Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials

Abstract

Extensive research over the past half century has shown that curcumin (diferuloylmethane), a component of the golden spice turmeric (Curcuma longa), can modulate multiple cell signaling pathways. Extensive clinical trials over the past quarter century have addressed the pharmacokinetics, safety, and efficacy of this nutraceutical against numerous diseases in humans. Some promising effects have been observed in patients with various pro-inflammatory diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, uveitis, ulcerative proctitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel disease, tropical pancreatitis, peptic ulcer, gastric ulcer, idiopathic orbital inflammatory pseudotumor, oral lichen planus, gastric inflammation, vitiligo, psoriasis, acute coronary syndrome, atherosclerosis, diabetes, diabetic nephropathy, diabetic microangiopathy, lupus nephritis, renal conditions, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, β-thalassemia, biliary dyskinesia, Dejerine-Sottas disease, cholecystitis, and chronic bacterial prostatitis. Curcumin has also shown protection against hepatic conditions, chronic arsenic exposure, and alcohol intoxication. Dose-escalating studies have indicated the safety of curcumin at doses as high as 12 g/day over 3 months. Curcumin’s pleiotropic activities emanate from its ability to modulate numerous signaling molecules such as pro-inflammatory cytokines, apoptotic proteins, NF–κB, cyclooxygenase-2, 5-LOX, STAT3, C-reactive protein, prostaglandin E2, prostate-specific antigen, adhesion molecules, phosphorylase kinase, transforming growth factor-β, triglyceride, ET-1, creatinine, HO-1, AST, and ALT in human participants. In clinical trials, curcumin has been used either alone or in combination with other agents. Various formulations of curcumin, including nanoparticles, liposomal encapsulation, emulsions, capsules, tablets, and powder, have been examined. In this review, we discuss in detail the various human diseases in which the effect of curcumin has been investigated.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Michael Worley, Tamara K. Locke and the Department of Scientific Publications for carefully editing the manuscript and providing valuable comments. Dr. Aggarwal is the Ransom Horne, Jr., Professor of Cancer Research.

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Correspondence to Bharat B. Aggarwal.

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Invited review for The AAPS Journal

Editor-in-Chief: Ho-Leung Fung, Ph.D.

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Gupta, S.C., Patchva, S. & Aggarwal, B.B. Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials. AAPS J 15, 195–218 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1208/s12248-012-9432-8

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Key words

  • clinical trial
  • curcumin
  • human diseases
  • inflammation
  • safety