Topical application for turmeric curcumin for cancer

Image Credit: Andrea Kirkby / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Topical Application of Turmeric Curcumin for Cancer

In my video, Turmeric Curcumin and Colon Cancer, I talked about a study where researchers showed that, by taking curcumin, the yellow pigment in the spices turmeric and curry powder, those at high risk for colon cancer could cut down on precancerous and even pre-precancerous lesions, in effect reversing cancer progression. 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 to those 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 stomach? Researchers did this, and 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 patients with precancerous mouth lesions, one out of six patients with precancerous stomach lesions, one out of four early stage cervical cancer cases, and two out of six patients with early stage skin cancer, all without any noticeable side-effects.

One of the reasons turmeric curcumin may work in some cancers better than others, or in some people better than others, is differences in bioavailability. Megadoses were given, yet just a tiny amount ended up in the bloodstream. If we’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. In the video, Topical Application of Turmeric Curcumin for Cancer, you can see some before and after pics. Cervical cancer cells are laid to waste as more and more curcumin is added, and normal cells are unharmed. But to make it to the cervix, curcumin must be absorbed (though a vaginal cream has been invented).

A variety of delivery methods have been devised, including oral, intra-abdominal, intramuscular, 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, some curcumin does actually get into the tissues. We 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 one group of researchers did. They took some turmeric from the store, made a tincture out of it, dried it, 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. The subjects were all people with recurrent ulcerating tumors that had failed to respond to surgery, radiation, and chemo. These open cancers can stink, itch, and ooze, and there was nothing else medicine had to offer. So, they rubbed some turmeric ointment to see what happened. 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, treatment relieved 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 the researchers 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.

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?

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of DeathMore Than an Apple a DayFrom Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

32 responses to “Topical Application of Turmeric Curcumin for Cancer

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  1. “They took some turmeric from the store, made a tincture out of it, dried it, put it in Vaseline, and then had cancer patients rub it on their cancer three times a day.”
    I’d be more inclined to use a non-petroleum based product like shea butter or coconut oil if I were doing this. Will the marvels of turmeric curcumin never cease?

  2. Those were my thoughts, too. And I’d add black pepper, or maybe use one of the concentrated capsules spilled into the coconut oil.

  3. Is it possible to get the recipe/formula for making the topical ointment described in the video?
    I’m not familiar with the term “tincture”.

    Please explain this process

    1. It may be mentioned in the methods section of the article. Do you mind searching the “sources cited” section and pulling the study? I’m afraid I might tell you the wrong advice. If you cannot find it I’l investigate further. Thanks, A. Bruton.

    2. A tincture is an herbal extract that typically uses high proof alcohol (although sometimes another liquids like apple cider vinegar) to extract constituents from a plant. I don’t know what this study’s alcohol to plant ratio is, but you can likely find a pre-made turmeric tincture in any health food store in the herbal remedy section.

    3. Burton: google “mountain rose blog”, search the word “tinctures”, click on “guide to making tinctures”; you’ll find a great discussion.

  4. There is a bromelain treatment for cervical cancer. While it may still be in trials in the U.S., I believe it is being used already in some other countries that have fewer barriers to use of these kinds of non-harmful therapies.

    Also, there are existing aloe topical ointments available even in the U.S. for the less serious forms of skin cancer, though I know of a person who used aloe against melanoma and says that he triumphed. Melanoma was endemic in his family, and he knew what it looked like, and he knew he had a lesion.

    Big Harma is facing some challenges in keeping government-enforced monopolies. It will be interesting to watch as indigenous, long-trialed medicine comes raging forward. While captured media can keep much of the U.S. in the dark, cross-cutting cleavages in our social cohorts will not allow the moats to protect the castles forever. I predict we will be seeing….. change.

      1. I work as a medical model at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR. The use of bromelain is in clinical-trial mode there. Also, a vinegar wash can be used to disclose precancerous tissue. I am not sure the vinegar wash is being used at NCNM. I may have read about this on the net as being used elsewhere.

        1. sorry but soy milk or any soy is not healthy, and raises estrogen levels and that can cause cancer. i worked in a large food store for years and took classes and research, and many nutritionist and doctors even know this. plus soy is gmo’d also! do the research before you eat or drink things that can in the end kill you slowly! even almond milk is not safe, do the research….. thank you……

          1. Organic soy milk is not GMO. Also please provide a link to the research paper that soy raises estrogen levels and is harmful for health. Dr. G says the opposite ie upto 5 servings of soy per day reduces chance of cancer.
            In any case your recommendation to avoid almond and soy milk is not practical, if O am to avoid dairy.

    1. There are fats also that help carry curcumin to where it needs to go. In traditional Indian cooking, it is my understanding that ghee (clarified butter) and coconut oil are both used. Coconut and aloe can also help with topical applications.

      1. Both of those sources are high in saturated fats. I would not eat either one. Indians diets are known for fewer cancers but otherwise not so great. High in dairy, high in fats, often fried. Not one for good health.

        1. that is Indian restaurant food, not traditional Indian food… :) Just like chicken fried steak or onion rings are not something Americans used to have every day… My Mom is from India, the food she cooks for day-to-day is very healthy. Lots of vegetables slowly cooked with a bit of ghee and spices, rice or home-made chapatis made from whole wheat flour, pulses (lentils, mung beans, etc.), yogurt, pickles (some raw, some cooked) and so on. The thing I find lacking in an Indian diet is that I don’t think they eat enough salads so I add that. You can substitution olive oil or other types of oils for ghee and coconut oil.

          Actually, a lot of traditional cuisines (Mexican, Italian, Greek, Chinese, etc.) are very healthy but the restaurant versions are NOT! For example, traditional Mexican food is actually very low in fat. But restaurant Mexican food is often heart-attack-inducing!

    1. Most cancers are on the rise… i guess effects of pollution, bad diets (carbo overload), proliferation of western diet and increasing meat consumption have wiped out whatever subtle positive impact of turmeric in curry !

  5. A friend, who was an anthropologist, surprised my by telling me that some of the native American tribes were in the practice of collecting the pure petroleum that oozed out of the ground naturally. They boiled and processed it into a product that we would call Vaseline today. In this product, they blended medicinal herbs and spices or used it “as-is” for superficial ailments and wounds. When petroleum is processed to that point, it becomes extremely benign, yet retains several positive characteristics. He even remarked that some tribes had even learned to make a form of plastic from the processed petroleum. It’s been said that man has buried more knowledge than he will ever unearth.

  6. It’s not surprising that a simple preparation of curcumin would be effective on skin lesions as well as in the colon. As we learned in med school the entire excursion “from mouth to anus” is considered to be external. Since so little orally ingested curcumin is metabolized it is essentially a “topical preparation” with respect to the colon as well, remaining in contact until it is excreted. As shown in a previous video on improving bioavailability, adding black pepper and fat results in a brief serum level spike, but this isn’t nearly long enough to allow appreciable penetration in other tissues such as brain, heart, liver, breast, etc. The key to its use as a treatment modality is achieving significant serum levels of free curcumin over a sustained period of time. This isn’t possible without some form of enhanced delivery system [beyond curry].

  7. I’d love to use it on my facial skin to avoid having benign growths burned off…but the stain! What can be done to change the staining? I know it’s the pigment that’s active…I wonder if this is how “war paint’ got its start?

    1. In India a mixture of chickpea flour, turmeric and a few drops of lemon are regularly used as a sort of home based fave pack and give a nice glow.

  8. If using topicals on skin problems, be sure first to have them examined. If you just treat them and they go away, no one will know, and later on any spreading of cancer from them might be caught too late. They are worth checking out and biopsy, etc anything suspicious. I found that using 6 volt battery wired to two wet sponges placed on basal cell carcinoma resulted in it vanishing in a week or so. It inactivates an enzyme in the cancer called ribonucleotide reductase, which has an extra electron at the active site. Flowing a current (negative electrical charges) over this enzyme removes the extra electron, and the enzyme can’t result in the cancer cell reproducing, or so the hypothesis goes. It appears to work great, but…as I say, what if it’s not basal cell, but melanoma? It could go away locally but come back somewhere else much later, after the ‘evidence’ is gone. Don’t mess with cancer unless you have the help of a good diagnostician for it, whatever you decide for treatment, would be my opinion.

  9. My brother In law lives in Costa Rica and he had cancer in his bones, after surgery he develop a bad rash in his arms, I suggested to get coconut oil and curcumin, and rub it in his arms every night, he use old sheets and pillowcase as it gets all over, he is doing so much better.
    Thank you Doctor we appreciate your help. Not sure if his problem is skin cancer!
    Also my husband had a scalp problem even his ears and he applies coconut oil after shower every day he is heal……

  10. I have a question about Turmeric supplementation. My husband has stage 4 liver disease and is currently number 7 on the Transplant list for a new liver. He is now developing liver tumors and has the max number allowed (3) and still get a liver. You can see how we want to do everything possible not to have anymore grow. With the approval of the UW Doctors, I am making him a turmeric shake several times a week (high portent drink with 3/4 tsp Turmeric). Is is not easy to get down and really has a bad aftertaste. However, if it will help he is willing. I saw at Costco a Turmeric supplementation. Each capsule has 400mg Turmeric (rhizome) (Curcuma long) /Olive (leaf) extract (20% oleuropein)/Black Pepper (fruit) extract (95% pipeline) (BioPerine). Now I am not a fan of isolating compounds as we do our very best to get our nutrients from food, but this might be a case where a supplement might be helpful. Your thoughts. Thanks

  11. Thanks for spreading the word about turmeric. I have started eating it daily because of the information you have provided on this site and in your book How Not To Die.

    I do have a criticism of the first paragraph in the article above. Is the phrase “… in effect reversing cancer progression.” false? I am not a cancer semantics expert. I ask this because it seems like cancer cannot progress until it exists and the sentence in question only talks about reducing precancerous and pre-precancerous lesions. Perhaps the clause “… in effect reversing cancer progression” should be deleted.

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