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 http://gut.bmj.com/content/59/4/521
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.
Uses of Turmeric
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.
No scientific evidence supports this use. One clinical trial showed that turmeric does not help lower viral load in HIV positive patients.
Laboratory and animal studies suggest that turmeric reduces inflammation. There are ongoing clinical trials on this effect in humans.
No scientific evidence supports this use.
No clinical trials have evaluated this use.
Several clinical studies show that turmeric enhances contraction of the gall bladder in humans.
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.
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Animal / In vitro data:
Venkatesan N. Curcumin prevents adriamycin nephrotoxicity in rats. Br J Pharmacol2000;129:231-4.
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.
Mehta K, et al. Antiproliferative effect of curcumin (diferuloylmethane) against human breast tumor cell lines. Anticancer Drugs 1997;8:470-81.
Rao CV, et al. Chemoprevention of colon carcinogenesis by dietary curcumin, a naturally occurring plant phenolic compound. Cancer Res1995;55:259-66.
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.
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.
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.