Can Turmeric Help in the Fight Against Cancer?

November 21, 2019
The majority of investigators agree that there are still many aspects to explore when it comes to whether or not turmeric can be used to help fight cancer.

Cancer is an incurable disease. As its exact causes remain unknown, it is a source of huge concern for many people. In light of this, the scientific community is carrying out a variety of different studies to try to throw more light on the subject, improve the range of treatment options on offer and discover new alternatives.

The focus of many investigations has been on the use of plants, foods, spices and drinks that might have the potential to help in the fight against cancer. The key might be hidden in certain compounds and properties.

Turmeric (better known as one of the main ingredients in curry) is one of the plants that has received the greatest attention in relation to this topic.

In this article, we want to take a look at some of their findings.

Turmeric and colorectal cancer

In a study published back in 2001, investigators carried out a pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic study of the use of turmeric extract in patients with colorectal cancer, and came to the following conclusions:

  • Turmeric extract may aid in the treatment of patients suffering from colon cancer.
  • They administered a dose of 2.2 g of turmeric (equivalent to 180 mg of curcumin) a day for a period of 4 months. The dosage was low and the time period short, so the evidence gathered did not allow them to draw any definitive conclusions or make any recommendations.
  • One patient suffered from nausea during the first month while taking the turmeric capsules, but the symptom then spontaneously disappeared.
  • Two patients suffered from diarrhea during the course of the treatment, but they couldn’t determine the cause, as these two patients left the study it was completed.
  • The consumption of turmeric was harmless in patients with advanced cancer.
  • Further investigation into this topic was needed, as they would have to evaluate the potential of a larger dose of turmeric, over a longer period of time, using a larger sample size, before they could draw any conclusions as to whether turmeric could be useful as an adjuvant treatment for colorectal cancer.

The authors of an investigation published in 2009 explained that the number of clinical studies done on humans was scarce, and as such, it was too early to consider turmeric as an adjunct therapy.

Despite being suggested as a supplement, it’s clear that further study was needed to determine the effectiveness of turmeric in fighting cancer.

In a study published in 2016, it was explained that the lack of clinical studies and reliable evidence means that, for the time being, turmeric is not considered as a viable treatment option. Furthermore, consumption of turmeric could interfere with other drugs.

Can turmeric help in the fight against cancer?

It’s important to bear in mind that, while a number of investigations (carried out before 2009) have indicated that consuming turmeric caused no serious adverse reactions, it’s important to proceed with caution and always consult with your doctor before including it in your diet.

Despite all of this data (for which you will find a full bibliography at the end of this article), investigators have concluded that they need more information and further studies in order to conclusively state whether turmeric can really be used as an effective treatment against cancer.

Should you include turmeric in your diet?

While it should never be used as a substitute for an entire food group, or as a substitute for treatment recommended by your doctor, it is possible to use turmeric as a supplement to a varied and balanced diet.

It’s also important to bear in mind that there have been cases in which the consumption of turmeric was in fact counterproductive. Some of the most notable examples include:

  • Patients suffering from iron deficiency.
  • People with low blood pressure.
  • Patients with blood clotting disorders.
  • Patients with bile duct disorders.
  • Pregnant or breast-feeding women
  • Patients with low blood glucose levels.
  • People who are taking certain daily medications.
  • Those suffering from diarrhea, constipation or other stomach problems.

Important note

Experts from the AECC have written a document in which they explain in a brief, simple and concise way the most common beliefs and myths when it comes to cancer. In it, they explain that no food or natural remedy can help to prevent or cure cancer.

“Until now, experts have recognized that there are certain beneficial compounds, such as flavonoids (…) that have antioxidant properties. But there is no scientific evidence to say that you must consume said products on an exclusive basis; rather, they should form part of a varied and balanced diet, complete with plenty of fruit and veg. This is what makes up a healthy diet.”

  • Fava, P. (2018). Los bulos de la cúrcuma: ni ibuprofeno natural ni previene el cáncer. [online] El Español. Available at: https://www.elespanol.com/ciencia/salud/20181030/bulos-curcuma-ibuprofeno-natural-previene-cancer/349215726_0.html [Accessed 23 Oct. 2019].
  • Aratanechemuge, Y., Komiya, T. A. K. A. S. H. I., Moteki, H. I. R. O. Y. U. K. I., Katsuzaki, H. I. R. O. T. A. K. A., Imai, K. U. N. I. O., & Hibasami, H. I. R. O. S. H. I. G. E. (2002). Selective induction of apoptosis by ar-turmerone isolated from turmeric (Curcuma longa L) in two human leukemia cell lines, but not in human stomach cancer cell line. International journal of molecular medicine9(5), 481-484.
  • Chen, X., Pei, L., Zhong, Z., Guo, J., Zhang, Q., & Wang, Y. (2011). Anti-tumor potential of ethanol extract of Curcuma phaeocaulis Valeton against breast cancer cells. Phytomedicine18(14), 1238-1243.
  • Shankar, S., & Srivastava, R. K. (2007). Bax and Bak genes are essential for maximum apoptotic response by curcumin, a polyphenolic compound and cancer chemopreventive agent derived from turmeric, Curcuma longa. Carcinogenesis28(6), 1277-1286.
  • Schaffer, M., Schaffer, P. M., Zidan, J., & Sela, G. B. (2011). Curcuma as a functional food in the control of cancer and inflammation. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care14(6), 588-597.