Curcumin: Natural Cancer Therapy
Nearly 40% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. About 1.5 million new cases were diagnosed in the United States in 2016 alone. Nearly 600,000 people die from cancer each year. And by 2020, national expenditures for cancer care could reach $156 billion.
These numbers—from the National Cancer Institute—do not have to be this high. While there isn’t a cure, there is a powerful, natural substance that can reduce your odds of getting cancer, help you fight cancer if you’ve already been diagnosed, and help prevent it from coming back. Best of all, this miracle drug is not a drug at all. It’s curcumin. And what I’m about to tell you about it may very well keep you or someone you love from becoming one of those scary statistics.
Curcumin Basics and Benefits
So what is curcumin exactly? Curcumin is a wonder nutrient derived from the root of the turmeric plant native to humid, rainy Southeast Asia. Turmeric has been a culinary and medicinal staple of the East for centuries, but only recently has Western medicine begun to grasp and harness its benefits. This medicinal multi-tasker has been shown to reduce inflammation and boost brain function; it is increasingly recognized as a powerful cancer fighter.
A wide variety of studies have shown that curcumin:
- fights health-damaging free radicals
- cools inflammation
- fights viruses, bacteria, and fungus
- protects the kidneys and liver
- eases arthritis pain
- lifts depression
- improves heart health
- fights off debilitating disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and related conditions.
How? Curcumin seeks and destroys chronic inflammation in the billions upon billions of cells in our bodies. Inflammation is our natural defense against injury and infection, but chronic inflammation means our cells are losing the battle and, over time, our tissues and organs can sustain damage. Curcumin can halt and reverse chronic inflammation in all corners of your body.
Curcumin and Cancer
Before I get any further, let me first state, very clearly, that curcumin is not a replacement for conventional cancer treatment. Every type of cancer is as different as each person with it. And even the same type of cancer acts differently in each person. There are just too many variables.
That said, there are also thousands of studies that have shown how curcumin can help prevent cancer and fight off existing cancer. Among the types of cancer that curcumin has shown to fight best, are…
Curcumin fights cancer by attacking it at its root—our cells. In its fight against cancer cells, curcumin can:
- Reduce inflammation, the origin point of nearly every disease, including cancer
- Help your body destroy cancer cells and prevent normal cells from transforming into tumorous cells
- Halt the spread of tumor cells and their pathways to other organs—an antimetastatic property
- Help prevent the development of additional blood supply necessary for tumor growth, a process known as angiogenesis.
- Chemosensitize and radiosensitize cancer cells, making them more receptive to chemotherapy and radiation interventions
Those are broad abilities of curcumin in its fight against cancer. But here are some looks at how it fights specific kinds of cancer.
Lung Cancer and Curcumin
A particular kind of lung cancer called small cell lung cancer is especially lethal because it grows and spreads to other organs very quickly. If not detected before it reaches its peak growth, it can kill a person within 2 to 4 months.
Recall my earlier mention of curcumin’s cancer-fighting abilities—curcumin gets in front of cancer cells by preventing them from joining together to form clusters and tumors. If the cells have already formed into small clusters, curcumin works to break up those cancerous cell clusters. If the cancer cells have already formed a tumor, curcumin interferes with the tumor’s attempt to hijack healthy tissues. If a tumor has already spread to a healthy tissue, curcumin prevents that tumor from getting the extra blood that it needs to continue growing.
Simply put, it fights small cell lung cancer at every stage and it doesn’t back down. And these benefits are on top of curcumin’s ability to chemo-sensitize and radio-sensitize cancer cells.
Breast Cancer and Curcumin
Curcumin helps prevent breast cancer by protecting the cells and tissues from developing tumors. It regulates the activity of a hormone that tells cells when they should self-destruct—a process called apoptosis. This is an essential function—what makes a cancer a cancer is that it doesn’t stop replicating itself unless forced. Curcumin also activates genes, specific to breast tumors, that cause cancer cell death, and, eventually, tumor death.
In other words, it literally makes cancer cells explode!
For those receiving cancer treatment, curcumin helps ease breast cancer symptoms, such as inflammation, redness, swelling, pain, and discharges.
If you’ve beaten cancer, curcumin helps prevent the reoccurrence that often follows chemo by slowing tumor growth. This is on top of its previously mentioned preventative benefits.
Prostate Cancer and Curcumin
Curcumin is great news for men. Not only does it help reverse prostate cancer, it offers protection against getting prostate cancer in the first place. All or most of the properties we’ve already covered work their wonders here, too.
As with breast cancer, which shares several clinical similarities with prostate cancer, curcumin increased the number of dead cancer cells in living lab-based cancer cells. And the higher the curcumin dose, the more dead cells.
Other studies confirm that curcumin can play a preventive role by keeping random prostate cancer cells from massing together to form a tumor. If a tumor is already present, curcumin, as it does with other cancers, can keep it from spreading to other organs.
But curcumin can even help against full-blown prostate cancer that’s being treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Studies show that supplementing with curcumin can alleviate the harsh side and aftereffects—the nausea, dizziness, pain, and so on—as well as protecting healthy cells that chemo and radiation take down along with cancer cells.
Indeed, as curcumin makes cancer cells more vulnerable to radiation and chemo, it means the intensity of those harsh treatments can be dialed down with no loss of efficacy.
If this isn’t enough to cheer about, curcumin comes with some welcome bonus benefits as it fights prostate cancer: less frequent, less urgent, and more complete urination — and improved sexual capabilities.
Health Benefits of Curcumin are Clear
Even though there are scores and scores of studies that show the vast and powerful healthy benefits of curcumin, there is one thing missing: a blessing from the almighty FDA and its overlord Big Pharma (sarcasm intended). As usual, the mainstream medical/FDA community, influenced by Big Pharma, expresses doubt and withholds approval of curcumin-based treatments. Big Pharma can’t make billions from a treatment that uses a safe, affordable substance that’s also widely available. Profit over patient. Business as usual.
Right now, cancer is the number two killer in the U.S., right behind heart disease. And, like heart disease, the majority of cancer cases are preventable if nipped early enough or prevented from happening outright.
I see “More research is needed” far too often. More research is always great, but it’s not needed here as far as I’m concerned. I say, “More action is needed!” Enough people are suffering and dying already. Unlike many doctors, I’m not afraid of saying loudly and proudly that my reading of these studies and my experience treating cancer patients right here in my clinic, leads me to believe that curcumin is safe, effective, and can save millions of lives.
Natural Sources of Curcumin
Since turmeric plants grow predominantly in Southeast Asia, it’s no surprise that turmeric is a staple ingredient of the cuisines of the local cultures—making them natural sources of curcumin. Although it’s just one corner of the globe, there are a lot of countries there—India, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Vietnam—that use turmeric. Look for curries and other dishes with turmeric’s signature yellow or orange.
Turmeric can be used to season nearly anything—potatoes, beef, chicken, vegetables. It can even be used to make a refreshing and relaxing tea.
What to Look for in Curcumin Supplements
Usually no matter how much turmeric you eat, it’s not enough curcumin to work its wonders against the dozens of illnesses that it effectively fights. That’s because it’s very hard for your body to absorb.
So, I recommend taking 500 mg of curcumin up to three times daily. Look for curcumin supplements with a high curcumanoid concentration and enhanced bioavailability (better absorption into your body). I caution my patients that curcumin can thin your blood, which isn’t a bad unless you’re already taking blood thinners. If that’s your case, talk with your physician or pharmacist before adding curcumin to your daily regimen.
- “Cancer Statistics.” National Cancer Institute. Updated March 22, 2017.
- “Is Curcumin Found In Turmeric A Universal Cancer Treatment?” Holistic Health Naturally. Published March 3, 2014. Last accessed February 20, 2017.
- Ji, Sayer. “Turmeric Extract Strikes To The Root Cause of Cancer Malignancy” Published January 29, 2014. Last accessed February 20, 2017.
- Wang, Y et al “Curcumin in Treating Breast Cancer: A Review” J Lab Autom. 2016 Dec;21(6):723-731. Epub 2016 Jun 20. Last accessed February 20, 2017
- “Can turmeric prevent or treat cancer?” CancerResearch UK. Published NA. Last accessed February 18, 2017.
- Howells, Lynn et al. “Translating Curcumin to the Clinic for Lung Cancer Prevention: Evaluation of the Preclinical Evidence for Its Utility in Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Prevention Strategies” Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Published September 2014. Last accessed February 18, 2017.
- Williams, Andy. “Curcumin for Small Cell Lung Cancer” Turmerics Gold. Published NA. Last accessed February 18, 2017.
- “Thanks to the FDA you can say goodbye to medical curcumin” Alliance for Natural Health. Published November 10, 2015. Last accessed February 18, 2017.
- Liu, Dongwu, Chen, Zhiwei. “The Effect of Curcumin on Breast Cancer Cells” J Breast Cancer. 2013 Jun;16(2):133-137. Published June 28, 2013. Last accessed February 18, 2017.
- Bollinger,Ty. “The Benefits of Turmeric for Cancer Treatment” The Truth About Cancer. Published NA. Last accessed February 18, 2017.
- Moynihan, Timothy. “Can curcumin slow cancer growth?” Mayo Clinic. Published February 8, 2017. Last accessed February 18, 2017.
- Nordqvist, Christian. “Curcumin Inhibits Prostate Cancer Metastases” Medical NewsNT. Published October 12, 2012. Last accessed February 18, 2017.
- “Common Cancer Types” NIH National Cancer Institute. Updated February 13, 2017. Last accessed February 18, 2017.
- “A to Z List of Cancer Types” NIH National Cancer Institute. Updated February 13, 2017. Last accessed February 18, 2017.