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The spice turmeric has a long-established history as a natural medicine with tremendous disease prevention and treatment potential.

Turmeric and Cancer

Turmeric may prevent and treat (possibly by reprogramming cancer cell death) certain types of cancer including cancers of the colon, pancreas, skin, mouth and vulva, as well as ulcerating breast cancer. It may also prevent type 2 diabetes, possibly by decreasing fats in the blood.

While population studies can’t prove a correlation between dietary turmeric and decreased cancer risk, it’s well known that the prevalence of cancer is significantly lower among populations that consume the most turmeric, like India.

Turmeric has long been used to fight inflammation and may be able to improve endothelial function – the ability of our arteries to relax normally. Turmeric consumption may also be beneficial for those suffering from multiple myeloma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s.

In one study, turmeric produced a dramatic reduction in pain and fatigue among patients recovering from gallstone surgery, leading researchers to suggest it as an alternative to synthesized anti-inflammatory medications.

Certain individuals should not consume curcumin or turmeric, including those who are pregnant or susceptible to kidney stones.

Turmeric Supplements

Turmeric is affordable and readily available; in fact, it’s the third best-selling botanical dietary supplement. Yet clinical trials remain sporadic because natural foods or spices like turmeric cannot be turned into an intellectual property. Drug companies are not interested in its commercialization because they cannot profit from it. Turmeric is an active ingredient in numerous supplements, but the industry is poorly regulated and many of these supplements don’t contain the ingredients on the label.

While curcumin has been identified as an active ingredient in turmeric, it is only one of many active ingredients, and for this reason, those interested in diet supplementation should consume the whole herb, turmeric, rather than just curcumin.


Image Credit: Thanthima Limsakul © 123RF.com. This image has been modified.

Topic summary contributed by Dawn Handschuh

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