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Turmeric: A possible cure for Cancer?

Over the years, turmeric has shown to have several benefits for the humans. A recent review has found that it might have anticancer properties and can prove effective in treating the disease.

Commonly used in Asian foods, turmeric is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It has a warm bitter taste and is often used to flavor curry powders, mustards, butters and cheeses. The root of the plant is generally used to make medicine due to its large number of healing properties.

It is commonly used for conditions involving pain and inflammation such as osteoarthritis. It’s also used for treating hay fever, depression, high cholesterol, certain liver diseases and itching. Furthermore, it has also shown to help with improving memory skills, treating inflammatory bowel disease and reducing stress.

A chemical present in turmeric, curcumin, has been an area of interest for a large proportion of the scientific community. It has linked with most healing properties of the spice, hence, making it a vital aspect of ‘research into turmeric’s potential powers.’

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A recent review focused on exploring turmeric’s properties for treating cancer. The authors reviewed 12,595 published papers focused mainly on curcumin over a period of 93 years, from 1924 to 2018. The analysis found that 37% of them ‘focused on cancer’.

Published in the medical journal, Nutrients, the review focuses on ‘’cell signalling pathways that play a role in cancer’s growth and development and how turmeric might influence them.” Most of the spotlight was received by ‘breast cancer, lung cancer, cancers of the blood, and cancers of the digestive system’.

According to the authors, “curcumin represents a promising candidate as an effective anticancer drug to be used alone or in combination with other drugs”.

Curcumin can affect a large number of molecules and chemicals that might promote cancerous growth in the human body. These included transcription factors – that are important for the DNA to replicate, growth factors – cytokines, that are vital for cell signaling, and apoptotic proteins – responsible for catering to cell death.

However, if used as a drug, curcumin can pose some problems. “For instance, they explain that if a person takes curcumin orally — in a turmeric latte, for example — the body rapidly breaks it down into metabolites. As a result, any active ingredients are unlikely to reach the site of a tumor.”

Scientists are looking for ways for preventing the chemical from undergoing body’s metabolism and directly reaching the target. Some researchers ‘encapsulated the chemical within a protein nanoparticle’ and tested it in laboratory rats. The results were promising; however, human testing hasn’t been done yet.

Currently, there are two clinical trials set for testing the effectiveness of curcumin in curing cancer. The main idea being to “evaluate the therapeutic effect of curcumin on the development of primary and metastatic breast cancer, as well as to estimate the risk of adverse events.”

According to the authors of the review, “[C]urcumin is not immune from side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, headache, and yellow stool. Moreover, it showed poor bioavailability due to the fact of low absorption, rapid metabolism, and systemic elimination that limit its efficacy in diseases treatment. Further studies and clinical trials in humans are needed to validate curcumin as an effective anticancer agent.”

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Mariyam Tanveer

Recently graduated from LUMS, I now work as Researcher and a Freelance Writer on Ask Health News

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