Curcumin and Turmeric active against cancer

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Curcumin Turmeric Against Cancer

Curcumin Turmeric Fights Cancer


A Google search with Turmeric + Cancer gives 17 Million results.  Obviously there is tremendous interest with this interesting and tasty spice.  When I see a new patient and discuss their anti cancer dietary regimen, I find that only 30% are aware of the benefits of Turmeric.  I practice Oncology at the Cancer Care Center in Las Vegas.  Despite the plethora of great restaurants in this city, most people have never experienced the culinary delight from this golden spice.  We will be discussing how turmeric acts as an anti cancer agent, an anti inflammatory and an anti oxidant.

Rudolf Virchow in 1850 was the first to report a link between inflammation and various chronic diseases, including cancer, atherosclerosis, arthritis, diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.  A protein in the body called TNF-a (Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha) has been linked to a wide variety of diseases including cancer, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, pulmonary diseases, metabolic diseases, neurological diseases, psychological diseases, skin diseases and autoimmune diseases.  We could expect that any compound which reduces TNF-a (or otherwise inhibits the inflammatory process) would reduce the severity and amount of many of these medical problems.  Indeed this seems to hold true.  For example, a highly encouraging case report was recently published, showing how a patient with  aggressive multiple myeloma that did not respond to chemotherapy was successfully placed into remission for 5 years by taking 8 grams of curcumin daily {{1}}.

If curcumin is good, then what about the entire turmeric spice?  It has been demonstrated that the hot water extract of turmeric was effective against cancer.  An interesting study showed turmeric extract reduced tobacco smoke related DNA damage of human lymphocytes {{2}}.  Another study demonstrated increased apoptosis and G2/M arrest in human colon carcinoma with use of turmeric {{3}}.  There are hundreds of studies demonstrating that either curcumin or turmeric have activity against many different cancers, including brain tumors, stomach, colon, pancreas, lung, prostate, multiple myeloma and leukemia.

I am not  implying that turmeric is a cure for an active cancer-it is not, unfortunately.  The best time to take Turmeric is long before a cancer starts, when the anti inflammatory and DNA repair effects can take place and prevent the cancer from ever existing.  However, use of turmeric after the diagnosis of cancer certainly slows down the growth of multiple cancers.  Thus turmeric is an excellent addition to a anti-cancer regimen.

Many studies  demonstrate that curcumin or turmeric in combination with chemotherapy or radiation therapy increases the effectiveness of the standard treatment.  A study published in International Journal of Cancer in 2007 demonstrated how the use of curcumin in addition to standard FOLFOX chemotherapy increased the effectiveness of the chemotherapy against colon cancer cells.  This anti cancer effect was more effective than either curcumin alone or FOLFOX alone.  The increased benefit has been found in pancreatic, breast, brain and a variety of other cancers. The proposed mechanism for the improved action against cancer is thought due to curcumin inhibiting the tumor stem cells, which are not adequately killed by conventional chemotherapy or radiation therapy alone.

I want to emphasize the fact that in all the human studies, turmeric or curcumin by itself did not cure any person.  It was only in combination with radiation therapy or chemotherapy that the improvement in tumor control was documented.  Some patients had a marvelous benefit and some had small benefits, with almost no side effects.  There seems no downside to using turmeric as a natural product as a support for cancer patients.

Dr. Navneet Sharda shows turmeric kills cancer

Curcumin / Turmeric Kills Cancer Cells


Turmeric contains over 300 different components including curcumin (3–5%), fructose (12%), glucose (2%), starch, acid glycans ukonan A, B, and C, free arabinose (1%), minerals, essential oils (2-7%).  Although turmeric spice contains over 300 different components, only curcumin has been extensively investigated. Research during the last 50 years has shown curcumin’s potential against various chronic diseases-including cancer, using in vitro (test tube) and in vivo (human or animal) studies.  Parts of turmeric such as demethoxycurcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, and tetrahydrocurcumin  have also been reported to exert anti-cancer activity. Interestingly,  curcumin-free turmeric reduced DMBA(a highly toxic carcinogen)-induced mammary tumors in rats, and another recent study demonstrated that a curcumin-free  turmeric extract suppressed benzo[a]pyrene (another carcinogen) induced tumors in mice {{4}}.  These and many other published peer reviewed papers indicate that turmeric as the whole spice has significantly more anti cancer activity than just the isolated curcumin extract. Many other components of turmeric such as turmerin, turmerone, elemene, furanodiene, curdione, bisacurone, cyclocurcumin, calebin A, and germacrone are shown to possess potent biological activities.

Keep in mind that there are plenty of studies demonstrating that curcumin itself is highly beneficial in many inflammatory conditions including cancer, thus if taken with all the other chemicals in the whole spice turmeric, we could expect additional benefits when compared to curcumin alone.  Oddly, the vast majority of studies have focused solely on curcumin and not the whole plant spice turmeric.  I suspect this is because there is a tendency towards pills and pharmacy formulations, where a single highly purified compound is administered in a specific dose for a specific medical condition, which allows the drug company to develop a drug and submit an application for Patent protection.

In addition to reducing cancer, down-regulation of TNF-a by curcumin has been associated with protection from various inflammatory diseases, including chronic inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin was first demonstrated in acute and chronic models of inflammation in rats and mice . The authors of that study showed that curcumin at a dose between 50–200 mg/kg suppressed carrageenan (a highly allergenic compound) induced edema in mice (Srimal and Dhawan, 1973).  Curcumin usually manifests its biological response when given orally to mice at about 50–500 mg/kg body weight. These doses are too low to detect significant levels of curcumin in the serum but the effects are clearly demonstrated, thus only small amounts are needed for activity.  In humans, as little as 150 mg of curcumin has been shown effective in reducing blood serum levels of cytokines that promote inflammation.  Thus, culinary doses of turmeric seem to be effective for health promotion.

show how DNA is damaged

DNA damage by various


I am pleasantly surprised at the sheer amount of beneficial effects of Turmeric.  Studies going back 35 years or longer have demonstrated that regular use of turmeric actually protects the DNA of cells from damage from either chemical or radiation exposure.  Comet assays back in the 1990s showed cells not treated with turmeric had multiple DNA breaks, demonstrated by a long “comet tail” of the nuclear fraction, but a short comet tail in the cells treated with turmeric/curcumin.  More recent studies with more sophisticated analysis measuring DNA micro array showed that just 7 days of daily turmeric at quite modest amounts (that represent common culinary usage) reduced the amount of hydrogen peroxide induced DNA strand breaks to essentially normal {{5}}.  Thus, Turmeric as a regular cooking spice provides amazing protection against DNA damage.


Additional research  demonstrates that turmeric/curcumin in a strong anti inflammatory as well as anti oxidant.  Measurement of salivary and serum vitamin C and E levels (these are excellent anti oxidants in the body) demonstrated that after merely 7 days of taking 1 gram of curcumin a day raised the levels of both vitamins, and the benefits continue as long as the curcumin is given.  The most likely cause of this is that curcumin has an independent anti oxidant activity which reduces the body utilization of vitamin C and E, thus these stores are not exhausted and can function at a more optimal range {{6}}.




1) . 2017; 2017: bcr2016218148. Long-term stabilisation of myeloma with curcumin.  Abbas Zaidi, Maggie Lai, and Jamie Cavenagh

2)Srinivas, L., Shalini, V. K., DNA damage by smoke: protection by turmeric and other inhibitors of ROS. Free Radic. Biol. Med. 1991, 11, 277–283.

3) 2011 Feb;26(1):97-104. doi: 10.1089/cbr.2010.0853. Epub 2011 Feb 24. Aqueous extract of Curcuma aromatica induces apoptosis and G2/M arrest in human colon carcinoma LS-174-T cells independent of p53.  Hu B, Shen KP, An HM, Wu Y, Du Q

4)Cancer Lett. 1997 Sep 16;118(1):79-85.  Inhibitory effects of curcumin-free aqueous turmeric extract on benzo[a]pyrene-induced fore-stomach papillomas in mice.  Deshpande SS, Ingle AD, Maru GB.

5)Bioavailability of Herbs and Spices in Humans as Determined by ex vivo Inflammatory Suppression and DNA Strand Breaks.  Susan S. Percival, John P. Vanden Heuvel, Carmelo J. Nieves, Cindy Montero, Andrew J. Migliaccio & Joanna Meadors.

6) 2010 Jun;52(2):251-6.  Possible action mechanism for curcumin in pre-cancerous lesions based on serum and salivary markers of oxidative stress.  Rai B1, Kaur J, Jacobs R, Singh J.



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