You may have heard that turmeric can prevent or treat cancer, thanks to the presence of curcumin or diferuloyl methane, the main active ingredient of turmeric. To be sure, this magic herb has been used in the treatment of a variety of health problems, such as chronic pain, heart disease, diabetes, digestive disorders, and so on. But the cancer fighting properties of turmeric tends to be greeted with suspicion.
Curcumin is a powerful medicinal compound that is responsible for the bright hue. It is an antimutagen and anti-tumor promoter. For that reason, it has been listed as the third generation cancer chemotherapeutic drug by US National Cancer Institute. It is worth mentioning that curcumin can be found in curry and mustard too. More importantly, turmeric (Curcuma longa) is just one of a few plants that are newly found with antitumor proclivity. Other similar ones include lime, algae, olive leaves, tomato, grape, blueberry, green tea, and more. Laboratory and animal research suggests that all of them contain unique antioxidants that help protect body cells from free radical damage and chronic inflammation.
As turmeric is extensive, inexpensive, and with few side effects, it represents a new hope for future cancer treatment with low toxicity and high efficiency. However, science has yet to prove its mechanism so far.
For that reason, curcumin has been among the most intensively studied of natural antitumor drugs these days. Recent studies conducted by American scientists show that the highly purified curcumin can reverse the progression of cancer by adjusting inflammatory cytokines, tumor metastasis related factors, growth factors, protein kinase, oncoproteins, and other dozens of targets. In addition, the latest research shows that the number of cancer-linked targets modulated by curcumin has reached 86, among which 23 has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That’s to say, curcumin is able to target malignant cells by inhibiting proliferation and inducing apoptosis.
When it comes to the benefits of curcumin for cancer, it can promote malignant cell death while causing no harm to healthy cells. It is the ability that modern cancer treatments do not currently possess since they tend to damage the normal cells around malignant ones. If the health benefits of turmeric can be fully discovered, the researchers can come up with new cancer treatments with no or very few side effects. Good news is that many turmeric supplements have been carefully designed.
It is important to note that the plant extract alone can’t wage war on cancer stem cells. In other words, the issue is not curcumin itself but the body’s absorption capacity. Just like other antioxidants, it is with low bioavailability and little of it reaches at the site of action. For example, when a person takes more than 10 grams of it, very little of it can be found in the bloodstream. In this case, it fails to protect cells because it is rapidly degraded by the stomach juices after it has been swallowed. In this case, the solution is to use an enteric coating to protect them from degradation.
Besides, it is reported that the combination with piperine, an alkaloid found in black pepper, can increase the bioavailability of turmeric. As a result, piperine helps reduce the required dose. In terms of how much curcumin to take for cancer, the daily recommended dose is 50 mg. Or, overdose may cause indigestion, gallbladder deterioration, and other health concerns. In fact, liver problems have been verified in the experimental animals.
So, in order to make full use of the possible anti-cancer properties of curcumin, it is a good idea to choose the supplements that contain piperine and enteric coating too.