Curcumin and Therapeutics – Perspective from Ancient Medicine to Clinical Application

Curcumin is the natural form of polyphenol that originates from the plant source Curcuma longa Linn; mainly seen in the tropical and subtropical regions. Experts have used Curcumin primarily in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine since the ancient years for treating inflammatory diseases and bacterial infections ​1​. Western medicine’s modern aspects have been considered the lead for clinical practice in the modern era. In fact, while still using the natural products from the ancient period as remedies in alternative medicine.

Experts use curcumin, or, in other words, the major component of turmeric as an edible component. It is also more known for its flavor and color and less for medicinal use. People also use it for the treatment for various health conditions, including respiratory illness, liver disorders, inflammatory disorders and diabetic wounds in Ayurveda medicine. Additionally, they treat sprains and swelling using curcumin in Hindu medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine has integrated the use of curcumin in treating abdominal pain. However, the current evidence implicates that curcumin is a highly pleiotropic molecule with different targets and mechanisms of action. In fact, it consists of essential features that alter the activity of enzymes, growth factor receptors, cofactors, and other molecules. Furthermore, the scientific research has confirmed curcumin to be anticarcinogenic, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, and thrombosuppresive.

Curcumin as ancient medicine

Talking about the ancient Indian medical system curcumin is considered to be used as Ayurvedic medicine in the form of turmeric paste for treating common eye infections and dressing wounds, treating bites, burns, acne, and also various skin diseases. In India, people give curcumin to women for applying to the perineum to aid in the healing of any lacerations in the birth canal.

The ancient remedies have implicated the use in treating dental diseases, digestive disorders such as dyspepsia and acidity, indigestion, flatulence, ulcers, and increased hallucinatory effects of other psychotropic drugs. The ancient use of curcumin involves its use in perfumes and as a natural yellow coloring agent and approved food additives to flavor various curries and mustards. The recent attention towards the use of natural and complementary medicines in Western medicine has integrated the scientific community’s attention to the ancient remedy. The facts have revealed the benefits of curcumin in anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic activities. 

Clinical application of curcumin 

The ancient application of curcumin has revealed its advantages in anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic activities. The cultured cells represent the beneficial properties and animal models that have to mend the path for ongoing human clinical trials. The studies have conducted further research on the activities of curcumin; while representing its mechanism of action and its chemical and clinical features.

Experts conduct the clinical trials in early phases regarding the clinical benefits. The clinical trials have involved the limited subsets of patients treated with curcumin for treating various disorders. The initial trial period has majorly focused on safety and pharmacokinetics. Consonant with preclinical demonstrations of curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties; disease targets include neoplastic and preneoplastic diseases; such as multiple myeloma, pancreatic cancer, myelodysplastic syndromes, and colon cancer and conditions associated with inflammation involving psoriasis, and Alzheimer’s disease ​2,3​. Doctors give the tolerance level of curcumin with a dose of 12 g/day to the patients in case of treating multiple myeloma. Its clinical approach has shown efficacy in decreasing the risk factors of lung cancer.  

Therapeutic use of curcumin

Researchers did several studies in obtaining optimum therapeutic concentrations of curcumin due to its low solubility and poor bioavailability. The mechanism of curcumin involves the inhibition of tumorigenesis curcumin, combining anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, proapoptotic, and antiangiogenic properties through pleiotropic effects on genes and cell-signalling pathways at multiple levels. Combining curcumin with cytotoxic drugs or some other diet-derived polyphenols resulted in synergistic effects. The low systemic bioavailability of curcumin after oral dosing mainly limits the access to sufficient concentrations for pharmacologic effects within the tissues outside the gastrointestinal tract, chemical analogues and novel delivery methods, which are considered preclinical development to overcome such barriers. Hence, curcumin is used as therapy for malignant and inflammatory diseases and its use in treating degenerative neurologic disorders, cystic fibrosis, and cardiovascular diseases. 


  1. 1.
    Chainani-Wu N. Safety and Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Curcumin: A Component of Tumeric (Curcuma longa). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Published online February 2003:161-168. doi:10.1089/107555303321223035
  2. 2.
    Lao CD, Ruffin MT IV, Normolle D, et al. Dose escalation of a curcuminoid formulation. BMC Complement Altern Med. Published online March 17, 2006. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-6-10
  3. 3.
    Sharma RA, Euden SA, Platton SL, et al. Phase I Clinical Trial of Oral Curcumin. Clin Cancer Res. Published online October 15, 2004:6847-6854. doi:10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-04-0744