10 Oct 2011

Back To Our Roots Part 1: Curcumin

We "sisters" are desperately interested in things we can do for ourselves outside of chemotherapy.  There are lots of suggestions but few of them stand up to scientific scrutiny.  Two natural ingredients which have had extensive research and many studies done are curcumin and ginger.  Both of these root ingredients have anti-cancer benefits for those with ovarian cancer.

Curcumin is a component of turmeric.  It is not the same thing nor interchangeable with turmeric or curry powder - as turmeric contains only 3% curcumin and curry powder much less.  Curcumin has been used since 3000BC for medicinal purposes.  It is anti-inflammatory (inflammation has long been associated with the development of cancer cells), it inhibits tumoral cell growth, it induces tumoral cell death, it interferes with angiogenesis (discussed in the Green Tea blog)  and it has a positive impact on the immune system.  Unlike other anti-inflammatory drugs, curcumin is not toxic to humans in concentrations of up to 12,000 grams/day.  Therapeutic benefit is received from doses as low as 2,000 grams per day.
There is one drawback however and that is the bioavailability of curcumin - the extent to which it can be absorbed into the bloodstream.  In order to make it more bioavailable - curcumin has to be coupled with piperine (an extract of pepper).  Dr. Richard Beliveau is quoted in his book "Foods that Fight Cancer" as saying "Piperine increases the amount of curcumin absorbed by a factor of 1,000".  It has been further understood that curcumin is not soluble in water and so needs an oil to "carry it" through the digestive process.  Combining it with a flaxseed oil capsule or dissolving it in a fatty liquid like coconut milk or real cream increases its effectiveness.

Recent developments include in vivo, in vitro and xenograph studies using an analog (synthetic) of curcumin on cisplatin resistant ovarian cancer cells.  The treatment combined cisplatin and the curcumin analog and resulted in significantly inhibiting the growth of resistant tumours without toxicity to healthy tissues.

Reproductive Sciences journal reports a study of another curcumin analog - EF24 - has shown a 10 to 20 times increase in cytotocity (cancer cell death).  Unfortunately, these analogs are not yet available commercially and human clinical trials are warranted.  In the meantime... we have good old curcumin - be sure it is standardized to greater than or equal to 95% curcuminoids and includes piperine. 

A very interesting blog with lots of curcumin chatter on it is Margaret's health blog.

Next topic: Ginger.


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