Turmeric, the must have medicinal, culinary herbal spice
Turmeric, derived from Curcuma longa, has been used in India and China for thousands of years. It has diverse clinical uses without any known adverse effects , and as such has been labeled as the “spice of life” It is known as Haldi in India.
This article discusses scientific evidence for health benefits of turmeric.
Note: The yellow color is due to its active component, curcumin which constitutes 2-5% of turmeric. Chemical structure of curcumin is diferuloylmethane.
Traditional uses of turmeric
- Religious ceremonies
While turmeric has been used in India for thousands of years, it can also be seen in the writings of Marco Polo discussing his 1280 Voyage to China and India. The West got its first taste of turmeric in the thirteenth century courtsey of Arab merchants.
The term “curry powder” for turmeric was coined during the British rule of India.
Clinical uses in Eastern medicine:
Since the several thousand years of Ayurveda, numerous therapeutic activities have been assigned to turmeric for a wide variety of diseases and conditions as follows:
- Skin diseases including skin eczema
- Various kinds of allergies
- Respiratory disorders including asthma
- Gastrointestinal and liver disorders
- Nonspecific aches and pains
- Wound healing
Scientific evidence-based clinical uses of turmeric or curcumin
- Protection against development of experimental gastric ulcer in animals.
- Reduction of indomethacin-induced damage in the rat small intestine
- Reduction of Helicobacter pylori infection in vivo in animal models of H. pylori gastritis and as such may have role as adjunctive therapy. Curcumin alone does not have any effect on H. pylori infection in humans
- Adjuvant for Chemoradiation therapy in cancer
- A chemosensitizer and radiosensitizer for cancer cells and tumors and chemoprotector and radioprotector for normal tissues.
- Inhibits inflammation-induced colon/rectum carcinogenesis in mice and as such may be of potential benefit in inflammatory bowel disease.
- Inhibits the proteasome activity in human colon cancer cells
- Reduces neurotensin-mediated interleukin-8 production and migration of human colon cancer cells.
- Synergistic activity with Celecoxib against the growth of colorectal cancer cells
- Inhibits colitis or inflammation in colon via reduction of neutrophil chemotaxis and chemokinesis
- Oral administration of curcumin emulsified in carboxymethyl cellulose has a potent anti-inflammatory effect in the IL-10 gene-deficient mouse model of IBD
- Protects against colonic inflammation in various anaimal models of genetic, iummune mediated as welol as chemically inuced colitis by chemicals such as dextran sulfate sodium and trinitrobenzene sulphonic acid.
- Protective effects in chemically induced colitis may be strain dependent.
Ulcerative colitis is one of the few disorders where curcumin has been studied in humans
- A pilot study examined the effect of Curcumin therapy in 5 patients with ulcerative proctitis and 5 with Crohn’s disease. All of the patients with proctitis improved, whereas improvement was seen in 4 of the 5 with Crohn's disease.
- Curcumin maintenance therapy for ulcerative colitis: A randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. found that the relapse rate in ulcerative colitis patients taking curcumin over 6 months was 5% as compared to 21% in the placebo group (p<0.05).
- Decreases cholangiocarcinogenesis in hamsters by suppressing inflammation-mediated toxic injury.
- Protects against aflatoxin B1 toxicity in rats.
- Demonstrates anticancer activity in human carcinoma cell lines
- Prevents bacterial translocation and oxidative damage in obstructive jaundice.
- Reduces liver damage in rats treated with ethanol.
- Protects animals against acetaminophen or Tylenol(R) -induced liver and kidney damage and has synergistic activity with N-acetyl cysteine.
- Reduces periductal fibrosis in liver fluke-infected hamsters
- Improves sclerosing cholangitis in by inhibiting cholangiocyte inflammatory reaction and myofibroblastic proliferation.
- Inhibits chemical-induced liver inflammation and scarring or fibrosis in rats.
- Attenuates methotraxate-induced hepatic injury in rats.
- Protects against liver injury in animal model of endotoxemic shock.
Fatty Liver (Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD/NASH)
- Prevents high lipid levels and hepatic steatosis in fructose-fed rats.
- Reduces the worsening from fatty liver to fibrosis and scarring and cirrhosis of liver.
- Inhibits hepatitis C virus replication via suppressing the Akt-SREBP-1 pathway
- Inhibits hepatitis B viral production in vitro
- Suppressess hepatitis B virus via down-regulation of the metabolic coactivator PGC-1alpha.
A randomized placebo controlled trial found that Oxy-Q which contains 480 mg of curcumin and 20 mg of quercetin improves early outcomes in cadaveric renal transplantation and has potential to have similar beneficial effects in liver transplant patients.
- Protects against streptozotocin-induced islet damage by scavenging free radicals
- Reduces serum TNF-alpha and IL-6 levels in the late phase of acute pancreatitis
- Inhibits activation pancreatic stellate cells thus protecting against pancreatic fibrosis and inflammation
- Ameliorates ethanol and nonethanol experimental pancreatitis in rats
- Retards progression of experimental chronic pancreatitis and fibrosis
- Inhibits several key factors in pancreatic cancer cellular pathways
- Inhibits growth of pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells.
- Sensitizes pancreatic cancer cells to effects of chemotherapy and potentiates anticancer effect of gemcitabine.
Dose of turmeric: 2-4 g/d. Doses as high as 12g/d have been well tolerated in some studies.
Documented mechanisms of action of curcumin
- H2 receptor blocker
- COX-2 inhibitor
- Antineoplastic by causiung growth arrest and apoptosis of tumor cells
- Anti-tumor necrosis factor
- Glucose regulation by reducing insulin resistance
- Insect repellant
- Anti-Alzheimer’s by inhibiting amyloid-induced inflammation
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