Natural Treatment and Preventive for Cancer

You may know turmeric as the spice that gives curries and other dishes their characteristic orange-yellow hue. Dried, grounded turmeric has an earthy-bitter taste that pairs well with other pungent spices like ginger, cinnamon, and coriander. In raw form, turmeric roots look strikingly similar to fresh ginger, albeit smaller and almost neon orange inside.

The main biochemical and therapeutic ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, a powerful polyphenol shown to support health on many levels. Polyphenols are natural compounds found abundantly in fruits, vegetables, herbs, and cereals.  Evidence suggests that polyphenols like the ones found in curcumin,  may help protect against chronic diseases, lower blood sugar levels, promote healthy digestion, support brain function, and more.

Note, the terms, tumeric, curcumin and curcuminoid. are not interchangeable terms. Curcuminoids are a family of active compounds within turmeric. Curcuminoids are polyphenolic pigments and include curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Curcumin is the primary curcuminoid in turmeric and the compound for which most studies have been done. 

Curcumin has multiple mechanisms of action.

Some people use turmeric to treat:

  • inflammation
  • indigestion
  • stomach ulcers
  • ulcerative colitis
  • osteoarthritis
  • high cholesterol
  • heart disease
  • liver problems
  • viral and bacterial infections
  • wounds
  • neurogenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis

But while there seem to be countless health benefits to consuming or supplementing with turmeric, one of the most intriguing is its potential effect on breast cancer and other cancers. Here’s what the current research says about the role of turmeric in cancer treatment and prevention.

Multiple mechanisms of action make it clear that curcumin should be a central part of any comprehensive cancer prevention regimen.

  • Curcumin is a powerful, multi-functional polyphenol with cancer chemopreventive properties.
  • Curcumin starves cancer cells to death.  It greatly restricts cancer cells’ ability to extract energy from blood glucose. This mechanism of action is beneficial for cancer prevention because it would target most cancers.
  • Previous studies also show that curcumin can reduce inflammation, prevent chemical stress, shut down cancer-promoting pathways, and interfere with malignant cells’ growth and development.

Curcumin has been shown to modulate multiple cell-signaling pathways simultaneously, thereby mitigating or preventing many different types of cancers, including multiple myeloma and colorectal, pancreatic, breast, prostate, lung, head, and neck cancers, in both animal models and human studies.

Turmeric and breast cancer

Except for skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer among US women. It is also the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Although anybody can develop breast cancer, it is far more common in women than in men. Estimates indicate that about 1 in 8 women (about 12 percent) will develop some type of breast cancer over their lifetime. Out of all the breast cancer cases every year, only about 1 percent will occur in men.

Breast cancer develops when cells in the breast tissue start to grow abnormally. These cells reproduce faster than healthy cells, forming a lump or a mass (tumor) that can often be felt through the skin or seen on an x-ray.

Inflammation is one of the body’s most effective mechanisms for fighting infections and healing wounds. But it also can become chronic, making the immune system release inflammatory chemicals that, over time, may damage DNA and make way to abnormal cells that can lead to cancer.

Although there isn’t enough scientific evidence to say that curcumin can treat or cure cancer, preliminary research shows that this fiery yellow root may employ more than one method for fighting cancer cells. For one, curcumin has proven anti-inflammatory properties that make it an ideal complementary treatment for many conditions.

Research shows that curcumin can block nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB), a family of molecules that help trigger inflammation. It can also inhibit other pro-inflammatory enzymes, such as cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which has been associated with cancer cell activity.

A 2009 study published by the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists revealed that curcumin might employ as many as 40 different mechanisms to kill cancer cells. The authors of the study hypothesized that turmeric’s diverse approaches to eradicate cancer cells may make them less likely to become resistant to curcumin (turmeric). Some laboratory and in vitro studies have shown that turmeric’s curcumin may slow down cancer progression, protect healthy cells from radiation, and make chemotherapy more effective.

In a 2013 review of the effects of curcumin on breast cancer cells, the authors suggested that curcumin extracted from turmeric roots could reduce the side effects and increase Mitomycin C (MMC) viability in breast cancer patients. MMC is one of the most common chemotherapy drugs, and it works by producing a type of DNA that stops cancer cells from dividing.

Another small study of 30 patients with breast cancer undergoing radiation found that 2 grams of curcumin taken three times daily significantly reduced radiation dermatitis (skin irritation caused by radiation) severity.

More recently, a study revealed that curcumin can also fight breast cancer by reversing the excessive methylation of certain genes that are associated with increased cancer development

Turmeric safety

Turmeric is generally regarded as safe for most healthy adults when consumed in the amounts found in food or when taken as an oral supplement in the recommended doses. Long-term use or large amounts of turmeric or curcumin are not recommended as there is not enough research to confirm their safety for prolonged periods.  

However, despite its impressive health effects, curcumin has one important downside: our bloodstream can’t absorb it effectively when eaten by itself. Fortunately, there are ways to optimize curcumin absorption and maximize its health benefits.

Research shows that combining turmeric with black pepper can increase its bioavailability by up to 2000 percent. Mixing and matching these spices may also help boost turmeric effects; studies suggest that piperine in black pepper has important anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and gastrointestinal properties.  

Its multiple mechanisms of action make it clear that curcumin should be a central part of any comprehensive cancer prevention regimen or treatment.

How to use turmeric
The roots of the turmeric plant are boiled, dried, and then ground into a fine consistency to create this spice. It’s used in everything from food and textile dye to herbal medicine. In addition to a cooking spice, turmeric is also available as:

a supplement
a liquid extract
an herbal tincture

Although turmeric is considered safe for most healthy adults, knowing the quantity of turmeric in milligrams used in the cure and treatment of particular conditions is of great importance and it is considered safer for patients to use over-the-counter Turmeric Supplements that are made using controlled and specific amounts of turmeric.

Curcumin Dosages:

Note: Be sure to buy curcumin containing or standardized to 95% curcuminoids.

Healthy people: 900 mg / day

Cancer survivor: 3,000 mg /day

Cancer patient:  7,000 – 8,000 mg / day

IMPORTANT: In addition to either of the dosages of curcumin listed above, add 350 mg / day of EGCG (Green Tea Extract) for powerfully synergistic benefits.

Clinical studies have found that curcumin is safe for certain cancer patients up to 8,000 mg (3 grams) per day.  You should not take it or any other supplement without having a discussion with your doctor first.  You may want to consult with an integrative oncologist as well.  Integrative oncology is a patient-centered, evidence-informed field of cancer care that utilizes mind and body practices, natural products, and/or lifestyle modifications from different traditions alongside conventional cancer treatments

If you want to maximize absorption of any curcumin capsule, you can open the capsule and mix with a tablespoon of olive oil.  The fat helps with absorption.  Note: curcumin is very staining so be careful not to get it on your and be sure to wash your hands afterward as curcumin will stain everything a bright orange.

A soothing bedtime drink

Golden milk is a traditional turmeric-based Indian beverage that has gained a lot of popularity over the past couple of years. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, golden milk is said to aid with digestion, promote sleep, and reduce inflammation. It can be a healthy, nutritious addition to any diet and a perfect and delicious way to reap all of turmeric’s benefits.

Here’s how to make it:

Golden milk recipe

Ingredients (4 servings)

1 cup unsweetened milk, preferably coconut milk or almond milk
1 cup water
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 (1-inch) piece turmeric, unpeeled, thinly sliced, or 1/2 teaspoon dried turmeric
1 (1/2-inch) piece ginger, unpeeled, thinly sliced or ¼ teaspoon dried ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Preparation

Combine milk, water, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, honey, coconut oil, and peppercorns in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Whisk until steaming and fragrant. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and serve with a pinch of ground cinnamon.

 

Enjoy and be healthy!