Updated: December 21, 2017
Curcumin adds a distinctive yellow colour to Indian curry and yellow mustard, but it is much more than a food ingredient. For centuries, people in India have used Curcumin to treat the symptoms of diabetes, bronchitis, and laryngitis. Medical practitioners are even starting to understand how beneficial Curcumin can be when used to relieve swelling and ease the symptoms of chronic diseases. Several research studies have confirmed the benefits of Curcumin for reducing inflammation, especially the inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease.
One of Curcumin’s most well-known uses is treating inflammation and swelling. Chronic inflammation is a very serious ailment, as it has been linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other serious medical conditions. Several groups of researchers have studied the effects of Curcumin and similar compounds on inflammation in the body. In one study, researchers from the Basic Medical Institute in Beijing, China, studied the effects of Curcumin on gastrointestinal injuries in mice. They found that administration of a compound containing Curcumin helped heal the intestinal injuries. The mice also had lower levels of interleukins in their intestines. Interleukins help mediate the inflammatory response, so lower levels of these substances indicate that Curcumin fights inflammation successfully.
Researchers from China Pharmaceutical University also studied the effects of Curcumin on inflammation. The study investigators induced allergic inflammation in mice by administering ovalbumin, one of the proteins found in egg whites. They divided the mice into six groups, with some mice receiving no treatment, some receiving dexamethasone treatment, and some receiving Curcumin treatment. The investigators found that Curcumin prevented the mice from developing elevated eosinophil counts after exposure to the ovalbumin. Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell associated with inflammation. The Curcumin also had positive effects on the levels of interleukin IL 17-A present. The results of this study indicate that Curcumin may be useful for treating patients with asthma triggered by exposure to allergens.
Because Curcumin reduces inflammation, researchers have suggested that it may help prevent or reduce insulin resistance in some people. Unfortunately, humans do not absorb Curcumin very well. Scientists are looking for better ways to deliver Curcumin where it is needed. Researchers from the University of Queensland suggest that lipid formulations or nanoparticles may help increase the amount of Curcumin available in the bloodstream, increasing the benefits of this substance for people with insulin resistance.
Scientific studies suggest that Curcumin may also be useful for preventing or treating cancer, as it has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants protect cells from the effects of free radicals, which are compounds that form when the body metabolises food or comes into contact with radiation, cigarette smoke, and other harmful substances. Free radicals damage the cells and may increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases that have been linked to inflammation.
One study had promising results for researchers trying to fight breast cancer. Researchers from Sapienza University in Rome tested the effects of Curcumin on mammary tumours in mice. The researchers found that Curcumin inhibited the growth of the mammary tumours and induced programmed cell death in breast cancer cell lines. The study investigators determined that Curcumin was safe, as they did not observe any chemical changes in the mice. This study indicates that Curcumin may be useful when used in combination with other therapies used to treat breast cancer. Patients receiving this type of treatment may have fewer side effects, as Curcumin does not contain any toxic substances. More research is needed to determine the long-term benefits of using Curcumin to treat cancer, but the substance has promising applications in the field of oncology.
Elderly people in India, where Curcumin is commonly used to treat inflammation and other ailments, seem to have the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease anywhere in the world. As a result, scientists are also interested in investigating the effects of Curcumin on people who have Alzheimer’s disease or have an increased risk for the disease due to their family history. This disease is triggered by the build-up of amyloid beta, a peptide, in the brain. This build-up causes a deposit known as an amyloid plaque. People with Alzheimer’s disease may also be exposed to more oxidative stress and inflammation than people without the disease. When researchers studied the effects of Curcumin on animals, they found that it is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. Curcumin is also able to reduce the effects of oxidative stress and prevent amyloid plaque from forming in the brain. Although human studies are needed to further investigate the effects of Curcumin on Alzheimer’s disease, this is a promising development in the field of neurological research.
Curcumin is a powerful substance that has no apparent toxic effects, so it is a promising treatment for chronic diseases that increase health care costs and reduce quality of life for people who have cancer, diabetes, cerebral palsy, and other chronic conditions. Although more research is needed on humans, several animal studies have demonstrated that Curcumin is an inexpensive and safe alternative for over-the-counter and prescription drugs that may cause serious side effects. Because humans do not readily absorb Curcumin in their digestive tracts, scientists must develop ways to deliver Curcumin to where it is needed. The substance will have a more beneficial effect when it is delivered in the necessary concentration.
- Deng, Z.H., et. al. “Localized Leptin Release May Be an Important Mechanism of Curcumin Action After Ischemic Injuries.” The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, Vol. 74, No. 4, pp. 1044-51.
- Ma, C., et. al. “Curcumin Attenuates Allergic Airway Inflammation by Regulation of CD4+CD25+ Regulatory T Cells (Tregs)/Th17 Balance in Ovalbumin-Sensitized Mice.” Fitoterapia.
- Maradana, M.R., et. al. “Targeted Delivery of Curcumin for Treating Type 2 Diabetes.” Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.
- Masuelli, L., et. al. “Curcumin Induces Apoptosis in Breast Cancer Cell Lines and Delays the Growth of Mammary Tumors in Neutransgenic Mice.” Journal of Biological Regulators & Homeostatic Agents, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 105-19.