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Topical Application of Turmeric Curcumin for Cancer

For accessible cancers such as skin, mouth, and vulva, the spice turmeric can be applied in an ointment. Note: there’s an image of ulcerating breast cancer from 3:03 to 3:09 that viewers may find disturbing.

June 20, 2014 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Images thanks to Fountain Poster and Sanjay Acharya via Wikimedia Commons.


Researchers showed that those at high risk for colon cancer could reverse the progression of their disease by taking curcumin, the yellow pigment in the spices turmeric and curry powder, cutting down on precancerous lesions, and even pre-precancerous lesions. Are there other high risk lesions we can try spicing up?

How about giving turmeric extracts to people who just had bladder cancer taken out, or who have an early stage of squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer caused by arsenic exposure, or early stage cervical cancer, or precancerous lesions in the mouth or the stomach? In about a quarter of the patients, the lesions started to get better. One out of the two bladder cancer survivors, two out of seven precancerous mouth lesions, one out of six precancerous stomach lesions, one out of four early stage cervical cancer cases and two out of six early stage skin cancer, all without any noticeable side-effects.

One of the reasons it may work in some cancers better than others or some people better than others is differences in bioavailability. Megadoses were given and just a tiny amount ended up in the bloodstream. If you’re treating skin cancer though, why not just put the curcumin directly on the skin?

I’ve talked about what turmeric compounds can do to cancer cells in a petri dish. Here's some before and after pics. These are cervical cancer cells in a petri dish with more and more curcumin. Normal cells are unharmed, but cancer cell are laid to waste. Yeah, but to make it to the cervix, curcumin must be absorbed, unless a vaginal cream was invented.

A variety of delivery methods have been devised, besides intravaginal, there's also oral, intra-abdominal, intramuscular, and under-the-skin injections. Straight into the veins, or the arteries, on the skin, up the bladder, in the nose, breathed like an inhaler, up where the sun don't shine, or straight into the spinal column, bone marrow, the tumor itself or implanted somehow.

Taken orally, and it actually gets into the tissues. You can measure the amount of curcumin absorbed into the wall of the intestine by examining biopsies and surgical specimens taken after a curcumin regimen. It makes sense to take turmeric orally to try to fight colon cancer, but if we have cancer erupting on our skin why not just rub it on directly?

That’s what these researchers did, turmeric and curcumin as topical agents in cancer therapy. I just took some turmeric from the store made a tincture out of it, dried it and put it in Vaseline, and then had cancer patients rub it on their cancer three times a day. What kind of cancer can you get at with a finger? These were folks with cancers of the mouth, breast, skin, vulva, and elsewhere. Isn’t breast cancer under the surface? Not always. Advanced breast cancer can ulcerate right through the skin. These were all people with recurrent ulcerating tumors that had failed to respond to surgery, radiation, and chemo. And these open cancers can stink and itch and ooze. There was nothing else medicine had to offer. So let’s rub on some turmeric ointment and see what happens. It produced remarkable relief. A reduction in smell was noted in 90% of the cases even in extensively ulcerated cases of breast cancer, and a reduction in itching in almost all cases as well. For example relieving the severe itching in two of the vulva cancer patients.

Most of the lesions dried up and in many cases this relief lasted for months, all from just rubbing on the harmless spice turmeric, which they describe as an indigenous drug, highly effective in reducing smell, itching and exudate. The effect of this so-called drug is remarkable. And that drug, is just some edible spice used in curries for centuries.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

To help out on the site please email


Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

The colon cancer video I refer to is my last video, Turmeric Curcumin and Colon Cancer.

More on what this golden spice can do in:

There are ways of Boosting the Bioavailability of Curcumin to get it into our blood stream.

Some should be cautious about turmeric use, though. See Who Shouldn’t Consume Curcumin or Turmeric?

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Merio

    This is really interesting, and maybe if more plant substances are added to the “cream”, maybe the effect could be even more better…

  • sharon brink

    The turmeric relieved smell, itch, etc., did it ultimately cure some cancers?

    • Thea

      Sharon, The narrative does say, “Most of the lesions dried up…”. But I’m not sure what that means. I may mean that the surface problem was cured but not the underlying cancer? I just don’t know.

  • SeedyCharacter

    It seemed the research article was from 1987. Is turmeric being used for cancer treatments these days? Is there any current research? Or because big pharma can’t make huge profits off of a common spice, is the research and application languishing?

    • Darryl

      In the past 20 years, there have been around 26,700 articles mentioning curcumin and cancer (18,600 in the past 5 years, 12,900 in the last year). Most research has been academic, with pharmaceutical companies examining enhanced bioavailability formulations like Meriva. As you might imagine, researchers from India are well represented, most notably Bharat Aggarwal of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Instutute in Houston.

  • Plantsrongdoc M.D.

    A natural compound having this effect is just amazing! Nature rules….

  • JR

    does this work for supplements?

    • bob

      I take a curcumin supplement daily. The one I currently take is 95% curcuminoids in sunflower oil in a gel cap….probably could just pierce the cap and use it as an ointment. If you take curcumin/tumeric…take a sniff after your next urine test…or maybe not?

    • norma

      I use on my smoothies, juices… better take naturally, you can add to soup, bean, tomato sauce, anything that has some kind of sauce, it does taste little spyce. It’s a wonderful anti-inflammatory for you body in general.
      So ..I think is better prevent than treat, in case of cancer.

  • Robin D. Everson

    One of the best videos you have made. Thank you Dr. Greger.

    • Arjan den Hollander.

      You think?

      You need to start browsing videos on this site fast, :)

      No kidding there are loads more generally usefull ones.

      • Han

        It’s all in the eye of the beholder. No point in argueing that.

  • Roland Stebbins

    I note that he mentions using vaseline and wonder if this can be used on tongue lesions inside the mouth. I’m tempted to try turmeric on the tongue but wonder about the vaseline.

    • Chris Hartley

      perhaps substitute coconut oil for the vaseline ?

      • Ben

        I wonder if tumeric mixed with coconut oil could provide a little bit of protection from sunburn? Before I go to the beach I load up on things like beet root and red cabbage about an hour before I expose myself… Maybe it’s just a placebo effect but I feel like I don’t burn as easily.. Maybe turmeric mixed coconut oil might help even more.

  • Rick

    You can mix curcumin in a little DMSO liquid which should help carry it through the skin. I did this a few years ago and rubbed it on my neck in the hope that it would help treat my skull base tumor. The tumor stopped growing and has been stable for eight years now. (Of course I did many other things too.)

  • mikeyboy

    Wow, I was just sent this by a good friend who believes everything he gets from this site. But I will tell you as a cancer survivor I am really offended by much of what this site puts out. This one is really bad, one study of 64 patients who were given a topical treatment for 4 weeks with no long term followup, wow no that is a new low and really bad medicine really really ill responsible. People get hurt by this type of misinformation. Skin cancer spread quickly, most forms are very incurable with prompt attention. All this will do is have people delay there visit to the doctor while they attempt to self treat.

    Shame on you Doc !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • tanonymus

      are you ok? I realy think people with cancer will be treated by their doctors – and ADD tumoric to their diet and all. Verry few Hippies will try to cure cancer in their backyard.

  • mdouble

    I am constantly impressed with the tremendous amount of information you can back into one of your videos. Aside from being really interesting much of it, like this video on Turmeric are potentially life saving. Thanks again for your continued research and the exceptional public service you do by offering it freely.

  • Sleepless in Seattle

    The video shows breast cancer with an open wound and a partially exposed tumor. What sort of cream can be blended with turmeric and be suitable for application to such a site? How can it be made sterile before application? How can the cream be removed so the wound can be cleaned? I’m dealing with this and need some specifics. Thanks.