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The Potential Of Turmeric As A Cancer Cure

Turmeric Cancer Benefits

Curcumin, a dietary polyphenol found in turmeric, is gaining ground as an anticancer agent and cancer cure. By fighting free radical damage and the binding of cancer-causing chemicals to DNA, it may help prevent normal cells from becoming cancerous. The natural remedy suppresses mutagens and carcinogens and inhibits the spread of tumor cells. What’s more, it can even initiate programmed cell death of cancerous cells without harming the healthy cells around it, making it a promising alternative.

You may know turmeric as the staple ingredient in Asian curries. But it is now emerging as an alternative remedy to fight and prevent one of the diseases we all fear – cancer. What makes it a formidable ally against cancers ranging from ovarian and breast cancer to liver, pancreas, and colorectal cancer? The answer lies in the potent antioxidant and anticancer properties of its active component – curcumin.

Here’s a look at how this ancient golden yellow spice could slow or halt the progress of cancerous tumor cells and even eliminate them altogether.1

1. Kills Tumor Cells

Derived from the root Curcuma longa, turmeric has immunomodulatory properties and enhances the cell death of tumor cells, paving the way for its use in alternative cancer remedies or prevention.2

Curcumin, the active component of turmeric, modulates and regulates the growth of tumor cells, selectively killing them. What makes turmeric and curcumin especially promising is that it doesn’t seem to have an adverse impact on the normal cells of your body and only affects tumor cells.3 Curcumin is able to induce a variety of cancer cells to essentially self-destruct, a process known as apoptosis. It does this by interfering with the normal development of these cells and by damaging the DNA of tumor cells.4

2. Suppresses Carcinogens And Inhibits Tumors From Forming

Research has found that curcumin has the ability to suppress the activity of cancer-causing agents like carcinogens and mutagens that are responsible for developing cancers in the body.5

It hampers the spread of cancer in its early stages and also inhibits the enzymes in your body responsible for carcinogenesis (formation of cancer). This process typically begins after your body has been exposed to carcinogens or cancer-causing agents and toxins. And turmeric could act as a roadblock of sorts. Studies on animal test subjects have found it effective in inhibiting carcinogenesis associated with intestinal, mammary, and oral tumors and cancers.6 The topical use of curcumin in animal studies also inhibited tumor formation in the epidermis of test animals.7

3. Tackles Inflammation-Linked Cancer

While not fully understood, a long-standing theory links inflammation and cancer formation. Inflammation may also result in chemoresistance, which makes conventional chemotherapy ineffective in fighting the cancer.8

Inflammation also plays a key role in the progress of a cancer, with several cancers arising from a location of chronic low-level inflammation or chronic irritation. Free radical damage, exposure to environmental pollutants, foods and stress can cause sustained inflammation that sets the stage for cancer. And that’s where turmeric’s anti-inflammatory action and immune-boosting properties come in.910

4. Fights Free Radical Damage Linked Cancer

Curcumin in turmeric is a powerful antioxidant that’s been compared in its impact to antioxidant vitamins like beta-carotene and vitamins C and E. Because of this property, it can fight free radical damage in the body.

Free radical damage is believed to be one strong factor that raises the risk of cancer. These free radicals cause toxicity and damage to cells but curcumin can act against them and protect the body.11 It is also able to modulate and increase levels of antioxidant glutathione that can help prevent damage to cellular components.12

5. Limits Nutrient Supply To Cancerous Cells

Angiogenesis or the formation of new blood vessels is important for tumor cells to grow and proliferate. Tumor cells normally stimulate the formation of new blood vessels to feed them with nutrients and oxygen. With the backing of this supply, cancer cells can invade surrounding tissue and spread through the body.13 Curcumin in turmeric may prevent this from happening by cutting off the nutrient supply tumor cells need to thrive. Research has shown curcumin modulates angiogenesis, inhibiting the growth of new blood vessels supplying the tumor cells.14

6. Offers An Inexpensive Alternative Without Major Side Effects

Mainstream cancer treatment is fraught with side effects, many of which while life-saving can hugely alter your quality of life. These range from appetite loss, hair loss, sleep trouble, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and fatigue to pain, anemia, bleeding, sexual and fertility issues, and even memory/concentration problems.15In addition, these treatments are often expensive and a huge burden on the patient and their family. Which is why herbal and natural remedies like turmeric, which is relatively inexpensive and does not have any dire side effects, offer hope in cancer treatment.

7. Boosts Effectiveness Of Chemotherapy

Curcumin may even help improve the results of your chemotherapy. Combining it with conventional chemotherapeutic agents can make those agents more effective, especially if the cancer cells are resistant to chemotherapy (chemoresistant).16 It helps fight drug-resistant cancer cells by making tumor cells responsive to chemotherapy – demonstrated in many studies on breast and colorectal cancer cells.1718

8. Provides Relief From Cancerous Lesions

An ointment containing curcumin as well as turmeric extract may help those with external cancerous lesions. In one study that used a turmeric ointment on lesions, smell and itching reduced significantly for almost all patients while the pain and size of lesions reduced for about 10 percent. Almost 70% saw their lesions dry up.19

Dietary Intake Of Turmeric Has Few Side Effects But Curcumin Supplements Should Be Regulated

Dietary intake of turmeric on a regular basis is fine and seems to cause no side effects. However, some people have complained of stomach aches after prolonged ingestion of large amounts of turmeric. There have also been some reports of skin problems and irritation on consuming large amounts.

With curcumin supplements, however, things are a little different. One supplement sold online was found to contain a substance called nimesulide (added for its anti-inflammatory property) which resulted in liver damage in some people. Watch for warnings signs of liver problems like dark urine, jaundiced skin, abdominal pain, fatigue, and appetite loss.20

Use Turmeric Safely

Avoid buying supplements online and always consult your doctor before you begin any alternative treatments. It is also important to remember that these are treatments that may work alongside your regular anti-cancer treatment or as preventive care. They may not always be strong or quick enough to deliver the same results as mainstream treatment yet. So do not discontinue your medication or treatment without consulting your doctor first.21

References   [ + ]

1, 3. Ravindran, Jayaraj, Sahdeo Prasad, and Bharat B. Aggarwal. “Curcumin and cancer cells: how many ways can curry kill tumor cells selectively?.” The AAPS journal 11, no. 3 (2009): 495-510.
2. Schaffer, Moshe, Pamela M. Schaffer, Jamal Zidan, and Gil Bar Sela. “Curcuma as a functional food in the control of cancer and inflammation.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 14, no. 6 (2011): 588-597.
4. Park, Wungki, ARM Ruhul Amin, Zhuo Georgia Chen, and Dong M. Shin. “New perspectives of curcumin in cancer prevention.” Cancer prevention research 6, no. 5 (2013): 387-400.
5, 11. Akram, M., S. H. Uddin, A. Ahmed, K. Usmanghani, A. Hannan, E. Mohiuddin, and M. Asif. “Curcuma longa and curcumin: a review article.” Rom J Biol Plant Biol 55, no. 2 (2010): 65-70.
6. Wilken, Reason, Mysore S. Veena, Marilene B. Wang, and Eri S. Srivatsan. “Curcumin: A review of anti-cancer properties and therapeutic activity in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.” Molecular cancer 10, no. 1 (2011): 12.
7. Huang, M-T., Z. Y. Wang, C. A. Georgiadis, J. D. Laskin, and A. H. Conney. “Inhibitory effects of curcumin on tumor initiation by benzo [a] pyrene and 7, 12-dimethylbenz [a] anthracene.” Carcinogenesis 13, no. 11 (1992): 2183-2186.
8. Chen, Rui, Ayesha B. Alvero, Dan‐Arin Silasi, and Gil Mor. “Inflammation, cancer and chemoresistance: taking advantage of the toll‐like receptor signaling pathway.” American journal of reproductive immunology 57, no. 2 (2007): 93-107.
9. Basnet, Purusotam, and Natasa Skalko-Basnet. “Curcumin: an anti-inflammatory molecule from a curry spice on the path to cancer treatment.” Molecules 16, no. 6 (2011): 4567-4598.
10. Al-Suhaimi, Ebtesam A., Noorah A. Al-Riziza, and Reham A. Al-Essa. “Physiological and therapeutical roles of ginger and turmeric on endocrine functions.” The American journal of Chinese medicine 39, no. 02 (2011): 215-231.
12. Biswas, Saibal K., Danny McClure, Luis A. Jimenez, Ian L. Megson, and Irfan Rahman. “Curcumin induces glutathione biosynthesis and inhibits NF-κB activation and interleukin-8 release in alveolar epithelial cells: mechanism of free radical scavenging activity.” Antioxidants & redox signaling 7, no. 1-2 (2005): 32-41.
13. Angiogenesis Inhibitors. National Cancer Institute.
14. Bhandarkar, Sulochana S., and Jack L. Arbiser. “Curcumin as an inhibitor of angiogenesis.” The Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Uses of Curcumin in Health and Disease (2007): 185-195.
15. Side Effects. National Cancer Institute.
16, 18. Shakibaei, Mehdi, Ali Mobasheri, Cora Lueders, Franziska Busch, Paviz Shayan, and Ajay Goel. “Curcumin enhances the effect of chemotherapy against colorectal cancer cells by inhibition of NF-κB and Src protein kinase signaling pathways.” PloS one 8, no. 2 (2013): e57218.
17. Sen, Gouri Sankar, Suchismita Mohanty, Dewan Md Sakib Hossain, Sankar Bhattacharyya, Shuvomoy Banerjee, Juni Chakraborty, Shilpi Saha et al. “Curcumin enhances the efficacy of chemotherapy by tailoring p65NFκB-p300 cross-talk in favor of p53-p300 in breast cancer.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 286, no. 49 (2011): 42232-42247.
19. Kuttan, Ramadasan, P. C. Sudheeran, and C. D. Josph. “Turmeric and curcumin as topical agents in cancer therapy.” Tumori 73, no. 1 (1987): 29-31.
20, 21. Turmeric. Cancer Research UK.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.