Written by Klara Rombauts, Liene Dhooghe and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated May 7, 2014

Curcumin

Abstract and key points

  • Curcumin is a constituent of turmeric (rhizomes of Curcuma longa), known as an Indian spice and food colouring agent.
  • Currently there is insufficient evidence to support the effectiveness and efficacy of curcumin in the prevention or treatment of cancer.
  • Based on the traditional use of turmeric and dose escalation studies, curcumin can be regarded as safe.

This summary is currently (April 2016) being updated. The version published here was last updated in April 2014.

Curcumin or diferuloylmethane is the major constituent and the active component in the spice turmeric (rhizomes of Curcuma longa), a herb belonging to the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). Curcumin is claimed to have anticancer properties and to be chemopreventive. It has been suggested to have beneficial effects both as monotherapy and in combination with existing therapies. 

There are currently insufficient data available to support the effectiveness and efficacy of curcumin for cancer due to lack of double-blind, randomized clinical trials. Mostly preliminary findings from small and uncontrolled studies are available. 

Turmeric, containing curcumin, is generally regarded as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As for curcumin itself, epidemiological evidence and several clinical trials confirm the safety of curcumin up to 12 g per day over a period of several months.

Read about the regulation, supervision and reimbursement of herbal medicine at NAFKAMs website CAM Regulation.

Citation

Klara Rombauts, Liene Dhooghe, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Curcumin [online document]. http://www.cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Herbal-products/Curcumin. May 7, 2014.

Document history

Summary fully revised and updated in April 2014 by Klara Rombauts.

Summary first published in May 2012 authored by Klara Rombauts and Liene Dhooghe.

References

  1. Aggarwal BB, Sung B. Pharmacological basis for the role of curcumin in chronic diseases: an age-old spice with modern targets. Trends Pharmacol Sci 2009 Feb;30(2):85-94.
  2. Goel A, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin, the golden spice from Indian saffron, is a chemosensitizer and radiosensitizer for tumors and chemoprotector and radioprotector for normal organs. Nutr Cancer 2010;62(7):919-30.
  3. Jurenka JS. Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research. Altern Med Rev 2009 Jun;14(2):141-53.
  4. Anand P, Kunnumakkara AB, Newman RA, Aggarwal BB. Bioavailability of curcumin: problems and promises. Mol Pharm 2007 Nov;4(6):807-18.
  5. Bisht S, Maitra A. Systemic delivery of curcumin: 21st century solutions for an ancient conundrum. Curr Drug Discov Technol 2009 Sep;6(3):192-9.
  6. Lao CD, Ruffin MT, Normolle D, Heath DD, Murray SI, Bailey JM, et al. Dose escalation of a curcuminoid formulation. BMC Complement Altern Med 2006;6:10.
  7. Cheng AL, Hsu CH, Lin JK, Hsu MM, Ho YF, Shen TS, et al. Phase I clinical trial of curcumin, a chemopreventive agent, in patients with high-risk or pre-malignant lesions. Anticancer Res 2001 Jul;21(4B):2895-900.
  8. Liang G, Shao L, Wang Y, Zhao C, Chu Y, Xiao J, et al. Exploration and synthesis of curcumin analogues with improved structural stability both in vitro and in vivo as cytotoxic agents. Bioorg Med Chem 2009 Mar 15;17(6):2623-31.
  9. Shoba G, Joy D, Joseph T, Majeed M, Rajendran R, Srinivas PS. Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Med 1998 May;64(4):353-6.
  10. Takahashi M, Uechi S, Takara K, Asikin Y, Wada K. Evaluation of an oral carrier system in rats: bioavailability and antioxidant properties of liposome-encapsulated curcumin. J Agric Food Chem 2009 Oct 14;57(19):9141-6.
  11. Maiti K, Mukherjee K, Gantait A, Saha BP, Mukherjee PK. Curcumin-phospholipid complex: Preparation, therapeutic evaluation and pharmacokinetic study in rats. Int J Pharm 2007 Feb 7;330(1-2):155-63.
  12. Gao Y, Li Z, Sun M, Li H, Guo C, Cui J, et al. Preparation, characterization, pharmacokinetics, and tissue distribution of curcumin nanosuspension with TPGS as stabilizer. Drug Dev Ind Pharm 2010 Oct;36(10):1225-34.
  13. Anand P, Sundaram C, Jhurani S, Kunnumakkara AB, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin and cancer: an "old-age" disease with an "age-old" solution. Cancer Lett 2008 Aug 18;267(1):133-64.
  14. Singh S. From exotic spice to modern drug? Cell 2007 Sep 7;130(5):765-8.
  15. Aggarwal BB, Harikumar KB. Potential therapeutic effects of curcumin, the anti-inflammatory agent, against neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases. Int J Biochem Cell Biol 2009 Jan;41(1):40-59.
  16. Kuttan R, Bhanumathy P, Nirmala K, George MC. Potential anticancer activity of turmeric (Curcuma longa). Cancer Lett 1985 Nov;29(2):197-202.
  17. Lin JK, Lin-Shiau SY. Mechanisms of cancer chemoprevention by curcumin. Proc Natl Sci Counc Repub China B 2001 Apr;25(2):59-66.
  18. Li ZX, Ouyang KQ, Jiang X, Wang D, Hu Y. Curcumin induces apoptosis and inhibits growth of human Burkitt's lymphoma in xenograft mouse model. Mol Cells 2009 Mar 31;27(3):283-9.
  19. Lu B, Yu L, Xu L, Chen H, Zhang L, Zeng Y. The effects of radix curcumae extract on expressions of VEGF, COX-2 and PCNA in gastric mucosa of rats fed with MNNG. Curr Pharm Biotechnol 2010 Apr;11(3):313-7.
  20. Bar-Sela G, Epelbaum R, Schaffer M. Curcumin as an anti-cancer agent: review of the gap between basic and clinical applications. Curr Med Chem 2010;17(3):190-7.
  21. Fu S, Kurzrock R. Development of curcumin as an epigenetic agent. Cancer 2010 Oct 15;116(20):4670-6.
  22. Hanai H, Iida T, Takeuchi K, Watanabe F, Maruyama Y, Andoh A, et al. Curcumin maintenance therapy for ulcerative colitis: randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2006 Dec;4(12):1502-6.
  23. Garcea G, Jones DJ, Singh R, Dennison AR, Farmer PB, Sharma RA, et al. Detection of curcumin and its metabolites in hepatic tissue and portal blood of patients following oral administration. Br J Cancer 2004 Mar 8;90(5):1011-5.
  24. Garcea G, Berry DP, Jones DJ, Singh R, Dennison AR, Farmer PB, et al. Consumption of the putative chemopreventive agent curcumin by cancer patients: assessment of curcumin levels in the colorectum and their pharmacodynamic consequences. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2005 Jan;14(1):120-5.
  25. Carroll RE, Benya RV, Turgeon DK, Vareed S, Neuman M, Rodriguez L, et al. Phase IIa clinical trial of curcumin for the prevention of colorectal neoplasia. Cancer Prev Res (Phila) 2011 Mar;4(3):354-64.
  26. Holt PR, Katz S, Kirshoff R. Curcumin therapy in inflammatory bowel disease: a pilot study. Dig Dis Sci 2005 Nov;50(11):2191-3.
  27. Biswas J, Sinha D, Mukherjee S, Roy S, Siddiqi M, Roy M. Curcumin protects DNA damage in a chronically arsenic-exposed population of West Bengal. Hum Exp Toxicol 2010 Jun;29(6):513-24.
  28. Sharma RA, Euden SA, Platton SL, Cooke DN, Shafayat A, Hewitt HR, et al. Phase I clinical trial of oral curcumin: biomarkers of systemic activity and compliance. Clin Cancer Res 2004 Oct 15;10(20):6847-54.
  29. He ZY, Shi CB, Wen H, Li FL, Wang BL, Wang J. Upregulation of p53 expression in patients with colorectal cancer by administration of curcumin. Cancer Invest 2011 Mar;29(3):208-13.
  30. Kuttan R, Sudheeran PC, Josph CD. Turmeric and curcumin as topical agents in cancer therapy. Tumori 1987 Feb 28;73(1):29-31.
  31. Dhillon N, Aggarwal BB, Newman RA, Wolff RA, Kunnumakkara AB, Abbruzzese JL, et al. Phase II trial of curcumin in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Clin Cancer Res 2008 Jul 15;14(14):4491-9.
  32. Ide H, Tokiwa S, Sakamaki K, Nishio K, Isotani S, Muto S, et al. Combined inhibitory effects of soy isoflavones and curcumin on the production of prostate-specific antigen. Prostate 2010 Jul 1;70(10):1127-33.
  33. Bayet-Robert M, Kwiatkowski F, Leheurteur M, Gachon F, Planchat E, Abrial C, et al. Phase I dose escalation trial of docetaxel plus curcumin in patients with advanced and metastatic breast cancer. Cancer Biol Ther 2010 Jan;9(1):8-14.
  34. Kanai M, Yoshimura K, Asada M, Imaizumi A, Suzuki C, Matsumoto S, et al. A phase I/II study of gemcitabine-based chemotherapy plus curcumin for patients with gemcitabine-resistant pancreatic cancer. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol 2011 Jul;68(1):157-64.
  35. Epelbaum R, Schaffer M, Vizel B, Badmaev V, Bar-Sela G. Curcumin and gemcitabine in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Nutr Cancer 2010;62(8):1137-41.
  36. Goel A, Kunnumakkara AB, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin as "Curecumin": from kitchen to clinic. Biochem Pharmacol 2008 Feb 15;75(4):787-809.
  37. Ganta S, Devalapally H, Amiji M. Curcumin enhances oral bioavailability and anti-tumor therapeutic efficacy of Paclitaxel upon administration in nanoemulsion formulation. J Pharm Sci 2010;99(11): 4630-4641.
  38. Lee C, Ki S, Choi J. Effects of oral curcumin on the pharmacokinetics of intravenous and oral etoposide in rats: possible role of intestinal CYP3A and P-gp inhibition by curcumin. Biopharm Drug Dispos 2011;32:245-251.
  39. Yan Y, Marasini N, Choi Y, Kim J, Woo J et al. Effect of dose and dosage interval on the oral bioavailability of docetaxel in combination with a curcumin self-emulsifying drug delivery system (SEDDS). Eur J Drug Metab Pharmacokinet 2011 [Epub ahead of print].
  40. Chen Y, Liu W, Chen B, Fan L, Han Y et al. Plant polyphenol curcumin significantly affects CYP1A2 and CYP2A6 activity in healthy, male Chinese volunteers. Ann Pharmacother 2010;44:1038-45.
  41. Graber-Maier A, Büter K, Aeschlimann J, Bittel C, Kreuter M, et al. Effects of curcuma extracts and curcuminoids on expression of P-glycoprotein and cytochrome P450 3A4 in the intestinal cell culture model LS180. Planta Med 2010;76:1864-1866.
  42. Schaffer M, Schaffer PM, Zidan J, Bar Sela G. Curcuma as a functional food in the control of cancer and inflammation. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2011; 14: 588-97.
  43. Ryan JL, Heckler CE, Ling M, Katz A, Williams JP, Pentland AP, Morrow GR. Curcumin for radiation dermatitis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of thirty breast cancer patients. Radiation Research 2013;180:34-43
  44. Belcaro G, Hosoi M, Pellegrini L, et al. A controlled study of a lecithinized delivery system of curcumin (Meriva®) to alleviate the adverse effects of cancer treatment. 2014 Mar; 28:444-50.
  45. Golombick T, Diamond T, Manoharan A, Ramakrishna R. Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, smoldering multiple myeloma, and curcumin: A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled cross-over 4g study and an open-label 8g extension study. Am J Hematol 2012;87:455-60.
  46. Ghalaut VS, Sangwan L, Dahiya K, Ghalaut PS, Dhankhar R, Saharan R. Effect of imatinib therapy with and without turmeric powder on nitric oxide levels in chronic myeloid leukemia. J Oncol Pharm Pract 2012;18:186-90.
  47. Joshi JV, Paradkar PH, Jagtap SS, Agashe SV, Soman G, and Vaidya AB. Chemopreventive potential and safety profile of a curcuma longa extract in women with cervical low-grade squamous intraepithelial neoplasia. Asian Pacific J Cancer Prev 2011;12:3305-11.
  48. Kanai M, Otsuka Y, Otsuka K, et al. A phase I study investigating the safety and pharmacokinetics of highly bioavailable curcumin (Theracurmin®) in cancer patients. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol 2013;71:1521-30.