An Evidence-Based Perspective of Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) for Cancer Patients

  • G. Bar-SelaEmail author
  • M. Schaffer
Part of the Evidence-based Anticancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine book series (ACAM)


Curcumin [diferuloylmethane (C21H20O6)], a polyphenol, is an active principle of the perennial herb Curcuma longa (commonly known as turmeric) and derived from the roots (rhizomes) of the plant. Traditionally, turmeric has been used as a foodstuff and a cosmetic and has been a component of Indian Ayurvedic medicine since 1900 BC. As a medicine, curcumin is used mainly for various allergic and inflammatory respiratory conditions, as well as for liver disorders, anorexia, rheumatism and wound healing. These folk medicinal indications are still popular and widely used as alternative agents in many parts of Southeast Asia. Extensive research over the last half-century has revealed important functions of curcumin. In vitro and in vivo research has shown curcumin’s various activities, such as anti-inflammation, cytokines release, antioxidation, immunomodulation, enhancing of the apoptotic process, and anti-angiogenic properties. Curcumin has also been shown to be a mediator of chemo-resistance and radio-resistance. The anticancer effect has been seen in a few clinical trials, mainly as a chemo-prevention agent in colon and pancreatic cancer and in other high-risk premalignant conditions. Some clinical studies on healthy volunteers revealed a low bioavailability, casting doubt on the use of curcumin only as a food additive. In cancer, clinical studies have not shown significant results but the data is richer than in non-malignant conditions. Unlike chemo-therapeutic agents, including those isolated from plants, curcumin is a part of our daily food habit and its use in large quantities since ancient times has proved that it is a safe product. While the pre-clinical data is broad, clinical studies are scarce, although some are on-going. The possible clinical efficacy of this treatment as a chemo-preventive or chemo-therapeutic agent is still to be proven. This chapter ranges from a historical description to pre-clinical data and focuses on existing clinical evidence.


Pancreatic Cancer Familial Adenomatous Polyposis Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia Advanced Pancreatic Cancer Oral Leukoplakia 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Oncology, Rambam-Health Care Campus and Faculty of MedicineTechnion-Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifaIsrael

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