Many papers suggest turmeric can benefit a multitude of health conditions. Learn more in our easy-to-understand videos on the latest research.
In recent years, more than five thousand articles have been published in the medical literature about curcumin, the pigment in the Indian spice turmeric that gives curry powder its characteristic golden color. Curcumin was first isolated more than a century ago, yet out of the thousands of experiments, only a few in the twentieth century were clinical studies involving actual human participants. Since the turn of the century, however, more than 50 clinical trials have tested curcumin against a variety of diseases, and dozens more studies are on the way.
Since 1987, the National Cancer Institute has tested more than a thousand different compounds for chemopreventive, or cancer-preventing, activity. Only a few dozen have made it to clinical trials, and curcumin, turmeric’s bright-yellow pigment, is among the most promising. Chemopreventive agents can be classified into different subgroups based on which stage of cancer development they help to fight: Carcinogen blockers and antioxidants help prevent the initial triggering DNA mutation, and antiproliferatives work by keeping tumors from growing and spreading. Curcumin is special in that it appears to belong to all three groups, meaning it may potentially help prevent and/or arrest cancer cell growth.
The anticancer effects of curcumin extend beyond its ability to potentially prevent DNA mutations. It also appears to help regulate programmed cell death. Our cells are preprogrammed to die naturally to make way for fresh cells through a process known as apoptosis (from the Greek ptosis, falling, and apo, away from). In a sense, our body is rebuilding itself every few months with the building materials we provide it through our diet. Some cells, however, overstay their welcome—namely, cancer cells. By somehow disabling their own suicide mechanism, they don’t die when they’re supposed to. Because they continue to thrive and divide, cancer cells can eventually form tumors and potentially spread throughout the body.
So how does curcumin affect this process? It appears to have the ability to reprogram the self-destructing mechanism back into cancer cells. All cells contain so-called death receptors that trigger the self-destruction sequence, but cancer cells can disable their own death receptors. Curcumin, however, appears able to reactivate them. Curcumin can also kill cancer cells directly by activating “execution enzymes” called caspases inside cancer cells that destroy them from within by chopping up their proteins. Unlike most chemotherapy drugs, against which cancer cells can develop resistance over time, curcumin affects several mechanisms of cell death simultaneously, making it potentially harder for cancer cells to avoid destruction. For reasons not fully understood, curcumin seems to leave noncancerous cells alone.
Curcumin may play a role in preventing or treating lung disease, brain disease, and a variety of cancers, including multiple myeloma and cancers of the breast, brain, blood, colon, kidney, liver, pancreas, and skin, and may also help speed recovery after surgery and effectively treat rheumatoid arthritis better than the leading drug of choice. It also may be effective in treating osteoarthritis and other inflammatory conditions, such as lupus and inflammatory bowel disease. In a recent trial for ulcerative colitis, a multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study found that more than 50 percent of patients achieved remission within just one month on curcumin compared to none of the patients who received the placebo.
With few downsides at culinary doses and myriad potential health benefits, I’d suggest trying to find ways to incorporate turmeric into your daily diet.
The information on this page has been compiled from Dr. Greger’s research. Sources for each video listed can be found by going to the video’s page and clicking on the Sources Cited tab. References may also be found at the back of his books.
Popular Videos for Turmeric
Benefits of Turmeric Curcumin for Inflammatory Orbital PseudotumorFrom conjunctivitis to uveitis to a low-grade form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, there is something in...
Turmeric or Curcumin: Plants vs. PillsCurcumin-free turmeric, from which the so-called active ingredient has been removed, may be as effective...
Which Spices Fight Inflammation?An elegant experiment is described in which the blood of those eating different types of...
Turmeric Curcumin for PrediabetesA randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial on the use of the turmeric pigment curcumin to prevent...
Speeding Recovery from Surgery with TurmericThe anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin, the pigment in the spice turmeric, was put to the...
Heart of Gold: Turmeric vs. ExerciseDiet and exercise synergize to improve endothelial function, the ability of our arteries to relax...
Turmeric Curcumin & Pancreatic CancerCarcinogens in grilled and baked chicken may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, while curcumin,...
Treating Alzheimer’s with TurmericWhat a teaspoon a day of the spice turmeric may be able to do for...
Back to Our Roots: Curry and CancerDramatically lower cancer rates in India may in part be attributable to their more plant-based,...
Who Shouldn’t Consume Curcumin or Turmeric?Just because something is natural and plant-based doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe. Those who are...
Boosting the Bioavailability of CurcuminDietary strategies, including the use of black pepper (piperine), can boost blood levels of curcumin...
Turmeric Curcumin and OsteoarthritisThe yellow pigment curcumin in the spice turmeric may work as well as, or better...
Fighting Lupus with Turmeric: Good as GoldA quarter teaspoon of the spice turmeric was put to the test for the treatment...
Striking with the Root: Turmeric Curcumin and Ulcerative ColitisA double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found a dramatic effect of the anti-inflammatory spice pigment curcumin against...
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