Introduction to Curcumin

Curcumin is an ingredient in turmeric, which is a widely used spice in Asian and Eastern cooking. Turmeric powder is yellow-pigmented and has numerous curcuminoids that include Curcumin (77%). Turmeric is a rhizome from the herb Curcuma longa Linn. Ayurvedic medicine designates Curcumin as an effective medicine for various disorders such as asthma, allergy, cough etc. Curcumin has been used as a cosmetic and a food additive and as a traditional herbal medicine for thousands of years. 

Curcumin is a natural anti-cancer agent, has been paid more consideration because of its inhibitory effect on the tumour. Curcumin inhibits the signalling pathway in pancreatic cancer cells. It can inhibit several other pathways related to breast cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, gastric cancer and ovarian cancer. It also modulates various molecular targets such as transcription factors, kinases, inflammatory cytokines, growth factors and enzymes.

Human studies proved that Curcumin is extremely safe even at very high doses. In phase I, clinical trials indicate when Curcumin is taken as high as 12 g per day, it is well tolerated. It is not absorbed readily by the intestine therefore consumed with either pepper or fat to increase absorption. It was advised to take turmeric supplements on an empty stomach, but if somebody feels a burning sensation in the gastric tract, they can take it with food also. A study has shown that Indian people have low rates of Alzheimer’s disease, as Indian cuisine consists of turmeric regularly.

Bioavailability of Curcumin

Despite Curcumin’s efficacy and safety, it has not yet been approved as a therapeutic agent, and the primary reason for this issue is its bioavailability. The reduced bioavailability of Curcumin within the body is – low intrinsic activity, high rate of metabolism, poor absorption, inactivity of metabolic products and rapid elimination from the body.

Some possible ways are introduced to overcome these problems- 

  • Adjuvants with Curcumin, which can block its metabolic pathways, are the primary methods to improve its bioavailability.
  • Nanoparticles, liposomes, micelles, and phospholipid complexes are other promising ways, which appear to provide improvement in curcumin bioavailability.

Curcumin in cancer 

The ability of Curcumin to target multiple pathways makes it an extremely potent anti-cancer agent. The prolonged historical use of Curcumin in South Asian countries gives us proof of the safety of curcumin consumption. Up to 12 g of curcumin intake per day demonstrated safe with no detrimental effects. 

Beneficial effects of Curcumin on cancer were shown with intakes ranging from 100 mg/d to 6 g/d in human clinical trials, with most studies showing benefits at dosages of around 2–3 g/d. 

Several concerns about the correlation of curcumin intake with the inhibition of certain drug-metabolizing enzymes, potential DNA damage, and iron chelation have been raised. Later some reports suggest the prevention of DNA damage by Curcumin and Curcumin’s reported role in the chelation of iron could indeed be beneficial since excess iron in cancer cells is thought to promote their proliferation. Curcumin-free turmeric extracts were shown to inhibit tumorigenesis induced by various agents. Cell culture studies have also demonstrated Curcumin alone to have less potency in suppressing cancer growth than turmeric containing similar amounts of Curcumin. Ryan et al. Examined the ability of oral Curcumin to reduce the severity of radiation dermatitis in 30 patients receiving radiation therapy for breast cancer.

Curcumin in Gastric Cancer

Action mechanism of Curcumin in gastric cancer-

  1. curcumin can inhibit the proliferation and induction of gastric cancer cells.
  2. curcumin can suppress multiple signalling pathways 
  3. inhibit cancer cell proliferation, invasion, and metastasis. 
  4. Curcumin can inhibit gastric cancer by various mechanisms like decreasing proliferation, inducing apoptosis, and reducing chemo-resistance in the cancer cells.
  5. it down-regulates the expression of factors causing apoptosis suppression and chemo-resistance.
  6. induces apoptosis in gastric cancer cells 

Curcumin in Breast Cancer

Researchers gave tamoxifen with or without Curcumin 1200 mg three times a day in a study of breast cancer patients. In combination with Curcumin, people taking aking tamoxifen had about an 8 per cent decrease in endoxifen(chemical responsible for breast cancer development ) levels.

Many naturopathic oncologists caution that Curcumin should not be taken with some drugs like cyclophosphamide, anastrozole, exemestane, letrozole or erlotinib, or therapeutic doses of warfarin.

Curcumin in Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer (CRC), a malignant tumour, is the third most common cancer type in worldwide. Certain analogues of Curcumin like C-5 curcumin analogue, curcumin diethyl succinate, bis-dihydroxy-curcumin and defluorinated-curcumin have drastically improved their efficacy as chemopreventive and therapeutic compounds in colorectal cancer. 

The study demonstrated that Curcumin reduces colorectal tumours and tumour size by exhibiting oxidative stress, alter homeostasis and tumour development. Oral administration of Curcumin undergoes rapid metabolism in the intestine and liver, 60-70% of the compound gets excreted in faeces, so a heavy dose of Curcumin is required to produce therapeutic efforts. When complexed with hyaluronic acid, Silica nanoparticles of Curcumin demonstrated significant reduction of the cell viability, increased uptake of Curcumin in intracellular, and enhanced efficiency against colorectal cancer.

Cautions with Curcumin

  1. Mild and self-resolving gastrointestinal disturbances such as loose stools, reflux, bloating and abdominal discomfort.
  2. Inhibited synthesis of hepcidin (an iron-regulatory hormone), resulting in a drop in haemoglobin, causing anaemia like conditions.
  3. The person having gallstones, bile duct dysfunction, hyperacidity, or stomach ulcers should not consume Curcumin or turmeric.
  4. Pregnant and lactating females should consult their doctors first before using curcumin supplements.
  5. Its extended uses can cause heartburn and upset stomach
  6. If a person is undergoing any kind of chemotherapy, then do not take Curcumin without a physician advice 
  7. Curcumin consumption should be restricted before any surgery, as it can increase bleeding.

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