Discover the science behind using turmeric for cancer prevention and treatment
Turmeric is a yellow powdered herb that is used extensively as a natural food color and as a spice to flavor food.
There has been a lot of interests lately in the scientific community for its ability to prevent and treat cancer.
Animal studies show benefits in the treating skin, colon, breast and prostate cancer.
Population studies suggest that cultures that have a diet rich in turmeric seem to have a lower overall risk of developing cancer.
Read on to find out how turmeric might work to ward off cancer and the suggested dose to use based on research studies...
The main active ingredient found in turmeric is curcumin.
Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that prevents oxygen free radicals from damaging the delicate DNA (the cell's genetic material).
Curcumin seems to also enhance liver function to help destroy cancer cells as well as to stop or slow down the production of a protein responsible for tumor growth.
Population studies show that people who have a diet high in turmeric seem to have lower risks of prostate, breast, colon and lung cancer.
One animal study done at the University of Texas showed that curcumin slowed down the spread of cancerous breast cells that were injected into rats.
Studies show that curcumin prevents colon cancer in rats. How did it work?
The researchers found that curcumin prevented the damage of colon cells caused by free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive substances that the body produces during metabolism. If left in the active state, it reacts with cell membranes and other key structures in the cellular damage.
It also reduced the production of inflammatory chemicals that damage tissues that could lead cancer.
In a study published in the 2006 Journal of Clinical Gasteroenterology and Hepatology, researchers reported that curcumin was able to shrink the size and numbers of precancerous colon lesions in patients.
These lesions are the beginning stages that eventually lead to colon cancer. Keep in mind that the dose of curcumin used is 480 mg three times daily. This is not the amount a person would typically get even from a diet high in turmeric.
Turmeric contains only between 3 to 5% of curcumin. So, 500 mg of turmeric powder would typically have about 15 to 25 mg of the active ingredient curcumin.
Another study suggested that a diet high in turmeric might, in part, be responsible for the lower rates of childhood leukemia seen in Asian children.
Professor Nagabhusan working out of the Loyola University Medical Centre in Chicago has been investigating this particular benefit of curcumin for over 2 decades.
The treatment of cancer is not something you can manage by yourself.
It requires the expertise and supervision of a qualified health care professional.
The dosage varies depending on which reference source you consult. However, many studies used high doses of curcumin that is not easy to get even from diets high in turmeric.
Recall that curcumin is the main active ingredient found in turmeric that has all these cancer fighting properties.
The amount typically found in diet may be helpful in reducing the risk of cancer but experts believe that a much higher dose will be needed in treating existing cancer conditions.
In one reference source, experts suggest taking 500 mg to 1,000 mg three or four times daily of the turmeric powder.
Another source suggests taking 500 mg to 4,000 mg (4 grams) of the powder three times daily. Start with 500 mg four times daily and increase upwards over several weeks as your body gets used to the presence of turmeric in your diet.
One of the danger of relying on using just turmeric (or any one supplement) for helping with cancer prevention is that you might miss out on other beneficial supplements that may help with cancer prevention.
Does taking turmeric for cancer prevention really work?
There is some evidence that a diet high in turmeric might offer protection against cancer.
These results come mostly from population studies. Animal studies show some benefits and is also encouraging.
It could be a good choice if you enjoy the spicy flavor of turmeric. Perhaps even use a bit more in your cooking from now on?
As for taking turmeric supplements, that would really depend. If you are at a higher risk of developing cancer, it is something worth considering. However, don't forget that in addition to taking turmeric, a diet high in fruits and vegetables also is linked to a reduced risk of developing cancer.
Population studies suggest that cultures that include turmeric as part of their diet seem to have lower cases of prostate, colon, breast and skin cancer.
But we are waiting for clinical trials to directly show that using turmeric prevents and treats cancer in humans. And those research studies are currently unavailable.
For a complete list of natural remedies that are used to prevent and treat cancer, see the revealing article:
If however, you want to just learn more about turmeric, see our review on all the health benefits of turmeric.