and a period of eight weeks.

The results were compared with the equivalent samples from mice with the same condition, but not fed curcumin.

The findings showed that the curcumin diet significantly reduced bile duct blockage and curbed liver cell (hepatocyte) damage and scarring (fibrosis) by interfering with several chemical signalling pathways involved in the inflammatory process.

These effects were clear at both four and eight weeks. No such effects were seen in mice fed a normal diet.

The authors point out that current treatment for inflammatory liver disease involves ursodeoxycholic acid, the long term effects of which remain unclear. The other alternative is a liver transplant.

Curcumin is a natural product, they say, which seems to target several different parts of the inflammatory process, and as such, may therefore offer a very promising treatment in the future.

Full Story:

More information on Turmeric

Uses of Turmeric

  • To prevent cancer
    Several animal studies suggest that turmeric prevents colon, stomach, and skin cancers in rats exposed to carcinogens, but there is no proof from clinical trials that it can prevent cancer in humans.
  • To treat infections 
    No scientific evidence supports this use. One clinical trial showed that turmeric does not help lower viral load in HIV positive patients.
  • To reduce inflammation
    Laboratory and animal studies suggest that turmeric reduces inflammation. There are ongoing clinical trials on this effect in humans.
  • To treat kidney stones 
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To relieve stomach and intestinal gas
    No clinical trials have evaluated this use.
  • To improve gall bladder function 
    Several clinical studies show that turmeric enhances contraction of the gall bladder in humans.
  • Curcumin shows  promise for prevention of Alzheimer’s disease

    Turmeric – U.S. National Library of Medicine


    Scientific Evidence

    Baum L, Cheung SK, Mok VC, et al. Curcumin effects on blood lipid profile in a 6-month human study. Pharmacol Res 2007 Dec;56(6):509-14. 
    The effects of curcumin on blood lipid profiles were assessed in this randomized, double-blind study of 36 elderly participants. Subjects were separated into a control or curcumin-treated groups (1 or 4 g/day), and serum lipid profiles were measured at baseline, 1 month, and 6 months. The side effects were similar between the groups. No significant differences in serum lipid profiles were detected upon curcumin administration; however, levels of absorbed curcumin were modestly associated with increased cholesterol concentration. Larger studies are required to determine if curcumin supplementation may increase cholesterol levels.

    James J. Curcumin: clinical trial finds no antiviral effect. AIDS Treat News1996;242:1.
    A randomized study of 38 patients to either high-dose or low-dose turmeric powder. Following 8 weeks of treatment, there was no demonstrated effect of turmeric on HIV viral load. A small increase in CD4 cells in the high-dose group and a consistent fall of CD4 cells in the low-dose group were documented, but neither result was statistically significant. This report of an abstract presented at the third annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections demonstrated no efficacy of turmeric in treating HIV.

    Animal / In vitro data:
    Li JK, et al. Mechanisms of cancer chemoprevention by curcumin. Proc Natl Sci Counc Repub China B 2001;25:59-66.
    Curcumin has shown anti-carcinogenic activity in animals as indicated by its ability to block colon tumor initiation by azoxymethane and skin tumor promotion induced by phorbol ester TPA. Recently, curcumin has been considered by oncologists as a potential third-generation cancer chemopreventive agent, and clinical trials using it have been carried out in several laboratories. Curcumin possesses anti-inflammatory activity and is a potent inhibitor of reactive oxygen-generating enzymes, such as lipoxygenase/cyclooxygenase, xanthine dehydrogenase/oxidase and inducible nitric oxide synthase. Curcumin is also a potent inhibitor of protein kinase C and EGF-receptor tyrosine kinase. It is proposed that curcumin may suppress tumor promotion by blocking signal transduction pathways in the target cells.

    Venkatesan N. Curcumin prevents adriamycin nephrotoxicity in rats. Br J Pharmacol2000;129:231-4.  
    This study investigated the effect of curcumin on Adriamycin (ADR) nephrosis in rats. The results indicate that ADR-induced kidney injury was remarkably well prevented by treatment with curcumin. Treatment with curcumin markedly protected against ADR-induced proteinuria, albuminuria, hypoalbuminemia and hyperlipidemia. Curcumin restored renal function in ADR rats, as judged by the increase in GFR. The data also demonstrate that curcumin protects against ADR-induced renal injury by suppressing oxidative stress and increasing kidney glutathione content and glutathione peroxidase activity. This suggests that administration of curcumin is a promising approach in the treatment of nephrosis caused by ADR.

    Kawamori T, et al. Chemopreventive effect of curcumin, a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agent, during the promotion/progression stages of colon cancer.Cancer Res 1999;59:597-601.
    This study was designed to investigate the chemopreventive action of curcumin when administered (late in the premalignant stage) during the promotion/progression stage of colon carcinogenesis in male F344 rats. The study also monitored the modulating effect of this agent on apoptosis in the tumors. The results showed that the administration of 0.2% curcumin during both the initiation and post initiation periods significantly inhibited colon tumorigenesis. In addition, administration of 0.2% and of 0.6% synthetic curcumin in the diet during the promotion/progression stage significantly suppressed the incidence and multiplicity of noninvasive adenocarcinomas and also strongly inhibited the multiplicity of invasive adenocarcinomas of the colon.

    Mehta K, et al. Antiproliferative effect of curcumin (diferuloylmethane) against human breast tumor cell lines. Anticancer Drugs 1997;8:470-81.
    The antiproliferative effects of curcumin against several breast tumor cell lines, including hormone-dependent, hormone-independent, and multidrug lines, were studied. Curcumin preferentially arrested cells in the G2/S phase of the cell cycle. Curcumin-induced cell death was due neither to apoptosis nor to a significant change in the expression of apoptosis-related genes, including Bcl-2 p53, cyclin B and transglutaminase.

    Rao CV, et al. Chemoprevention of colon carcinogenesis by dietary curcumin, a naturally occurring plant phenolic compound. Cancer Res1995;55:259-66.
    This study was designed to investigate the chemopreventive action of dietary curcumin on azoxymethane-induced colon carcinogenesis and the modulating effect of curcumin on the colonic mucosal and tumor phospholipase A2, phospholipase C gamma 1, lipoxygenase, and cyclooxygenase activities in male F344 rats. The results indicate that the administration of curcumin significantly inhibited incidence of colon adenocarcinomas (p<0.004) and the multiplicity of invasive, non-invasive, and total adenocarcinomas. Curcumin also significantly suppressed the colon tumor volume by more than 57% compared to the control diet. Although the precise mechanism by which curcumin inhibits colon tumorigenesis remains to be elucidated, it is likely that the chemopreventive action, at least in part, may be related to the modulation of arachidonic acid metabolism.


    Dhillon et al. 2008. Phase II trial of curcumin in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2008 Jul 15;14(14):4491-9.

    Pancreatic cancer is almost always lethal, and the only U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved therapies for it, gemcitabine and erlotinib, produce objective responses in <10% of patients. We evaluated the clinical biological effects of curcumin (diferuloylmethane), a plant-derived dietary ingredient with potent nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) and tumor inhibitory properties, against advanced pancreatic cancer. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Patients received 8 g curcumin by mouth daily until disease progression, with restaging every 2 months. Serum cytokine levels for interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, IL-10, and IL-1 receptor antagonists and peripheral blood mononuclear cell expression of NF-kappaB and cyclooxygenase-2 were monitored. RESULTS: Twenty-five patients were enrolled, with 21 evaluable for response. Circulating curcumin was detectable as drug in glucuronide and sulfate conjugate forms, albeit at low steady-state levels, suggesting poor oral bioavailability. Two patients showed clinical biological activity. One had ongoing stable disease for >18 months; interestingly, one additional patient had a brief, but marked, tumor regression (73%) accompanied by significant increases (4- to 35-fold) in serum cytokine levels (IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, and IL-1 receptor antagonists). No toxicities were observed. Curcumin down-regulated expression of NF-kappaB, cyclooxygenase-2, and phosphorylated signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients (most of whom had baseline levels considerably higher than those found in healthy volunteers). Whereas there was considerable interpatient variation in plasma curcumin levels, drug levels peaked at 22 to 41 ng/mL and remained relatively constant over the first 4 weeks. CONCLUSIONS: Oral curcumin is well tolerated and, despite its limited absorption, has biological activity in some patients with pancreatic cancer.

    Bundy et al., 2004. Turmeric extract may improve irritable bowel syndrome symptomology in otherwise healthy adults: a pilot study. J Altern Complement Med. 2004 Dec;10(6):1015-8.

    OBJECTIVES: To assess the effects of turmeric (Curcuma longa) extract on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptomology in otherwise healthy adults. DESIGN: Partially blinded, randomized, two-dose, pilot study. SUBJECTS: Five hundred (500) volunteers were screened for IBS using the Rome II criteria. Two hundred and seven (207) suitable volunteers were randomized. INTERVENTIONS: One or two tablets of a standardized turmeric extract taken daily for 8 weeks. OUTCOMES MEASURES: IBS prevalence, symptom-related quality of life (IBSQOL) and self-reported effectiveness. RESULTS: IBS prevalence decreased significantly in both groups between screening and baseline (41% and 57%), with a further significant drop of 53% and 60% between baseline and after treatment, in the one- and two-tablet groups respectively (p < 0.001). A post-study analysis revealed abdominal pain/discomfort score reduced significantly by 22% and 25% in the one- and two-tablet group respectively, the difference tending toward significance (p = 0.071). There were significant improvements in all bar one of the IBSQOL scales of between 5% and 36% in both groups, approximately two thirds of all subjects reported an improvement in symptoms after treatment, and there was a favorable shift in self-reported bowel pattern. There were no significant differences between groups. CONCLUSIONS: Turmeric may help reduce IBS symptomology. Placebo controlled trials are now warranted to confirm these findings.

    Kuptniratsaikul et al. 2009. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts in patients with knee osteoarthritis. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Aug;15(8):891-7.

    OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine the efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts in pain reduction and functional improvement in patients with knee osteoarthritis. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: The design and setting were a randomized controlled study at a university hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. METHODS: One-hundred and seven (107) patients with primary knee osteoarthritis (OA) with pain score of > or =5 were randomized to receive ibuprofen 800 mg per day or C. domestica extracts 2 g per day for 6 weeks. The main outcomes were improvement in pain on level walking, pain on stairs, and functions of knee assessed by time spent during 100-m walk and going up and down a flight of stairs. The adverse events were also recorded. RESULTS: Fifty-two (52) and 55 patients were randomized to C. domestica extracts and ibuprofen groups, respectively. Baseline characteristics of the patients in both groups were not different. The mean scores of the aforementioned outcomes at weeks 0, 2, 4, and 6 were significantly improved when compared with the baseline values in both groups. There was no difference in those parameters between the patients receiving ibuprofen and C. domestica extracts, except pain on stairs (p = 0.016). No significant difference of adverse events between both groups was found (33.3% versus 44.2%, p = 0.36 in C. domestica extracts and ibuprofen groups, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: C. domestica extracts seem to be similarly efficacious and safe as ibuprofen for the treatment of knee OA.


    Recent laboratory findings indicate that dietary turmeric may inhibit the anti-tumor action of chemotherapeutic drugs such as cyclophosphamide in treating breast cancer. More research is necessary, but patients undergoing chemotherapy should ask their doctor if they should limit their intake of turmeric and turmeric-containing foods.


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