Turmeric, a perennial herb prevalent in South Asia, is ubiquitous in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. It is also used in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine to treat inflammation, burns, and disorders of the digestive system.
Turmeric was found useful in relieving symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and osteoarthritis. Epidemiological data indicate that it may improve cognitive performance, but a randomized trial did not find any benefit.
Current evidence from preclinical studies suggests strong chemopreventive potential of curcumin, the active constituent of turmeric, against a variety of tumors. Clinical trials are underway.
Curcumin was shown to interfere with cyclophosphamide in vitro, but a combination of curcumin and docetaxel was found to be safe in a Phase I study. In addition, curcumin enhanced the effects of gemcitabine both in vitro and in vivo. Until definitive data become available, cancer patients should avoid taking turmeric supplements during treatment.
--Barrie Cassileth, PhD
ALSO KNOWN AS: Indian saffron, curcumin, jiang huang.
SUMMARY: Turmeric, a perennial plant native to South Asia, is a key ingredient in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. It has also been used in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine to treat bacterial infections, inflammation, burns, and digestive disorders. It is available in supplemental form for gastrointestinal discomfort and as an antiseptic.
Extensive research over the last two decades suggests that...
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