Those who are from Asia know curcumin (also known as curcuma) – how it looks, how it smells, how it tastes. It is the compound that makes curry the yellow or red curry that we know. Aside from its use in culinary arts, curcumin also has some medicinal properties.
In a new study presented at the 2009 American Academy of Otolaryngology Meeting in San Diego, Ca., researchers tested curcumin in the lab. The compound was able to block the action of nicotine that activates cancer cells that cause neck and head cancer.
Smoking cigarettes is one big risk factor of neck and head cancer. Nicotine is not only addictive, it possesses cancer-forming properties. Every year 40,000 new cases of head and neck cancer in the US and 500,000 new cases worldwide are being reported.
Curcumin is one of most promising phytochemical candidates that can help block the carcinogenic effects of nicotine. It is a safe, bioactive food compound that could be used not only as a chemopreventive agent. Other studies have also observed that curcumin has tumor-suppression properties. It also is reported to have anti-inflammatory properties. Aside from cancer, it is also a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
Curcumin comes from the turmeric plant (Curcuma longa) which is a member of the ginger family. Over the centuries, it has been used in Asia, especially India as spice and food flavouring. Other information about curcumin from phytochemicals.info:
- Curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antifungal actions. Studies have shown that curcumin is not toxic to humans.
- Curcumin exerts anti-inflammatory activity by inhibition of a number of different molecules that play an important role in inflammation. Turmeric is effective in reducing post-surgical inflammation. Turmeric helps to prevent atherosclerosis by reducing the formation of bloods clumps.
- Curcumin inhibits the growth of Helicobacter pylori, which causes gastric ulcers and has been linked with gastric cancers.
- Curcumin can bind with heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, thereby reducing the toxicity of these heavy metals. This property of curcumin explains its protective action to the brain. Curcumin acts as an inhibitor for cyclooxygenase, 5-lipoxygenase and glutathione S-transferase.
Photo credit: wikicommons