Turmeric is one of the most preferred spices in Asian cuisine and most particularly used to make meat tastier, preserve foodstuff prone to spoilage, and add color to dishes. Clinical studies have demonstrated that turmeric has an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect, promotes wound healing, and has a therapeutic effect on ulcer, osteoarthritis, and dermatological disorders. Turmeric is a natural pharmacological agent that finds frequent use in ayurvedic medicine. The present paper has been issued to draw attention to the positive effects of curcumin, i.e. the active agent of turmeric, on cancer.
IS THIS A COINCIDENCE?
THE INCIDENCE RATE OF CANCER IS LOWER IN SOCIETIES WITH HIGH TURMERIC CONSUMPTION
The fact that the incidence rates of cancer in regions of India with high turmeric consumption are 10 to 50% lower than the incidence rates of same cancer types in the United States has been the starting point for several scientific studies on turmeric. Research studies carried out on basis of this statistical data have revealed that the active agent of turmeric, i.e. curcumin, has anti-cancer properties.
Clinical analyses have shown that curcumin deactivates the chemicals that cause cancer, and inhibits the development of intestinal, gastric, and skin cancer.
CAN CURCUMIN BE USED TO CURE CANCER?
Several scientific studies have demonstrated that curcumin is effective against all cancer types. Along with its effect when used alone, it has been observed that turmeric, i.e. its active agent curcumin, has an increasing effect on the effectiveness of chemotherapeutic agents if used together. The following statement by Bharat B. Aggarwal, a researcher working at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center which has carried out a significant part of all research studies made on curcumin and cancer to date, is quite striking:
According to Aggarwal: “There is no type of cancer which curcumin remains ineffective and since curcumin eradicates cancer through several mechanisms, it is not possible for cancer cells to develop resistance.” Another significant property of curcumin is that it affects cancers cells only, without causing damage to normal cells.
FOR WHICH CANCER TYPES CAN IT BE USED?
Pancreatic cancer: At M.D. Anderson, curcumin was administered to 25 pancreatic cancer patients at a dose of 8 g/day, as result of which disease control was achieved in 21 patients out of 25. In one of the two patients, who showed biological activity of curcumin, a tumor response of above 70% was observed, while over 18-months survival was achieved in the other. Almost all of the patients enrolled in the study had received several treatments and had exhausted all treatment options prior to curcumin before the mentioned success was achieved through curcumin intake.
Prostatic cancer: In studies where for a period of 18 months curcumin treatment was applied to patients, whose prostate was found to be at risk to become cancerous according to biopsy results, recovery of prostatic tissue was observed in follow-up biopsies.
Head and neck cancers: The outcomes are quite successful. This is also verified by data obtained from comparative patient treatments.
CAN CURCUMIN REDUCE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF CANCER TREATMENT?
It has been observed that curcumin, the active agent of turmeric, does not only cure tumors directly, but also increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy if used together with chemotherapeutic agents and it prevents development of resistance. Moreover, significant improvement can be observed in side effects of cancer treatment. It prevents nerve damage caused by chemotherapy, reduces loss of appetite, recovers depression, and increases performance.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER DISEASES IT CAN BE USED APART FROM CANCER?
Curcumin is commonly used for uveitis, i.e. inflammation of the uvea. It has been observed that long-term use of curcumin helps to reduce the recurrence rate of uveitis significantly.
Curcumin has proven to be highly beneficial especially in cases of knee osteoarthritis by reducing pain and improving the patient’s mobility. Furthermore, the patients’ need for other analgesics is also decreased.
Alzheimer is another disease, for which curcumin is commonly used with positive results, while its use for ulcerative colitis, a severe long-term inflammatory bowel disease, has also shown to be beneficial.
HOW SHOULD TURMERIC, I.E. CURCUMIN, BE USED?
Curcumin is a supplementary treatment, which has several known effect mechanisms that interact with other drugs. There are many derivatives of turmeric, along with curcumin. These derivatives are referred to as “curcumoids” and are commercially available in various forms / preparations. Please remind not to take curcumin without consulting your doctor or unless prescribed by your doctor. Otherwise, you might encounter serious problems due to its interaction with other drugs, notably blood thinners. The recommended dosage and use frequency of curcumin may vary depending on its intended use and intake of other drugs.
WHICH CURCUMIN SHOULD BE USED?
It is advised to use only that type of curcumin and only in that manner recommended by your doctor.
IS THERE A WAY TO USE CURCUMIN MORE EFFECTIVELY AND WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS THAT MIGHT BE ENCOUNTERED?
Despite its excellent properties, the most important problem in connection with the intake of curcumin is that turmeric is not sufficiently absorbed by the intestines after oral intake, and thus, is not sufficiently transferred to blood, while the small quantity absorbed is quickly deactivated in the intestines, as result of which it cannot reach effective levels in blood. Therefore, in order that turmeric sold in powdered form can create any beneficial effect, it must be consumed in very high quantities. Indeed, even the absorption of curcumin, i.e. the active agent of turmeric, is also quite low, so that clinical studies applied a daily dosage of 8-12 gr to ensure effectiveness. Even at these dosages, it is controversial whether sufficient blood levels are reached. Due to these reasons, more easily absorbable forms of curcumin have been developed by the drug industry. Nowadays, curcumoids with much higher bioavailability have been developed. But since in cancer treatment the primary objective is to achieve maximum effect, it is planned to develop a type of curcumin that can be delivered intravenously, while the last stage has been reached in this regard. It has been shown that, if taken together with piperalin obtained from black pepper, a significant increase is obtained in the absorption of curcumin and its transfer to blood.
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF CURCUMIN?
Curcumin is in general a safe, natural pharmacological agent. It classified as “Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)” by FDA.
There have been no side effects reported even at doses as high as 12 grams. Very few patients have reported complaints like diarrhea, abdominal pain, dyspepsia, urticaria, and skin rash.
Its use should be avoided in case of gallbladder stones. There is not sufficient information available regarding its use during pregnancy, and as such, is not recommended.
Curcumin can be the right agent in the fight against cancer. Use it in your meals as much as possible for the sake of your health, and remind to closely adhere to your doctor’s recommendations in terms of your treatment.