Turmeric’s Old Remedy Gives New Hope for Cancer Patients

Turmeric isn’t only a spice: it may be an effective boost for anti-cancer drugs.

Bright yellow turmeric root, a well-loved spice in the Middle East and Asia, has been used for centuries in folk medicine to relieve inflammation. Medicinal spices have been reviewed on Green Prophet here. To relieve internal inflammation in the digestive tract, Ayurvedic medicine from India advises grating the fresh root into clarified butter or organic milk, sweetening it with a little unprocessed honey, and drinking it daily. See our post about farming goats for organic milk.

Recently this Oriental wisdom was validated in Western medicine by Tel Aviv University researchers. Studies conducted by Dr. Lev-Ari, Prof. Nadir Arber, and Prof. Dov Lichtenberg at the university’s School of Public Health, show that curcumin, the active principle in turmeric, inhibits the COX-2 enzyme. This enzyme is believed to cause inflammation. Curcumin also neutralizes oxygen free radical cells, believed to scavenge healthy cells, causing cancer.

Effective anti-cancer drugs like Celecoxib were dropped from recommended cancer medications because of high toxicity and drastic side effects. The hope of the Tel Aviv University team is that with a boost from turmeric, patients will be able to take these drugs again at a lower, safer dosage.

Prof. Arber says of  adding turmeric to cancer patients’ medications:

“It has the promise of being an important life-extending therapy, particularly for non-curable pancreatic cancer, suggested by the very promising results we achieved for 20 pancreatic cancer patients.”

While Dr. Lev-Ari and his team continue to conduct research, it’s safe to say that turmeric isn’t just part of curry blends, it’s also an ancient remedy for continued good health.


Photo of turmeric roots by missmeng via Flickr.

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