By its scientific name Curcuma longa, also called Indian saffron or long-life spice, turmeric is a spice with multiple health benefits, and there is much talk about it for its effects on cancers. We are tackling a serious and serious subject, which is why I will only deal with what Western science says and very little alternative medicine (which I do not disapprove of, but I don’t want to offend anyone).
This article does not replace, of course, the consultation and advice of a doctor which is essential if you suffer from cancer. The remedies in this article are indicative, do not replace any opinion of a doctor, and can in no way engage the responsibility of the author.
The readers of L’ile aux épices know it, I do not hold in my heart the pharmaceutical industries, the World Organization for Health (WHO), as well as the ARC foundation for research against cancer, and all the actors turning around this disease.
Conflicts of interest are far too important to be clear: a company supposed to care for people, make more money when people are sick, am I the only one who sees the problem?
Medical scandals about these actors are numerous, easily searchable (do your research), but are not the subject of this page. However, it seemed to me honest to give you my general opinion so that you can judge my article objectively, but also see the considerable efforts I made to be as impartial as possible.
Turmeric as a remedy?
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a spice rich in non-flavonoid polyphenols, curcuminoids, contained in curcumin. It is this which gives the yellow color to the rhizome, as well as a good part of the health benefits of turmeric buy from naturactin.com: anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, anticancers, anti-infectives, hepato-protectors and cardio-protectors.
According to epidemiological data, the number of people affected by the most common cancers, colon, breast, prostate and lung cancer, is lower in Asian countries where people consume a lot of turmeric than anywhere else in the world.
Indeed, in India, there would be fewer cases of cancer per 100,000 inhabitants than in most countries of the world. The frequency of the four most common cancers in the West, that is, cancer of the colon, breast, prostate, lung, is ten times lower. Prostate cancer is even very rare there. According to some studies, this is due to a regular and consistent consumption of turmeric.
Turmeric has been found in traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicines as a natural remedy for thousands of years. It is particularly known and recognized for its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, hence the action of turmeric on joint pain , and as inflammation is a major factor in the onset of many chronic diseases, turmeric is an ally to prevent them. In addition, its antioxidant action makes it possible to fight against the action of free radicals causing premature aging of cells, and therefore of the diseases which result therefrom, including cancers.
Curcumin has been shown to influence the expression of more than 700 genes, which may partially explain its many health benefits.
Western scientific research on turmeric and cancer:
Numerous studies are carried out on turmeric to evaluate its action in the fight against cancer, mainly in rodents. Indeed, clinical trials carried out on humans, while very promising, are rather rare.
Among all the nutrients, turmeric is the subject of the largest number of scientific articles on its anti-cancer properties.
General studies on preventive action
Many studies have been conducted on animals that have been exposed to carcinogens. Those who consumed curcumin were less affected by several cancers: cancer of the lung, colon, stomach, liver, skin, breast, esophagus, lymphomas and leukemia.
Clinical trials have been conducted, with promising results. In general, a trend is emerging: consumption of turmeric could be associated with a lower risk of developing cancer.
In a study carried out on at-risk patients with precancerous lesions, we saw that taking 1 g to 8 g of curcumin per day for 3 months helped to regress the lesions.
Another study on intestinal polyps, showed that 1.5 g of curcumin per day, associated with 20 mg of quercetin, made it possible to reduce the size and the number of intestinal polyps on patients suffering from familial polyposis.
General studies on curative action
There are few results from current clinical trials, but they are encouraging.
Among the few results we have, a study has shown that 8 g of curcumin has, in some cases, stabilized the progression of pancreatic cancer and colorectal cancer.
These studies have shown that the low bioavailability of curcumin, poorly absorbed by the intestines and rapidly eliminated by the liver, this is why many clinical trials focus on cancers of the digestive tract where the quantities of curcumin remain high ( see our article on the effects of turmeric on digestive disorders ), because it does not pass the intestinal barrier.
Turmeric combined with cancer treatments
There are several treatments given to a cancer patient, and these treatments have a lot of unwanted side effects.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy, combined with the consumption of turmeric, would promote greater cell death, while reducing the formation of metastases. In addition, the consumption of turmeric would reduce the toxicity of treatments, including skin damage caused by radiotherapy during breast cancer.
Studies have shown that taking turmeric with good bioavailability has a positive effect on the general quality of life of cancer patients, under treatment with radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Turmeric has shown an improvement in the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments, specifically based on metothrexate (Emthexate®, Ledertrexate®, Metoject®, Metothrexate®), based on docetaxel (Docetaxel®, Taxotere®, Tevadocel®), and gemcitabine base.
It should be noted that according to some studies, turmeric has had negative effects on certain cancer treatments by reducing the effect of certain chemotherapies.
This was the case for cyclophosphamide (Endoxan®), for epipodophyllotoxins (Celltop®, Eposin®, Vepesid.®), as well as for breast cancer treatments based on camptothecins. Additional studies are needed to verify this interaction between turmeric and chemo.
Brain tumor studies
A 2011 study was published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. The researchers trained two groups of mice with glioblastoma, a deadly type of brain cancer. The first had curcumin supplementation, the other did not.
Result: the researchers observed a reduction in the size of the tumor in 81% of the mice on curcumin, without any side effect. In addition, curcumin only affected cancer cells, not healthy cells.
The scientists said, “In summary, the data presented here suggests that curcumin is a potential agent for therapies for glioblastomas. “
Breast cancer studies
A study published in 2008 in the scientific journal Cancer Prevention Research has shown the inhibiting action of curcumin on the motility of breast cancer cells, and therefore on their spread.
Curcumin had an inhibiting action on the functioning of alpha-6-beta-4 integrin, which is associated with the development of cancer by contributing to the resistance of cells to apoptosis, i.e. death programmed cell cancer cells, and metastasis.
Another study showed that a mixture of curcumin and piperine would limit the growth of breast cancer stem cells, the most difficult to eliminate with conventional treatments.
Colon cancer studies
A study was carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Saint-Louis in the United States, with the aim of studying the action of the combination of curcumin from turmeric, and silymarin from milk thistle, on colon cancer.
The results, published in the medical journal Journal of Cancer Reveals, showed that the association helped stop the proliferation of cancer cells, spread them, and even increased their elimination.
In a 2014 study conducted at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, curcumin had already shown a preventive effect, preventing metastases of cancer cells in colon cancer while supporting the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
Pancreatic and Lung Cancer Studies
Two similar studies on the effect of curcumin on pancreatic and lung cancer, conducted in 2009 and published in the scientific journal Molecular Pharmacology, observed that curcumin inhibits the growth of cancer cells in the pancreas and lung, promotes their death, and increases the sensitivity of cells to chemotherapy.
Cancer stem cell studies
An in vivo test was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Cancer Center in the United States, by putting curcumin + piperine in a culture of cancer cells. As a result, the number of stem cells has been reduced while normal cells are spared.
One of the theories that explains why cancer can recur, despite an apparently effective treatment, are these stem cells, which are not eliminated by conventional chemotherapy.
Even if all the cancer cells have been eliminated, it would only take a few cancer stem cells to re-form colonies of new cancer cells.
Studies are being done in the University of Michigan lab on the effect of curcumin and piperine on breast cancer. One of the latest studies has shown the concentration of the curcumin + piperine mixture obtained through food is capable of causing the stem cells of breast cancer to disappear, without harmful effects for normal cells.
Dr. Kakarala says, “This study shows that these compounds are not toxic to normal breast tissue. […] Women who are at high risk for breast cancer today may choose to take a drug like tamoxifene or raloxifene for prevention, but most women do not take it because their side effects are too important. The idea that a food compound can help is attractive, and curcumin and piperine appear to have very low toxicity. “
Another advantage of turmeric over these preventive drugs is its action on all stem cells of all cancers, while preventive treatments only work on cancers sensitive to estrogens.
How does turmeric work against cancer?
According to studies, it seems that the curcumin in turmeric works against cancer cells in 7 ways:
Inhibits proliferation of tumor cells
Inhibits the synthesis of a protein considered essential for the formation of tumors
Promotes the production of enzymes that help the body get rid of cancer cells
Helps the body destroy mutant cells and prevent them from spreading
Inhibits the transformation of normal cells into cancer cells
Prevents the development of blood vessels nourishing the tumor
Some researchers have speculated that curcumin is a proteasome inhibitor, a collection of proteins that destroy used or unnecessary proteins in cells. Proteasome inhibitors are already used for the treatment of cancer: bortezomib, ixazomib and carfilzomib.
In an article in Pnas, researchers from the University of California at San Diego, in collaboration with Chinese researchers, describe how curcumin binds to an enzyme called DYRK2, which affects the functioning of the proteasome, and therefore reduces the cancer progression.
Jack Dixon, a university professor, said in a statement: “Our results reveal an unexpected role for curcumin in the inhibition of the DYRK2-proteasome complex. […] Our main goal is to develop a chemical compound that can target DYRK2 in patients with these cancers (triple negative breast cancer and multiple myeloma) ”.
Studies have shown that, in addition, curcumin works synergistically with another proteasome inhibitor, carfilzomib. Thus, this association promotes the apoptosis of cancer cells (programmed cell death) and results in higher cancer cell death, without affecting healthy cells.
Which turmeric to choose?
Indeed, there are many forms of turmeric, and many differences between each, we wrote an article explaining how to choose the right turmeric , in order to buy the right turmeric corresponding to your needs. To summarize, you can take turmeric in its original form (as root or powder), or processed products based on turmeric.
In the context of assistance in the fight against cancer, your choice will be made either:
A dietary supplement extracted from turmeric: choose a dietary supplement 100% curcumin, containing at least 95% curcuminoids, without any additives or excipients, with a manufacturer’s guarantee on the quality of the production chain: place and method of cultivation , harvest, production and packaging of the final product.
A quality turmeric powder: choose a powder rich in curcumin, with a good quality of production chain: place and mode of culture, harvest, production and packaging of the final product.
On the Spice Island, we have selected for you the best quality of turmeric, powder or root, at the best price:
Tips for Using Curcumin Turmeric Extract
According to naturopaths, a typical anticancer dosage can reach 3 g of a good bioavailable curcumin extract, between 3 and 4 times a day.
To be effective, it is necessary to consume high doses of curcumin, because it is not very bioavailable, that is to say that it is not well absorbed by the body, or else to consume a curcumin associated with an increasing ingredient. Bioavailability, like piperine in pepper, or a lipid like coconut oil.
Two tips for increasing the bioavailability of curcumin:
1 tablespoon curcumin powder
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon melted coconut oil
Melt the coconut oil if it is solid, then mix all the ingredients.
Using a blender, mix the mixture to emulsify.
1 tablespoon curcumin powder
12.5 cl of water
Boil the water.
When it is well at boiling point, put the curcumin and let boil for 10 min.
Let cool and it’s ready.
Thus, you create a solution titrated with 12% of bioavailable curcumin. Please note, the curcumin concentration will gradually decrease, after 6 h, the concentration will have halved, so drink it quickly.
How should turmeric powder be taken for cancer?
This is not a dosage, but an information for information which does not replace the consultation of a doctor which it is imperative to consult.
With little information on this subject, and because we do not have research that confirms whether these protocols are valid for all forms of cancer, we can only make assumptions about the dosage, based on medicines alternatives. Anyway, turmeric is only a spice and not a medicine; we list the different uses of turmeric in a dedicated article.
In the following preparations, you will notice the association of black pepper (piper nigrum) with turmeric.
Why associate turmeric with black pepper?
As we mentioned, the disadvantage of turmeric is its low bioavailability, which means that if you want to treat it, you have to consume large amounts!
By combining turmeric longa with black pepper, curcumin is better assimilated by the body. Piperine interacts with curcumin, and the properties of turmeric are multiplied, some say by 1000. This is the reason why, in the Indian tradition, turmeric is mainly used in mixtures with other spices and always pepper .
I often say that piperine activates curcumin. In addition, it is advisable to combine turmeric and pepper with a little fat, the latter also allowing the spice to be better assimilated by the body.
Turmeric is fat-soluble, by mixing it with fat, it increases its bioavailability.
In what proportions to associate pepper with turmeric?
I generally recommend a ratio of 1 to 9: 1 dose of pepper for 9 doses of turmeric.
It should be noted here that depending on the desired effect, it is possible, even advisable, to add other spices to this mixture. In this case, I read a method that I like, it is the dosage 9-5-1: 9 doses of turmeric, 5 doses of another spice and 1 dose of pepper.
For example, cinnamon for its benefits on diabetes: 9 doses of turmeric, 5 of cinnamon and 1 of pepper. Ginger for its anti-inflammatory benefits: 9 doses of turmeric, 5 doses of ginger and 1 of pepper.
Mix the spices well before consuming them; this will be all the more effective.
Use in cooking
Add 2 to 3 g of turmeric powder per day per person in your culinary preparations. This corresponds to one teaspoon per person. This is approximately 200 mg of curcuminoids.
Combine the rhizome powder with a few pinches of pepper and, if possible, a little fat: olive oil, butter, etc.
To relieve inflammation, we consider taking the equivalent of 200 mg to 400 mg of curcuminoids, 3 times a day, which corresponds to 3 times the stated dose.
Infusion. Infuse 1 to 2 g of turmeric powder with 3 or 4 grains of black pepper in 150 ml of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Drink 2 cups a day.
You can also boil a turmeric root for 3 min, then let the decoction infuse for 10 min. Drink 2 or 3 cups a day. Also bet on the association turmeric and lemon , a beneficial association.
To relieve inflammation, it is considered to take the equivalent of 200 mg to 400 mg of curcuminoids, 3 times a day, which corresponds to at least 3 g of turmeric, 3 times a day.
A good way to enjoy the benefits of turmeric is to drink golden Ayurvedic milk, this drink with coconut milk, coconut oil, turmeric and pepper, is a concentrate of benefits.
This drink allows a better bioavailability of turmeric, because the spice is associated with pepper and a fatty substance.
A natural remedy used in Asia since the dawn of time, it begins to arrive in the West thanks to the development of alternative medicine: it is turmeric honey or golden honey !
It is a real panacea, it is used as prevention by eating a teaspoon every morning on an empty stomach, or curatively as explained in our article dedicated to this spicy honey.
“Pure” curcumin and other drugstore products
If you want to consume and make a cure of pure curcumin, or any other para-pharmacy product based on turmeric, you must seek advice from your pharmacist, or the person who sold you this product. The dosage and all necessary advice are intended to be given on the packaging.
In all cases, always consult the advice of your doctor before embarking on any treatment whatsoever.
Like any product, turmeric has its share of contraindications and side effects, we listed them in our article on the harmful effects associated with turmeric.
However, there are dangers in consuming turmeric that are directly linked to cancer and its treatments.
Taking turmeric should be considered with caution, or under the advice of a doctor, if it is combined with certain treatments: radiotherapy, platinum analogues, anthracyclines and certain anti-tumor antibiotics (Bleomycin and Mitomycin). The minimum is to avoid taking turmeric on the days of treatment, as well as the two days before and after.
Some conclusions and reflections:
Is turmeric the miracle cure for cancer?
Of course not. It would be dishonest to hold out a miraculous cure to people with this terrible disease. The answer no is induced by the term miracle, turmeric is only a food. At the same time, the effects are there, but analysis of the reports from the published and previously cited studies shows that further studies are needed.
These missing in-depth studies would simply be more clinical trials on humans, with the development of specific protocols for the use of turmeric to treat cancer patients, or to improve tolerance to chemotherapy.