Cancer is one of the most dreaded diseases and a leading cause of death worldwide. Due to limited effectiveness of available therapeutic options, there is a growing interest in finding safe, natural alternatives that could help in fighting the war against cancer. My patients often ask how turmeric can help fight cancer. Turmeric is one such miracle spice that has shown potential chemo-preventive and therapeutic actions.
How Turmeric Can Help Fight Cancer
Turmeric (Curcuma Longa) is a rhizome from ginger family with warm peppery taste and a tangy fragrance. It is rich in natural pigment “curcumin” that gives it the yellow-orange colour. This spice is the main ingredient in curry powder and used as a food flavouring and colouring agent. Besides being a cooking staple in Asia, this potent healing spice is used in Indian Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as a natural cleanser and herbal remedy to treat various ailments i.e. skin problems, bruises, inflammation, toothache, infection, hemorrhage, menstrual discomforts, gastrointestinal disorders, liver problems, respiratory troubles, muscle sprains, joint pains and wound healing. This ingredient may surprise you with its benefits.
Research evidence suggests that turmeric has more than 300 bio-active compounds; however most studies have assessed the effect of only one ingredient curcumin. Through its various potential compounds i.e. Curcuminoids (polyphenols) turmeric provides many therapeutic benefits such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-angiogenesis, anti-mutagenic and immune-stimulant, to promote health and prevent various diseases.
Turmeric Can Block Cancer Cell Growth
The best thing about turmeric is that it shows potent universal anti-cancer activity against all types of cancer by modulating genetic activity and interfering with the cellular signalling aspects of various molecular pathways. Turmeric actually blocks cancer cell growth at every stage of cancer development (initiation, promotion and metastasis) through following mechanisms:
- Its anti-inflammatory action neutralizes harmful free radicals to prevent cell damage and chronic inflammation, the well-known risk factors to cancer.
- Its anti-angiogenesis activities inhibit blood supply required for cancer cell growth.
- It modulates gene activity and triggers formation of tumour suppressor gene.
- It halts proliferation (growth and spread) of tumour cells i.e. metastasis.
- It induces apoptosis (cellular death) to eliminate mutated cancer cells.
- It prevents re-growth of cancer stem cells, the root cause of malignancy.
Besides scavenging highly reactive free radicals, which cause oxidative stress and cellular damage, powerful antioxidants in turmeric control chronic systemic inflammation, which leads to various metabolic disorders (diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, heart disease, arthritis) and an increased risk of cancer:
- It regulates blood sugar levels and reverses insulin resistance, which helps in reducing inflammation caused by hyper-glycemia.
- It improves leptin sensitivity, which reduces chances of inflammation caused by obesity related chronic metabolic diseases. It also helps in keeping liver healthy and promotes production of bile, which assists in better digestion of fat and healthy weight management.
- Its natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties support faster wound healing and reduce chances of chronic inflammation.
- Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help in preventing and removing accumulated plaque in the arteries, which increases blood and oxygen supply throughout the body. Low cellular oxygenation levels are an underlying cause of cancer.
- It inhibits growth of pathogenic bacteria (Helicobacter pylori) in the stomach and human papilloma virus (HPV) in the uterine lining, which are responsible for stomach and cervical cancers, respectively.
- It boosts production of “the mother of all antioxidants” i.e. glutathione in the body, which is essential for optimal health and immunity.
Many Anti Cancer Properties
Several studies have found that people who eat this amazing spice in their regular diet are at significantly lower risk of cancer. Other studies confirm these findings and demonstrate that turmeric shows strong anti-cancer potential by effectively stopping the precancerous changes in different organs to become cancer; eliminating cancer cells; stopping proliferation of tumour cells; and preventing their re-growth. Clinical studies also prove that turmeric can inhibit growth of cancer cells in various organs: bone, brain, breast, kidney, liver, pancreas, stomach, bladder, colon, lung, prostate, cervix, ovaries and blood. These food can help improve brain function.
Furthermore, turmeric is safe, as curcumin effectively differentiates between cancer cells and normal cells and has no side effects on healthy cells, while it targets specific cancer cells for apoptosis. Additional research shows that it can be used as a complementary therapy with conventional cancer treatment, as it works synergistically with chemotherapy drugs and enhances the elimination of cancer cells.
How to Use Turmeric
In a recent study, researchers found that putting just a teaspoon of turmeric into your daily meals can produce “highly significant changes” to a gene, which is linked to the risk of cancer, as well as with allergies such as asthma and eczema, and anxiety and depression. However, the more surprising finding is that this vibrant spice only helps your health when it is added to other foods, as taking turmeric as a pill or supplement doesn’t make any difference to your genes. Did you know lemons have many health benefits.
These healing properties make turmeric a potent anti-cancer therapeutic agent, which you can add to your daily diet for cancer prevention. You can easily add turmeric as a spice in your salads, soups, sauces, curries, dressings, omelette and tea or milk. However, research suggests you should consider consuming turmeric with certain foods to increase its absorbability, bioavailability and maximize its benefits:
- Curcumin, the bioactive ingredient in turmeric is a fat soluble compound, so taking turmeric with healthy fat (avocado) or mixing it with oils (olive or coconut) helps in better absorption.
- Combining onions (quercitin) and turmeric (curcumin) helps in reducing precancerous lesions.
- Taken together, turmeric (curcumin) and cruciferous vegetables (phenethyl isothiocyanates) can reduce cancer growth and metastasis.
- Adding a little black pepper (piperine) significantly increases absorption of turmeric and curcumin’s potency.
- Turmeric also shows synergistic activities against cancer with resveratrol found in red wine or red grape extracts and Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea.
Also, to get clinical results and therapeutic benefits you should aim to consume about 2 grams of good quality, organic, bio-available curcumin extract 4 times per day with healthy oils. You can also increase absorption of turmeric extract by putting it in boiling water and heating it further for another 10 minutes before consuming.