The Anti-Cancer & Anti-inflammatory Benefits of Curcumin
In the world of roots and spices, we can find many protective compounds, but one is of great interest when it comes to the prevention and treatment of cancer and inflammation.
Let's take a closer look at the natural nutrient that is one of the most heavily studied when it comes to the treatment of cancer and inflammatory disorders such as arthritis...
What Is Curcumin?
Turmeric is a popular Indian curry spice that the cancer world is taking very seriously. It contains several active components, all of which are anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventative. One in particular, called curcumin (not to be confused with cumin), is the yellow polyphenol in turmeric that has a potent effect on cancer cells. In fact, the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas states that no cancer has been found that's not adversely affected by curcumin. It's a powerful antioxidant, antiviral, and antibacterial compound.
Curcumin for Cancer
Among all the natural nutrients studied, curcumin arguably has the most evidence-based studies to support its anticancer activity - over 300 published studies. Over the past decade, curcumin has been confirmed to be anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective, cancer-preventative, and chemotherapeutic.
The anti-cancer effect of curcumin has been shown in many cell and animal studies, and multiple studies have shown that curcumin can target cancer stem cells and prevent their regrowth. Several studies have also reported that curcumin suppresses all 3 stages of cancer: Initiation, promotion, and progression. It does this by targeting factors involved in cancer development, such as:
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- Preventing tumor cells from spreading
- Preventing normal cells from transforming into cancer
- Preventing the synthesis of a protein for tumor formation
- Destroying cancer cells
- Decreasing inflammation
EuroPharma, Inc. has classed curcumin as an "anti-cancer herb" due to its ability to prevent cancer formation and replication, and many cancer treatment facilities (both traditional and natural) recognize curcumin as a very promising partner in cancer treatments.(1)
As an anti-inflammatory, curcumin is widely available and sold in supplement stores either alone or with other anti-inflammatory compounds such as bromelain. Unfortunately, the amount of curcumin in turmeric is very small. To meet the therapeutic doses necessary to affect cancer cells and reduce inflammation, a curcumin supplement must be taken (curcumin C3 complex is a great example, and the one which I recommend).
Clinical studies have shown that the amount of curcumin required to have an anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effect is far higher than the typical amount eaten in a daily diet. Because of this, it should be purchased as a supplement to benefit from a much higher and more concentrated amount. It should also be taken with fats (e.g. olive oil or coconut oil) to increase its bioavailability in the body).
The dosage listed on the bottle is a general dosage, and clinical studies often show triple, quadruple, or greater quantities for a medicinal dose when treating cancer. The dosage for curcumin should begin small and be slowly increased over time. Dr. Bharat B. Aggarwal is a pioneer in exploring curcumin as an alternative treatment for various cancers. He has published more than 600 scientific papers, and he recommends the following 8 week dosage schedule. Split the dosage and take it twice a day.
- Week 1: 1g/day (1,000mg)
- Week 2: 2g/day (2,000mg)
- Week 3: 4g/day (4,000mg)
- Weeks 4-8: 8g/day (8,000mg)
If you experience any negative side effects (which is unlikely), don't increase the dosage until the side effects have subsided. If test results show no improvement after 8 weeks, it is unlikely the curcumin is effective. If improvement is experienced, continue for an additional 4 weeks.
- 1-2 g/day (1-2,000mg)
As very little curcumin is present in turmeric, it's important to buy curcumin (NOT turmeric) when treating cancer or other inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis. As a cancer preventative, the turmeric herb is a better choice so that you can benefit from other constituents present in the spice.
In the large doses above, curcumin may interfere with the effectiveness of stroke medications and blood thinners. It's also important to discontinue curcumin 2 weeks before any surgery. Work with your doctor when including curcumin in your cancer regimen.
Curcumin for Inflammation
Aside from the help we get from the right food, curcumin can help us relieve both acute and chronic inflammation. Curcumin and is considered a very strong natural anti-inflammatory nutrient, available in most supplement stores. Randomized controlled studies have shown curcumin to be as effective (and sometimes more effective) as drugs in reducing inflammation in the proper therapeutic dose.(2) It has been consistently shown to improve inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, IBS, psoriasis, and inflammatory eye disease.
There are hundreds of published studies on the effectiveness of curcumin. Here is a selection:
- Curcumin was found to inhibit the release of pro-inflammatory chemical messengers that cause cancers to spread throughout the body, helping to prevent metastasis. These findings relate to both prostate and breast cancers.(3)
- Curcumin inhibits breast cancer cell migration.(4)
- Curcumin can contribute to anti-cancer activity by targeting cancer stem cells by disrupting stem cell signaling pathways.(5)
- Curcumin has demonstrated cancer-preventative properties in cell cultures, animal models, and human investigations. It is safe and poses minimal adverse effects.(6)
- Curcumin causes death of cancer cells in the lining of the uterus and reduces the growth rate of uterine fibroids.(7) (8) (9)
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- (1) Targeting Cancer Stem Cells by Curcumin & Cinical Applications. Cancer Lett. May 1, 2014. 346(2):197-205.
- (2) Curcumin & Age-related Macular Degeneration. Front Aging Neurosci. 2014. 6: 191.Curcumin & Age-related Macular Degeneration. Front Aging Neurosci. 2014. 6: 191.
- (3) Curcumin Inhibits Prostate Cancer Metastasis in vivo by Targeting the Inflammatory Cytokines CXCL1 & -2. Carcinogenesis. Dec 2012. 33(12):2507-19.
- (4) Curcumin Inhibits Breast Cancer Stem Cell Migration by Amplifying the E-cadherin/β-catenin Negative Feedback Loop. Stem Cell Res Ther. Oct 14, 2014. 5(5):116.
- (5) The Role of Cancer Stem Cells in the Anti-carcinogenicity of Curcumin. Mol Nutr Food Res. Sep 2013. 57(9):1630-7.
- (6) Anti-carcinogenic Properties of Curcumin on Colorectal Cancer. World J Gastrointest Oncol. Apr 15, 2010. 2(4): 169–176.
- (7) Curcumin Down-regulates Ets-1 & Bcl-2 Expression in Human Endometrial Carcinoma HEC-1-A Cells. Gynecol Oncol. Sep 2007. 106(3):541-8. Epub 2007 Jun 27.
- (8) Aromatase Inhibitor Letrozole in Synergy with Curcumin in the Inhibition of Xenografted Endometrial Carcinoma Growth. Int J Gynecol Cancer. Oct 2009. 19(7):1248-52.
- (9) Inhibitory Effect of Curcumin on Uterine Leiomyoma Cell Proliferation. Gynecol Endocrinol. Jul 2011. 27(7):512-7.