72
  • Emailarticle
  • Writecomment

Curcumin

An inflammation healer and more

By MARILYN SOLTIS
Researchers around the world are conducting hundreds of studies to determine if curcumin is effective in the treatment of a long list of conditions and diseases, ranging from an upset stomach to various forms of cancer.
   
Curcumin, an antioxidant, is an active ingredient of the spice turmeric, commonly used in Asian and Indian cooking. Traditional Chinese and Indian medicine have recorded descriptions of turmeric use as early as the seventh century AD in treatment for bronchitis, fever, diarrhea, colds, parasitic worms, and bladder and kidney inflammation. Turmeric salve is used by herbalists to treat skin conditions, infected wounds, eye infections and mouth inflammations.
   
According to the American Cancer Society, a number of studies of
curcumin have shown promising results—“Curcumin can kills cancer cells in laboratory dishes and also reduces growth of surviving cells. Curcumin also has been found to reduce development of several forms of cancer in laboratory animals and to shrink animal tumors.” Human studies of the effectiveness of curcumin for cancer are in early stages and may require years of clinical trials to ascertain how it may be used, but interest in its efficacy remains high. Some researchers believe it may prevent or slow tumors of the esophagus, mouth, intestines, stomach, breast and skin.
   
The National Institutes of Health has a Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database which rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence. It says some research shows it may improve an upset stomach. Other research showed that turmeric extracts can reduce the pain of osteoarthritis of the knee—in one study it was equal to ibuprofen in reducing pain. There is also some evidence that curcumin can aid in reducing some symptoms of osteoarthritis and skin cancer.
   
The NIH says more evidence is needed to rate effectiveness for jaundice, hepatitis, fibromyalgia, liver and gallbladder problems,
ringworm, bruising, eye infections and Alzheimer’s disease.
   
Many researchers have thought that curcumin works to reduce
inflammation in the body, thought to be the cause of many diseases.
   
Here are some of the latest research findings:

Spinal Cord Injury

The Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine published findings in June of 2012 from a study done at the School of Medicine at UCLA that showed a standard diet supplemented with DHA and curcumin preserved walking ability in rats following spinal-cord injury. The findings suggested that the dietary supplements help to repair nerve cells and maintain neurological function caused by degenerative damage to the neck.
 
The rats had simulated cervical myelopathy, which, in people, can
lead to difficulty walking, arm and neck pain, weakness of limbs, and hand numbness. Cervical myelopathy is the most common cause of walking problems caused by spine problems in people over 55.

Diabetes

   
According to the National Diabetes Education Program, as many as 79 million adults in the U.S. have prediabetes and nearly 26 million adults have diabetes. A new study out of Srinakharinwirot University in Thailand found that people who took capsules containing curcumin were less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. A study of 240 people found that 16.4 percent of people in the study that took a placebo developed Type 2 diabetes where none of the people who took curcumin capsules developed the disease.

Eye Disease

   
Researchers at the University of California funded by the National Eye Institute recently found that curcumin may treat some forms of retinitis pigmentosa by preventing the abnormal and damaging protein build-up usually caused by a mutant gene. One of the benefits of curcumin is that it crosses the blood-retinal barrier, unlike many drugs, suggesting patients could take curcumin pills or include turmeric in their diet, providing an inexpensive and effective treatment for those suffering from the disease in poor countries. A drug or a gene is often surgically injected into the eyes. Curcumin may also help other eye diseases caused by unusual protein clustering.

Prostate Tumors

   
A recent study from researchers at Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center suggests that curcumin may help slow down tumor growth in castration-resistant prostate cancer patients who are on androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). Researchers found that curcumin augments the results of ADT. It reduced cell number compared to the use of ADT alone. Curcumin also acted as an inhibitor of both cell cycle and survival in prostate cancer cells.
  
In addition to the pre-clinical study, researchers also investigated the use of curcumin in mice which were castrated to mimic ADT. Out of the curcumin and control groups, the mice given curcumin
had significantly reduced tumor growth and mass.

Immune Booster
   
CAMP, cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide, helps the immune system fight off various bacteria, viruses and fungi. Oregon State University researchers found that curcumin can increase CAMP levels, providing another possibility in the development of medical therapies. It is not, however, as effective as vitamin D in boosting CAMP. 

Published: February 23, 2013
Issue: Winter 2013 Issue