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Curcumin, a component of turmeric, has been shown to have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial effects, and is currently in clinical trials for various medical conditions ranging from cancer to bipolar disorder.

Curcumin is a component of the herb curcuma longa (turmeric). It is commonly used in Indian cuisine; however, it has a history of traditional medicinal use in both India and China. Ancient uses of curcumin include use for wounds, burns, eye infection, digestive dysfunctions, and skin diseases.

More recently, curcumin has been studied for use in the treatment of a variety of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and psoriasis. A review article published in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design summarizes the scientific research on curcumin. The article describes in depth the various activities of curcumin at a cellular level:

  • Antioxidant Activity – Curcumin has demonstrated antioxidant activity, which can protect against oxidative stress. This may have implications for pathologies such as atherosclerosis and myocardial ischemia.
  • AntiInflammatory Activity – Pre-clinical studies have found that curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory activity. Clinical research continues to shed light on the power of curcumin as a potential treatment for diseases such as: irritable bowel syndrome, pancreatitis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Cell Death and Cell Proliferation – Important for the potential use of curcumin in the treatment of cancer, it has been shown to reduce the growth, and increase the death of cancer cells.
  • Cell Adhesion, Motility, and Invasion – Also important processes for cancer cells. Curcumin has been shown to reduce cell activity associated with cancer cell invasion and metastasis.
  • Angiogenesis – Curcumin inhibits the process of angiogenesis, also an important step in cancer cell metastasis.
  • Antimicrobial Activity – Curcumin has also been reported to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties.

Curcumin Clinical Trials

Investigation of curcumin in clinical trials has revealed a low toxicity, even with doses of up to 8000mg per day for three months. While curcumin appears safe, with no toxicity, some minor gastrointestinal side effects have been noted. With doses greater than 3000mg, curcumin can be detected in plasma and urine. However, a limitation to the use of curcumin is its relatively low bioavailability. Because of this, some studies are now focused on methods of administering curcumin that allow greater concentrations to enter into circulation.

Clinical trials currently recruiting for use of curcumin in various diseases are described below.

Disease Study Location Study Description Reference
Bipolar Disorder Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Canada Investigation of the effects of curcumin on mood symptoms in adolescents with bipolar disorder
Cardiovascular Risk Institute on Nutrition and Functional Foods, Laval University, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada Investigation of the effects of resveratrol and curcumin on the inflammatory response following the consumption of a high-fat meal in healthy subjects with slightly elevated waist circumference
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair Lawson Health Research Institute & Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canada Assessment of whether curcumin can prevent acute kidney injury and other complications after elective AAA repair
Alzheimer’s Disease California, United States Safety and effectiveness of Curcumin and Yoga in Veterans at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease
Colon Cancer James Graham Brown Cancer Center, Louisville, Kentucky, United States This exploratory trial is designed to estimate the effect of a fixed concentration of curcumin when delivered by plant exosomes compared to oral tablets of curcumin alone.
Breast Cancer Prevention Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio, United States Assess ability of curcumin to reduce inflammatory changes in breast tissue in obese women at high risk for breast cancer
Prostate Cancer UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, United States To determine if treatment with curcumin improves recurrence-free survival following radical prostatectomy
Colon Cancer Prevention Johns Hopkins University/Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Baltimore, Maryland, United States Determine if curcumin can prevent colorectal cancer in patients with a history of rectal polyps or colorectal neoplasia.



Fan X, Zhang C, Liu DB, Yan J, Liang HP.“The clinical applications of curcumin: current state and the future.” Curr Pharm Des. 2013;19(11):2011-31.

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Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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