Healing Now

It’s so transforming. Cancer patients & survivors can feel better and live longer using powerful strategies. Explore how I help as a Cancer Coach, writer, consultant & speaker.

Get my Top 10 Integrative Cancer Care Strategies e-book, 
inspired articles, and insights delivered to your inbox.

Home  /  Integrative Cancer Care  /  Body  /  Cancer Vitamins, Supplements and Herbs  /  Turmeric and Cancer

Turmeric and Cancer

By Jeannine Walston

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is a spice with a long history of use in medicinal remedies.


What are the potential turmeric health benefits?

A range of molecules offers benefits of turmeric. The principle active component in turmeric is the yellow pigment curcumin. Research indicates that curcumin in turmeric has a wide range of biological effects producing health benefits.

What are some additional turmeric health benefits with the relationship between turmeric and cancer to produce anticancer activity? How does it work as an anti inflammatory treatment for cancer patients?

Curcumin in turmeric clearly appears to have anticancer activity inhibiting development (initiation), growth (promotion), and spread (progression). Curcumin blocks a number of cellular processes essential to cancer’s survival such as inhibiting blood vessels from supporting cancer growth through anti-angiogenesis and promoting cell death through apoptosis1-3. You can learn more about curcumin against cancer in Curcumin and Cancer.

Studies suggest that the anticancer activity of curcumin occurs in part through the inhibition of a cancer master switch called nuclear factor kappa beta explained in Inflammation and Cancer. (Nuclear factor kappa beta is also called NF-kB inhibition and/or NFkB inhibitor.) A major mechanism through which inflammation fuels cancer involves the production and activity of nuclear factor kappa beta. Considered a master switch in cancer, studies suggest it accounts for approximately 95% of all cancers. Research indicates that nuclear factor kappa beta decreases cancer cell death (apoptosis) and increases cancer cell growth, blood supply to tumors (angiogenesis), invasion, and metastasis4-8. Nuclear factor kappa beta also fuels inflammation through COX-2 enzymes and cytokines such as interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and interleukin-8 (IL-8). Studies suggest that high levels of IL-6 are correlated with shorter survival in some people with cancer. Along with promoting cancer invasion, IL-6 stimulates vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) responsible for increased blood supply to tumors through angiogenesis5.

Turmeric is considered the most powerful natural anti inflammatory treatment and curcumin as the principle molecule for the effect. Research shows that the mixture in turmeric is necessary for the medicinal effects. The addition of black pepper allows assimilation in the body for optimal health benefits. Turmeric is one of the most common ingredients in Ayurveda Medicine and Cancer.

What is the history of turmeric?

Turmeric’s health benefits have been acknowledged for over 5,000 years, especially in China and India.

For More Information

  • Curcumin Research by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD
  • Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD
  • Life Over Cancer by Keith Block, MD
  • Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber MD, PhD
  • The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing by Lise Alschuler, ND and Karolyn A. Gazella
  • Textbook of Functional Medicine
1. Ravindran J, Prasad S, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin and cancer cells: how many ways can curry kill tumor cells selectively? AAPS J. 2009 Sep;11(3):495-510. Epub 2009 Jul 10. Review. PubMed PMID: 19590964; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2758121.
2. Reuter S, Eifes S, Dicato M, Aggarwal BB, Diederich M. Modulation of anti-apoptotic and survival pathways by curcumin as a strategy to induce apoptosis in cancer cells. Biochem Pharmacol. 2008 Dec 1;76(11):1340-51. Epub 2008 Aug 3. Review. PubMed PMID: 18755156.
3. Aggarwal BB, Kunnumakkara AB, Harikumar KB, Tharakan ST, Sung B, Anand P. Potential of spice-derived phytochemicals for cancer prevention. Planta Med. 2008 Oct;74(13):1560-9. Epub 2008 Jul 8. Review. PubMed PMID: 18612945.
4. Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber MD, PhD
5. The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing by Lise Alschuler, ND and Karolyn A. Gazella
6. Jeanne Wallace, PhD, CNC presentation at the 17th International Symposium on Functional Medicine, May 2010
7. Prasad S, Ravindran J, Aggarwal BB. NF-kappaB and cancer: how intimate is this relationship. Mol Cell Biochem. 2010 Mar;336(1-2):25-37. Epub 2009 Oct 8. Review.PubMed PMID: 19823771.
8. Aggarwal BB, Vijayalekshmi RV, Sung B. Targeting inflammatory pathways for prevention and therapy of cancer: short-term friend, long-term foe. Clin Cancer Res. 2009 Jan 15;15(2):425-30. Review. PubMed PMID: 19147746.