Curcumin or Turmeric and the Treatment of Ovarian Cancer

Turmeric Curcumin Capsules
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What do we know about curcumin or turmeric and ovarian cancer?  What exactly is turmeric, and what does the research say?

What Is Curcumin?

Curcumin or turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a plant belonging to the ginger family, Zingiberaceae, which is primarily found in South Asia. If you were to try to grow it, it requires a lot of watering and temperatures in the range of 70 F to 85 F. It is also known as Haldi or pasupu in some Asian countries as well as kunyit in Indonesia and Malaysia.

It has been used as a coloring agent and is an ingredient in many commercial curry powders.

Natural Nutrient Preparation

So, how should it generally be prepared, and why is that important? The stem of the plant is boiled for several hours, then dried in hot ovens and then ground into a deep orange-yellow powder. Curcumin is commonly used as a spice in curries and mustards and long known for its anti-inflammatory properties. As far as taste, turmeric is pungent and bitter and has an earthy pepper flavor, rather than sweet like ginger. This is basically important to know if you decide to include turmeric in your diet as opposed to taking a pill form. In most cases of natural nutrients, it is generally preferred to include all of the natural substance with the whole plant rather than a purified version because these other components may help the main ingredient, turmeric, do its job. For example, in Japan, curcumin is in a form of a very popular tea, called Ukon tea, and the incidence of ovarian cancer is very low in that country.


Medicinal Uses of Curcumin

In traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, curcumin has been part of treatment for a variety of ailments. It is often used as an antiseptic for cuts, burns, bruises, and in general skin care. It has also been used to treat digestive disorders and liver problems.

It is also thought to be essential for dental care as it has fluoride. In some Asian countries, curcumin is taken as a dietary supplement to help with digestive problems as it’s known to produce bile to assist with gallbladder emptying.

Researchers continue to examine the effects how curcumin can regulate the activation of the immune system to help fight against cancer. In fact, over the last several years, several research papers have been published on its medicinal properties, many of which have focused on cancer care.

Curcumin in Cancer Research

An in-vitro cancer research study reported at the 2007 meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research concluded that curcumin-based therapies may be attractive in patients with ovarian carcinoma. An in-vitro study is one in which test tubes are used to conduct studies. Specific cells are targeted, like cancer cells, and studied to see how a drug or nutrient affects the cells. Two additional in-vitro studies suggest drug resistance in ovarian cancer cells was reduced when chemo and curcumin were given together.  In 2016, curcumin appeared to have a say with ovarian cancer cells on its own - by inducing programmed cell death (apoptosis) in ovarian cancer cells in a dish, while sparing normal cells.

  Thus the outlook appears hopeful; however, additional studies need to be conducted, especially in humans.

In addition to anti-cancer effect, curcumin acts as a pain reliever since part of the way it works is as an anti-inflammatory agent. Specifically, it inhibits the Cox-2 enzyme, which has been a target of both pain relief and anti-cancer therapies.

Curcumin: Ready for Prime Time?

In conclusion, multiple animal and laboratory studies report curcumin’s anti-cancer properties and usefulness in cancer pain control as well as a possible preventive agent. However, there is little reliable evidence to support the routine use of curcumin because only a few clinical trials have been completed.

Until more human clinical trials can measure the effects of curcumin, it, unfortunately, remains just an interesting home remedy for less life-threatening conditions. On the other hand, this is an agent which offers some promise compared to many other alternatives or complementary agents which have been proven to be ineffective. Therein lies a big difference.

As always, because there is always the possibility of an adverse drug interaction which can lead to complications or reduced effectiveness of mainstream curative treatments, always consult your physician before starting any supplement.  Learn more about vitamin and mineral supplements during cancer treatment.


Seo, J., Kim, B., Dhanasekaran, D., Tsang, B., and Y. Song. Curcumin induces apoptosis by inhibiting sarco/endoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+) ATPase activity in ovarian cancer cells. Cancer Letters. 2016. 371(1):30-7.

Vallianou, N., Evangelopoulos, A., Schizas, N., and C. Kazazis. Potential anticancer properties and mechanisms of action of curcumin. Anticancer Research. 2015. 35(2):645-51.