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Curcumin and Therapeutics: Ancient Medicine to Clinical Application

Curcumin is the natural form of polyphenol that originated from the plant source Curcuma longa Linn which is mainly found in the tropical and subtropical regions. Curcumin has been used primarily in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine since the ancient years for treating inflammatory diseases and bacterial infections (Chainani-Wu, 2003). Western medicine’s modern aspects have been considered the lead for clinical practice in the modern era while still using the natural products from the ancient period as remedies in alternative medicine. Curcumin is the major component of turmeric used as an edible component and is more known for its flavour and colour and less for medicinal use. Curcumin is used as a treatment for various health conditions, including respiratory illness, liver disorders, inflammatory disorders and diabetic wounds in Ayurveda medicine. The treatment of sprains and swelling is done using curcumin in Hindu medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine has integrated the use of curcumin in treating abdominal pain. The current evidence implicates that curcumin is a highly pleiotropic molecule with different targets and mechanisms of action.

It consists of essential features that alter the activity of enzymes, growth factor receptors, cofactors, and other molecules. 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 various skin diseases. In India, curcumin is given 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 colouring agent and approved food additives to flavour 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. These beneficial activities are represented in cultured cells 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. Clinical trials are conducted 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 (Lao et al., 2006; Sharma et al., 2004). The tolerance level of curcumin with a dose of 12 g/day is given 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

Several studies have been done 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. Chainani-Wu, N. (2003). Safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin: a component of turmeric (Curcuma longa). The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 9(1), 161-168.  https://doi.org/10.1089/107555303321223035
  2. Lao, C. D., Ruffin, M. T., Normolle, D., Heath, D. D., Murray, S. I., Bailey, J. M., … & Brenner, D. E. (2006). Dose escalation of a curcuminoid formulation. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 6(1), 1-4. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-6-10

Sharma, R. A., Euden, S. A., Platton, S. L., Cooke, D. N., Shafayat, A., Hewitt, H. R., … & Steward, W. P. (2004). Phase I clinical trial of oral curcumin: biomarkers of systemic activity and compliance. Clinical Cancer Research, 10(20), 6847-6854. https://doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-04-0744

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