Saturday, April 6, 2013


Most people probably think of the yellow Indian spice when turmeric is mentioned.  It gives rice and meat a brilliant yellow color.  Turmeric is a major component of the curry spice mix but it is not exclusive to Asian cuisine, it is also used in Mediterranean cooking.  What gives turmeric its exquisite yellow color is the curcumin compound [1].  But curcumin is more than just a natural food dye, this common spice possess amazing powers scientists are only starting to discover.

Researchers are regularly uncovering more and more preventive and health boosting abilities of curcumin.  Right now it has been identified as a potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antiviral [2].  Curcumin also protects against blood clots and clogged arteries [2].  Even more interesting is the current research on curcumin and its potential for preventing and treating cancer.  Curcumin is currently being studied as a possible cure for lymphocytic leukemia since the spice initiates programmed cell  death in the cancer cells [3].  Additionally, in a pilot study 100% of colon cancer patients treated with curcumin and quercetin experienced a reduction in the number and size of polyps after 6 months of treatment [4].  When it comes to breast cancer, turmeric is being studies as a cancer preventive agent [5].  Researchers found that curcumin reduced breast stem cell self renewal [5] and another study also reported that curcumin inhibited breast cancer cells from metastasizing to other tissues [1, 4, 6].  Finally, curcumin found in turmeric may have positive outcomes when it comes to multiple other cancers such as skin, lung, stomach, pancreas, intestine, bladder, prostate and cervix [4].

All of this information is promising and scientists have recently started conducting studies on humans.  Once more human studies have been completed the true effect of curcumin on the body will be more evident and the recommended amount for people to consume can be set.


1.            Boonrao, M., et al., The inhibitory effect of turmeric curcuminoids on matrix metalloproteinase-3 secretion in human invasive breast carcinoma cells. Archives of Pharmacal Research, 2010. 33(7): p. 989-998.

2.            Huang, W.-Y., Y.-Z. Cai, and Y. Zhang, Natural Phenolic Compounds From Medicinal Herbs and Dietary Plants: Potential Use for Cancer Prevention. Nutrition and Cancer, 2010. 62(1): p. 1-20.

3.            Angelo, L.S. and R. Kurzrock, Turmeric and Green Tea: A Recipe for the Treatment of B-Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Clinical Cancer Research, 2009. 15(4): p. 1123-1125.

4.            Amin, A.R.M.R., et al., Perspectives for Cancer Prevention With Natural Compounds. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2009. 27(16): p. 2712-2725.

5.            Kakarala, M., et al., Targeting breast stem cells with the cancer preventive compounds curcumin and piperine. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 2010. 122(3): p. 777-785.

6.            Aggarwal, B.B. and S. Shishodia, Molecular targets of dietary agents for prevention and therapy of cancer. Biochemical Pharmacology, 2006. 71(10): p. 1397-1421.


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