Turmeric, a rhizomatous plant which grows in tropical regions, is a perennial herb that belongs to the Zingiberaceae family. It is native to South Asia, and has been used in Ayurvedic medicines for a very long time. The powder obtained from the dried rhizomes is mainly used as a spice; however, it is also used for medicinal purpose. Curcumin, a chemical present in turmeric is known to have medicinal properties. Turmeric is therefore used as an antibiotic, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory agent. It is also beneficial for the digestive system.
Curcumin helps treat cancers of the stomach, bowel, breast, and skin. The effectiveness of curcumin has been proved in bowel cancer treatment. A laboratory study on the effectiveness of curcumin in the year 2007, proved that instead of using chemotherapy alone, it should be complimented with curcumin usage. The following points explain the importance of turmeric usage in cancer prevention:
- Curcumin present in turmeric inhibits the enzymes, which promote the growth of tumor in the body. Thus, it leads to indirect interference in the growth of cancerous cells.
- One of the factors responsible for cancer is the presence of free radicals. Since curcumin is an antioxidant, it neutralizes these free radicals.
- In an experiment conducted on mice, the results showed a reduction of 40% in benign tumors. The benign tumors in mice were caused by the genes responsible for colon cancer in human beings.
- A similar study was conducted on 3 groups of mice. All the 3 mice groups were injected with prostate cancer cells responsible for the development of malignant tumors. Two groups of mice were given the curcumin extract while the third group wasn’t treated at all. The first 2 groups showed around 70% recovery i.e. reduction in tumor size by 70%, compared to the last group.
- There have not been many studies or experiments conducted on the effect of curcumin on humans directly. Therefore, a person should always consult a doctor before opting for herbal remedies to treat cancer.
According to the latest research carried out on the effectiveness of curcumin in cancer treatment it has been found that the ovarian cancer cells become more vulnerable to treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy, if pre-treated with curcumin. Dr. Subhash Chauhan and Dr Meena Jaggi carried out the in vitro study with the help of research teams from the University of South Dakota and Stanford University, USA.
The medicines prepared from turmeric are available in tablet, capsule as well as powder form. The products available in the market are sold as either curcumin or turmeric-based medicines. Dosage of curcumin should be determined with the advice of medical practitioners. This is because the percentage of curcumin content in turmeric used as a spice is not enough to have an effect on the reduction of cancerous growths. The intake of curcumin is considered safe only if the dosage is recommended by doctors. Patients with obstructed bile ducts or those having gallstones, and gastrointestinal ulcers should not take the curcumin medicine. Also, these medicines should not be taken during pregnancy.