Prevention Strategy 8: Turmeric - Cancer's Enemy
Updated: Jul 17
There are very few natural remedies on which oncologists agree, but the positive effect of Turmeric in combatting various cancers is widely accepted. When I presented my list of supplements to my oncology pharmacist at Dana Farber in Boston, her reaction to my daily supplementation of Tumeric was one of overwhelming approval. Western science confirms that Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb, and its impact on cancer patients is extremely beneficial. Over the years, researchers have been learning more and more about the health benefits of turmeric and its active component, curcumin.
Curcumin has been proven to induce cell death called “apoptosis” in many types of cancer. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant with significant anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies have suggested that it may be as effective as diclofenac, acetylsalicylic acid, and ibuprofen in terms of reducing inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions. Most turmeric capsules sold as health supplements contain at least one gram of curcumin. This is the recommended dose for maximum anti-inflammatory benefits.
So if you’ve never heard of it…what is Turmeric? Turmeric is a flowering plant that belongs to the ginger family. It is native to Southeast Asia and India and has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. With an earthy aroma and a deep orange-yellow color, turmeric powder is a staple of Indian cuisine. It is also used as a fabric dye for the saris and robes of Buddhist monks. Turmeric powder is often combined with annatto to give extra color to cheese, mustard, chicken broth, and salad dressing. Some individuals will use it in place of saffron in dishes, since it is less expensive.
People whose diets are rich in Turmeric are found to have lower rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers. Researchers at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston suggest that curcumin, an active component in Turmeric, may also help prevent the spread of breast cancer. In studies with lab mice, researchers found that curcumin helped stop the metastasis of breast cancer cells to the lungs and bones. Turmeric has also been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for thousands of years to fight inflammation and joint pain.
When searching for the best supplement, looks for brands that include piperine commonly known as black pepper. Turmeric supplements are more effective when piperine is added. The combination of Turmeric and black pepper result in a potent anti-cancer supplement. Research has found that consuming black pepper with curcumin increases its bioavailability. Studies have found that a compound in black pepper called piperine makes the cancer-fighting curcumin in Turmeric as much as 1,000 times more effective.
In a study at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center that was published in the Breast Cancer Research and Treatment Journal, researchers found that curcumin and piperine, when combined, were able to target cancer stem cells, the original cells in a tumor that the larger tumor "stems" from.
There are 20 known health benefits of Turmeric. This website lists all 20:
Worried that it might interfere with Chemotherapy Effectiveness? Studies have shown that It boosts the effects of the chemo drug paclitaxel and cisplatin, drugs widely used to treat breast cancer.
A quote from the UCLA study is as follows:
“Researchers at UCLA found that curcumin enhances the effects of cisplatin, a chemotherapy used in the treatment of many different cancers. Cisplatin and curcumin together worked better at suppressing tumors than cisplatin alone. In addition, a study published in the Nutrition and Cancer journal found that curcumin not only makes cancer cells more susceptible to chemo but it also protects healthy cells from the toxic effects of chemo.”
I take a Turmeric supplement with piperine 500mg twice a day and have done so since my diagnosis. In addition to its cancer-fighting properties, Turmeric is noted to act as a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, a natural liver detoxifier, to prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer's, and to aid in fat metabolism and thus assist with weight control.
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it’s also used as a natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Studies underway have shown a positive effect of Turmeric on Cystic Fibrosis patients, and is being evaluated for potential use as an addition to current treatment protocols.
How else can you incorporate Turmeric into your anti-cancer program? I buy fresh Turmeric and along with fresh ginger, using a piece the size of the top of my thumb, I add them to my morning smoothie. The ginger adds a “kick” and the Turmeric a slight “bite” but both flavors are not noticeable for my husband and grandchildren to object. In this way, I know I start each day with an important cancer fighting strategy.