Turmeric and curcumin: Biological actions
and medicinal applications
Ishita Chattopadhyay1, Kaushik Biswas1, Uday Bandyopadhyay2 and
Ranajit K. Banerjee1,*
1Department of Physiology, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, 4, Raja S.C. Mullick Road, Kolkata 700 032, India
2Deptartment of Biochemistry, Central Drug Research Institute, Chhattar Manzil Palace, Lucknow 226 001, India
uses turmeric powder for the treatment of biliary disorders,
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is extensively used as a
anorexia, coryza, cough, diabetic wounds, hepatic disorders,
spice, food preservative and colouring material in India,
rheumatism and sinusitis3. In China, C. longa is used for
China and South East Asia. It has been used in tradi-
diseases associated with abdominal pains4. The colouring
tional medicine as a household remedy for various
diseases, including biliary disorders, anorexia, cough,
principle of turmeric is the main component of this plant
diabetic wounds, hepatic disorders, rheumatism and
and is responsible for the antiinflammatory property.
sinusitis. For the last few decades, extensive work has
Turmeric was described as C. longa by Linnaeus and its
been done to establish the biological activities and phar-
taxonomic position is as follows:
macological actions of turmeric and its extracts. Cur-
cumin (diferuloylmethane), the main yellow bioactive
component of turmeric has been shown to have a wide
spectrum of biological actions. These include its anti-
inflammatory, antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antimuta-
genic, anticoagulant, antifertility, antidiabetic, antibac-
terial, antifungal, antiprotozoal, antiviral, antifibrotic,
antivenom, antiulcer, hypotensive and hypocholestere-
mic activities. Its anticancer effect is mainly mediated
The wild turmeric is called C. aromatica and the domes-
through induction of apoptosis. Its antiinflammatory,
tic species is called C. longa.
anticancer and antioxidant roles may be clinically ex-
ploited to control rheumatism, carcinogenesis and oxi-
Chemical composition of turmeric
dative stress-related pathogenesis. Clinically, curcumin
has already been used to reduce post-operative inflam-
mation. Safety evaluation studies indicate that both
Turmeric contains protein (6.3%), fat (5.1%), minerals
turmeric and curcumin are well tolerated at a very high
(3.5%), carbohydrates (69.4%) and moisture (13.1%). The
dose without any toxic effects. Thus, both turmeric and
essential oil (5.8%) obtained by steam distillation of rhi-
curcumin have the potential for the development of
zomes has α-phellandrene (1%), sabinene (0.6%), cineol
modern medicine for the treatment of various diseases.
(1%), borneol (0.5%), zingiberene (25%) and sesquiterpines
(53%)5. Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) (3–4%) is respon-
sible for the yellow colour, and comprises curcumin I
NDIA has a rich history of using plants for medicinal pur-
poses. Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) is a medicinal plant
(94%), curcumin II (6%) and curcumin III (0.3%)6. Deme-
extensively used in Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha medicine
thoxy and bisdemethoxy derivatives of curcumin have also
as home remedy for various diseases1,2. C. longa L., bota-
been isolated7 (Figure 1). Curcumin was first isolated8 in
nically related to ginger (Zingiberaceae family), is a per-
1815 and its chemical structure was determined by Roughley
ennial plant having a short stem with large oblong leaves
and Whiting9 in 1973. It has a melting point at 176–177°C;
and bears ovate, pyriform or oblong rhizomes, which are
forms a reddish-brown salt with alkali and is soluble in
often branched and brownish-yellow in colour. Turmeric
ethanol, alkali, ketone, acetic acid and chloroform.
is used as a food additive (spice), preservative and colour-
ing agent in Asian countries, including China and South
Biological activity of turmeric and its compounds
East Asia. It is also considered as auspicious and is a part
of religious rituals. In old Hindu medicine, it is exten-
sively used for the treatment of sprains and swelling cau-
Turmeric powder, curcumin and its derivatives and many
sed by injury1. In recent times, traditional Indian medicine
other extracts from the rhizomes were found to be bioac-
tive (Table 1). The structures of some of these compounds4
are presented in Figure 1. Turmeric powder has healing
*For correspondence. (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
effect on both aseptic and septic wounds in rats and rab-
CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 87, NO. 1, 10 JULY 2004
bits10. It also shows adjuvant chemoprotection in experi-
trypsin20. Curcumin protects isoproterenol-induced myocar-
mental forestomach and oral cancer models of Swiss mice
dial infarction in rats21. Curcumin, FHM and BHM also
and Syrian golden hamsters11. Curcumin also increases
have anticoagulant activity22,23. Curcumin and an ether-
mucin secretion in rabbits12. Curcumin, the ethanol extract
extract of C. longa have hypolipemic action in rats24 and
of the rhizomes, sodium curcuminate, [feruloyl-(4-hydroxy-
lower cholesterol, fatty acids and triglycerides in alcohol-
cinnamoyl)-methane] (FHM) and [bis-(4-hydroxycinna-
induced toxicity25. Curcumin is also reported to have anti-
moyl)-methane] (BHM) and their derivatives, have high
bacterial15, antiamoebic26 and antiHIV27 activities. Curcumin
antiinflammatory activity against carrageenin-induced rat
also shows antioxidant activity28–31. It also shows antitu-
paw oedema13,14. Curcumin is also effective in formalin-
mour32–34 and anticarcinogenic35–38 activities. The volatile
induced arthritis13. Curcumin reduces intestinal gas for-
oil of C. longa shows antiinflammatory39, antibacterial40,41
mation15 and carbon tetrachloride and D-galactosamine-
and antifungal41 activities. The petroleum ether extract of
induced glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase and glutamate
C. longa is reported to have antiinflammatory activity42.
pyruvate transaminase levels16,17. It also increases bile
Petroleum ether and aqueous extracts have 100% antiferti-
secretion in anaesthetized dogs 18 and rats19, and elevates
lity effects in rats43. Fifty per cent ethanolic extract of C.
the activity of pancreatic lipase, amylase, trypsin and chymo-
longa shows hypolipemic action44 in rats. Ethanolic extract
also possesses antitumour activity45. Alcoholic extract and
sodium curcuminate can also offer antibacterial activity15,18.
The crude ether and chloroform extracts of C. longa stem
are also reported to have antifungal effects46. A C. longa
fraction containing ar-turmerone has potent antivenom
Pharmacological action of turmeric
and its extract
Several pharmacological activities and medicinal applica-
tions of turmeric are known1,2,4. Although curcumin has
been isolated in the 19th century, extracts of the rhizomes
of C. longa have been in use from the Vedic ages1,48. Some
of the medicinal applications3 of turmeric are mentioned
in Table 2.
Pharmacological action of curcumin
Effect on gastrointestinal system
Stomach: Turmeric powder has beneficial effect on the
stomach. It increases mucin secretion in rabbits and may
thus act as gastroprotectant against irritants12. However,
controversy exists regarding antiulcer activity of curcumin.
Both antiulcer49 and ulcerogenic50,51 effects of curcumin
have been reported but detailed studies are still lacking.
Curcumin has been shown to protect the stomach from
ulcerogenic effects of phenylbutazone in guinea pigs at
50 mg/kg dose52,53. It also protects from 5-hydroxytrypta-
mine- induced ulceration at 20 mg/kg dose52,53. However,
when 0.5% curcumin was used, it failed to protect against
histamine-induced ulcers54. In fact, at higher doses of 50 mg/
kg and 100 mg/kg, it produces ulcers in rats51. Though the
mechanism is not yet clear, an increase in the gastric acid
and/or pepsin secretion and reduction in mucin content
have been implicated in the induction of gastric ulcer55.
Recent studies in our laboratory indicate that curcumin can
block indomethacin, ethanol and stress-induced gastric ulcer
Figure 1. Structure of natural curcuminoids.
and can also prevent pylorus-ligation-induced acid secre-
CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 87, NO. 1, 10 JULY 2004
tion in rats. The antiulcer effect is mediated by scaveng-
trosamine and 2-acetylaminofluorine-induced altered
ing of reactive oxygen species by curcumin (unpublished
hepatic foci development58. Increased bile production
was reported in dogs by both curcumin and essential oil
of C. longa19,59.
Intestine: Curcumin has some good effects on the intes-
tine also. Antispasmodic activity of sodium curcuminate
Pancreas: 1-phenyl-1-hydroxy-n-pentane, a synthetic deri-
was observed in isolated guinea pig ileum14. Antiflatulent
vative of p-tolylmethylcarbinol (an ingredient of C. longa)
activity was also observed in both in vivo and in vitro
increases plasma secretion and bicarbonate levels60. Cur-
experiments in rats15. Curcumin also enhances intestinal
cumin also increases the activity of pancreatic lipase, amy-
lipase, sucrase and maltase activity56.
lase, trypsin and chymotrypsin20.
Liver: Curcumin and its analogues have protective acti-
Effect on cardiovascular system
vity in cultured rat hepatocytes against carbon tetrachlo-
ride, D-galactosamine, peroxide and ionophore-induced
Curcumin decreases the severity of pathological changes
toxicity17,30,57. Curcumin also protects against diethylni-
and thus protects from damage caused by myocardial in-
farction21. Curcumin improves Ca2+-transport and its slip-
page from the cardiac muscle sarcoplasmic reticulum,
Table 1. Biological activity of turmeric and its compounds
thereby raising the possibility of pharmacological inter-
ventions to correct the defective Ca2+ homeostasis in the
cardiac muscle61. Curcumin has significant hypocholes-
teremic effect in hypercholesteremic rats62.
Effect on nervous system
Petroleum ether extract
Curcumin and manganese complex of curcumin offer pro-
tective action against vascular dementia by exerting anti-
Crude ether extract
Effect on lipid metabolism
Curcumin reduces low density lipoprotein and very low
density lipoprotein significantly in plasma and total cho-
lesterol level in liver alongwith an increase of
level in rat plasma, suggesting in vivo interaction between
curcumin and α-tocopherol that may increase the bioavail-
ability of vitamin E and decrease cholesterol levels65. Cur-
cumin binds with egg and soy-phosphatidylcholine, which
in turn binds divalent metal ions to offer antioxidant acti-
vity66. The increase in fatty acid content after ethanol-indu-
ced liver damage is significantly decreased by curcumin
treatment and arachidonic acid level is increased67.
Curcumin is effective against carrageenin-induced oedema
in rats13,14,68,69 and mice70. The natural analogues of cur-
cumin, viz. FHM and BHM, are also potent antiinflamma-
tory agents14. The volatile oil39 and also the petroleum
Table 2. Medicinal properties of turmeric
ether, alcohol and water extracts of C. longa show antiin-
flammatory effects71. The antirheumatic activity of cur-
Turmeric finds medicinal Anaemia, atherosclerosis, diabetes, oedema,
cumin has also been established in patients who showed
haemorrhoids, hepatitis, hysteria, indigestion,
inflammation, skin disease, urinary disease,
significant improvement of symptoms after administration
wound and bruise healing, psoriasis, anorexia,
of curcumin72. That curcumin stimulates stress-induced
cough, liver disorders, rheumatism, sinusitis
expression of stress proteins and may act in a way similar
CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 87, NO. 1, 10 JULY 2004
to indomethacin and salicylate, has recently been reported73.
oxylated phenols and an enol form of β-diketone; the struc-
Curcumin offers antiinflammatory effect through inhibi-
ture shows typical radical-trapping ability as a chain-break-
tion of NFκB activation74. Curcumin has also been shown
ing antioxidant (Figure 1)88,89. Generally, the nonenzymatic
to reduce the TNF-α-induced expression of the tissue factor
antioxidant process of the phenolic material is thought to
gene in bovine aortic-endothelial cells by repressing acti-
be mediated through the following two stages:
vation of both AP-1 and NFκB75. The antiinflammatory
role of curcumin is also mediated through downregulation
S-OO° + AH → SOOH + A° ,
of cyclooxygenase-2 and inducible nitric oxide synthe-
A• + X• → Nonradical materials,
tase through suppression of NFκB activation34. Curcumin
also enhances wound-healing in diabetic rats and mice76,
where S is the substance oxidized, AH is the phenolic anti-
and in H
oxidant, A• is the antioxidant radical and X• is another
2O2-induced damage in human keratinocytes and
radical species or the same species90 as A• . A• and X•
dimerize to form the non-radical product. Masuda et al.89
further studied the antioxidant mechanism of curcumin
using linoleate as an oxidizable polyunsaturated lipid and
The antioxidant activity of curcumin was reported77 as early
proposed that the mechanism involves oxidative coupling
as 1975. It acts as a scavenger of oxygen free radicals6,78.
reaction at the 3′position of the curcumin with the lipid
It can protect haemoglobin from oxidation29. In vitro, cur-
and a subsequent intramolecular Diels–Alder reaction.
cumin can significantly inhibit the generation of reactive
oxygen species (ROS) like superoxide anions, H2O2 and
Anticarcinogenic effect – induction of apoptosis
nitrite radical generation by activated macrophages, which
play an important role in inflammation79. Curcumin also
Curcumin acts as a potent anticarcinogenic compound.
lowers the production of ROS in vivo79. Its derivatives,
Among various mechanisms, induction of apoptosis plays
demethoxycurcumin and bis-demethoxycurcumin also have
an important role in its anticarcinogenic effect. It induces
antioxidant effect29,30. Curcumin exerts powerful inhibi-
apoptosis and inhibits cell-cycle progression, both of which
tory effect against H2O2-induced damage in human kera-
are instrumental in preventing cancerous cell growth in rat
tinocytes and fibroblasts31 and in NG 108-15 cells80. Cur-
aortic smooth muscle cells91. The antiproliferative effect is
cumin reduces oxidized proteins in amyloid pathology in
mediated partly through inhibition of protein tyrosine kinase
Alzheimer transgenic mice81. It also decreases lipid per-
and c-myc mRNA expression and the apoptotic effect may
oxidation in rat liver microsomes, erythrocyte membranes
partly be mediated through inhibition of protein tyrosine
and brain homogenates28. This is brought about by main-
kinase, protein kinase C, c-myc mRNA expression and bcl-2
taining the activities of antioxidant enzymes like super-
mRNA expression91. Curcumin induces apoptotic cell death
oxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase82.
by DNA-damage in human cancer cell lines, TK-10, MCF-7
Recently, we have observed that curcumin prevents oxida-
and UACC-62 by acting as topoisomerase II poison92.
tive damage during indomethacin-induced gastric lesion
Recently, curcumin has been shown to cause apoptosis in
not only by blocking inactivation of gastric peroxidase,
mouse neuro 2a cells by impairing the ubiquitin–protea-
but also by direct scavenging of H2O2 and •OH (unpub-
some system through the mitochondrial pathway93. Cur-
lished observation). Since ROS have been implicated in
cumin causes rapid decrease in mitochondrial membrane
the development of various pathological conditions83–85,
potential and release of cytochrome c to activate caspase
curcumin has the potential to control these diseases through
9 and caspase 3 for apoptotic cell death93. Recently, an
its potent antioxidant activity.
interesting observation was made regarding curcumin-in-
Contradictory to the above-mentioned antioxidant effect,
duced apoptosis in human colon cancer cell and role of
curcumin has pro-oxidant activity. Kelly et al.86 reported
heat shock proteins (hsp) thereon94. In this study, SW480
that curcumin not only failed to prevent single-strand DNA
cells were transfected with hsp 70 cDNA in either the sense
breaks by H2O2, but also caused DNA damage. As this
or antisense orientation and stable clones were selected
damage was prevented by antioxidant α-tocopherol, the
and tested for their sensitivity to curcumin. Curcumin was
pro-oxidant role of curcumin has been proved. Curcumin
found to be ineffective to cause apoptosis in cells having
also causes oxidative damage of rat hepatocytes by oxidi-
hsp 70, while cells harbouring antisense hsp 70 were highly
zing glutathione and of human erythrocyte by oxidizing
sensitive to apoptosis by curcumin as measured by nuclear
oxyhaemoglobin, thereby causing haemolysis87. The pro-
condensation, mitochondrial transmembrane potential, re-
oxidant activity appears to be mediated through genera-
lease of cytochrome c, activation of caspase 3 and caspase
tion of phenoxyl radical of curcumin by peroxidase–H2O2
9 and other parameters for apoptosis94. Expression of glu-
system, which cooxidizes cellular glutathione or NADH,
tathione S-transferase P1-1 (GSTP1-1) is correlated to car-
accompanied by O2 uptake to form ROS87.
cinogenesis and curcumin has been shown to induce apop-
The antioxidant mechanism of curcumin is attributed to
tosis in K562 leukaemia cells by inhibiting the expression
its unique conjugated structure, which includes two meth-
of GSTP1-1 at transcription level95. The mechanism of cur-
CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 87, NO. 1, 10 JULY 2004
cumin-induced apoptosis has also been studied in Caki
activation and oligonucleosomal DNA fragmentation106.
cells, where curcumin causes apoptosis through down-
Curcumin also inhibits proliferation of rat thymocytes104.
regulation of Bcl-XL and IAP, release of cytochrome c
These strongly imply that cell growth and cell death share a
and inhibition of Akt, which are markedly blocked by N-
common pathway at some point and that curcumin affects
acetylcysteine, indicating a role of ROS in curcumin-
a common step, presumably involving modulation of AP-1
induced cell death96. In LNCaP prostrate cancer cells, cur-
cumin induces apoptosis by enhancing tumour necrosis
factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)97. The
combined treatment of the cell with curcumin and TRAIL
induces DNA fragmentation, cleavage of procaspase 3, 8
Curcumin exerts both pro- and antimutagenic effects. At
and 9, truncation of Bid and release of cytochrome c from
100 and 200 mg/kg body wt doses, curcumin has been
mitochondria, indicating involvement of both external re-
shown to reduce the number of aberrant cells in cyclo-
ceptor-mediated and internal chemical-induced apoptosis
phosphamide-induced chromosomal aberration in Wistar
in these cells97. In colorectal carcinoma cell line, curcu-
rats107. Turmeric also prevents mutation in urethane (a
min delays apoptosis along with the arrest of cell cycle at
powerful mutagen) models108. Contradictory reports also
G1 phase98. Curcumin also reduces P53 gene expression,
exist. Curcumin and turmeric enhance γ-radiation-induced
which is accompanied with the induction of HSP-70 gene
chromosome aberration in Chinese hamster ovary109. Cur-
through initial depletion98 of intracellular Ca2+. Curcumin
cumin has also been shown to be non-protective against
also produces nonselective inhibition of proliferation in
hexavalent chromium-induced DNA strand break. In fact,
several leukaemia, nontransformed haematopoietic pro-
the total effect of chromium and curcumin is additive in
genitor cells and fibroblast cell lines99. That curcumin indu-
causing DNA breaks in human lymphocytes and gastric
ces apoptosis and large-scale DNA fragmentation has also
been observed in Vγ9Vδ2+ T cells through inhibition of
isopentenyl pyrophosphate-induced NFκB activation, proli-
feration and chemokine production100. Curcumin induces
apoptosis in human leukaemia HL-60 cells, which is bloc-
ked by some antioxidants35. Colon carcinoma is also pre-
Curcumin shows anticoagulant activity by inhibiting col-
vented by curcumin through arrest of cell-cycle progression
lagen and adrenaline-induced platelet aggregation in vitro
independent of inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis101.
as well as in vivo in rat thoracic aorta23.
Curcumin suppresses human breast carcinoma through
multiple pathways. Its antiproliferative effect is estrogen-
dependent in ER (estrogen receptor)-positive MCF-7 cells
and estrogen-independent in ER-negative MDA-MB-231
cells37. Curcumin also downregulates matrix metallopro-
Petroleum ether and aqueous extracts of turmeric rhizo-
teinase (MMP)-2 and upregulates tissue inhibitor of met-
mes show 100% antifertility effect in rats when fed orally43.
alloproteinase (TIMP)-1, two common effector molecules
Implantation is completely inhibited by these extracts111.
involved in cell invasion37. It also induces apoptosis through
Curcumin inhibits 5α-reductase, which converts testoste-
P53-dependent Bax induction in human breast cancer cells38.
rone to 5α-dihydrotestosterone, thereby inhibiting the growth
However, curcumin affects different cell lines differently.
of flank organs in hamster112. Curcumin also inhibits human
Whereas leukaemia, breast, colon, hepatocellular and ova-
sperm motility and has the potential for the development
rian carcinoma cells undergo apoptosis in the presence of
of a novel intravaginal contraceptive113.
curcumin, lung, prostate, kidney, cervix and CNS malig-
nancies and melanoma cells show resistance to cytotoxic
effect of curcumin102.
Curcumin also suppresses tumour growth through vari-
Curcumin prevents galactose-induced cataract formation
ous pathways. Nitric oxide (NO) and its derivatives play
at very low doses114. Both turmeric and curcumin decrease
a major role in tumour promotion. Curcumin inhibits iNOS
blood sugar level in alloxan-induced diabetes in rat115. Cur-
and COX-2 production69 by suppression of NFκB activa-
cumin also decreases advanced glycation end products-
tion34. Curcumin also increases NO production in NK cells
induced complications in diabetes mellitus116.
after prolonged treatment, culminating in a stronger tumou-
ricidal effect33. Curcumin also induces apoptosis in AK-5
tumour cells through upregulation103 of caspase-3. Reports
also exist indicating that curcumin blocks dexamethasone-
induced apoptosis of rat thymocytes104,105. Recently, in
Both curcumin and the oil fraction suppress growth of
Jurkat cells, curcumin has been shown to prevent gluta-
several bacteria like Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Lac-
thione depletion, thus protecting cells from caspase-3
tobacillus, etc.15. The aqueous extract of turmeric rhizomes
CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 87, NO. 1, 10 JULY 2004
has antibacterial effects117. Curcumin also prevents growth
Pharmacokinetic studies on curcumin
of Helicobacter pylori CagA+ strains in vitro118.
Curcumin, when given orally or intraperitoneally to rats,
is mostly egested in the faeces and only a little in the
urine129,130. Only traces of curcumin are found in the blood
from the heart, liver and kidney. Curcumin, when added
Ether and chloroform extracts and oil of C. longa have
to isolated hepatocytes, is quickly metabolized and the
antifungal effects41,46,119. Crude ethanol extract also pos-
major biliary metabolites are glucuronides of tetrahydro-
sesses antifungal activity120. Turmeric oil is also active
curcumin and hexahydrocurcumin131,132. Curcumin, after
against Aspergillus flavus, A. parasiticus, Fusarium moni-
metabolism in the liver, is mainly excreted through bile.
liforme and Penicillium digitatum121.
Clinical studies and medicinal applications of
turmeric and curcumin
The ethanol extract of the rhizomes has anti-Entamoeba
Although various studies have been carried out with tur-
histolytica activity. Curcumin has anti-Leishmania activ-
meric extracts and some of its ingredients in several animal
ity in vitro122. Several synthetic derivatives of curcumin
models1,4,133, only a few clinical studies are reported so far.
have anti-L. amazonensis effect123. Anti-Plasmodium falci-
parum and anti-L. major effects of curcumin have also been
Powdered rhizome is used to treat wounds, bruises, infla-
med joints and sprains134 in Nepal. In current traditional
Indian medicine, it is used for the treatment of biliary dis-
orders, anorexia, cough, diabetic wounds, hepatic disorders,
Curcumin has been shown to have antiviral activity4. It acts
rheumatism and sinusitis48. Data are also available show-
as an efficient inhibitor of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) key
ing that the powder, when applied as capsules to patients
activator Bam H fragment z left frame 1 (BZLF1) protein
with respiratory disease, gives relief from symptoms like
transcription in Raji DR-LUC cells125. EBV inducers such
dyspnoea, cough and sputum135. A short clinical trial in
as 12-0-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate, sodium butyrate
18 patients with definite rheumatoid arthritis showed signi-
and transforming growth factor-beta increase the level of
ficant improvement in morning stiffness and joint swelling
BZLF1 m-RNA at 12–48 h after treatment in these cells,
after two weeks of therapy with oral doses of 120 mg/
which is effectively blocked by curcumin125. Most impor-
day53. Application of the powder in combination with
tantly, curcumin also shows anti-HIV (human immunodefi-
other plant products is also reported for purification of
ciency virus) activity by inhibiting the HIV-1 integrase
blood and for menstrual and abdominal problems136.
needed for viral replication27,126. It also inhibits UV light-
induced HIV gene expression127. Thus curcumin and its ana-
logues may have the potential for novel drug development
In patients undergoing surgery, oral application of curcu-
min reduces post-operative inflammation137. Recently, cur-
cumin has been formulated as slow-release biodegradable
microspheres for the treatment of inflammation in arth-
Curcumin suppresses bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibro-
ritic rats138. It is evident from the study that curcumin-
sis in rats128. Oral administration of curcumin at 300 mg/kg
biodegradable microspheres could be successfully emplo-
dose inhibits bleomycin-induced increase in total cell counts
yed for therapeutic management of inflammation138.
and biomarkers of inflammatory responses. It also sup-
presses bleomycin-induced alveolar macrophage-produc-
Safety evaluation with turmeric and curcumin
tion of TNF-α, superoxide and nitric oxide. Thus curcumin
acts as a potent antiinflammatory and antifibrotic agent.
Detailed studies have been reported on the safety evalua-
tion of the rhizomes of C. longa and its alcohol extract,
curcumin132,139. The major findings are presented below.
Ar-turmerone, isolated from C. longa, neutralizes both hae-
morrhagic activity of Bothrops venom and 70% lethal ef-
fect of Crotalus venom in mice4. It acts as an enzymatic
The average intake of turmeric by Asians varies from 0.5
inhibitor of venom enzymes with proteolytic activities47.
to 1.5 g/day/person, which produces no toxic symptoms2.
CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 87, NO. 1, 10 JULY 2004
Male and female Wistar rats, guinea pigs and monkeys were
7. Vopel, G., Gaisbaver, M. and Winkler, W., Phytotherapie in der
fed with turmeric at much higher doses (2.5 g/kg body wt)
Praxis. Deutscher Arzteverlag, Kolu, 1990, 74.
8. Vogel and Pelletier, J. Pharm., 1815, 2, 50.
than normally consumed by humans. No changes were
9. Roughley, P. J. and Whiting, D. A., Experiments in the biosynthesis
observed in the appearance and weight of kidney, liver and
of curcumin. J. Chem. Soc., 1973, 20, 2379–2388.
heart132. Also, no pathological or behavioural abnormali-
10. Gujral, M. L., Chowdhury, N. K. and Saxena, P. N., The effect of
ties were noticed and no mortality was observed.
certain indigenous remedies on the healing of wounds and ulcers.
J. Indian State Med. Assoc., 1953, 22, 273–276.
11. Azuine, M. A. and Bhide, S. V., Adjuvant chemoprevention of ex-
perimental cancer: catechin and dietary turmeric in forestomach
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Curcumin was given to Wistar rats, guinea pigs and mon-
12. Lee, C. J., Lee, J. H., Seok, J. H., Hur, G. M., Park, Y. C., Seol, I. C.
keys of both sexes at a dose of 300 mg/kg body wt. No
and Kim, Y. H., Effects of baicalein, berberine, curcumin and hes-
pathological, behavioural abnormalities or lethality was
piridin on mucin release from airway goblet cells. Planta Med.,
observed133. No adverse effects were observed on both
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13. Ghatak, N. and Basu, N., Sodium curcuminate as an effective
growth and the level of erythrocytes, leucocytes, blood
antiinflammatory agent. Indian J. Exp. Biol., 1972, 10, 235–236.
constituents such as haemoglobin, total serum protein, alka-
14. Srihari Rao, T., Basu, N. and Siddqui, H. H., Anti inflammatory
line phosphatase, etc.139. Human clinical trials also indicate
activity of curcumin analogues. Indian J. Med. Res., 1982, 75, 574–
that curcumin has no toxicity when administered at doses
of 1–8 g/day140 and 10 g/day141.
15. Bhavani Shankar, T. N. and Sreenivasa Murthy, V., Effect of tur-
meric (Curcuma longa) fractions on the growth of some intestinal
and pathogenic bacteria in vitro. Indian J. Exp. Biol., 1979, 17, 1363–
16. Kiso, Y., Suzuki, Y., Watanabe, N., Oshima, Y. and Hikino, H., Anti-
Turmeric has been used in ayurvedic medicine since anci-
hepatotoxic principles of Curcuma longa rhizomes. Planta Med.,
1983, 49, 185–187.
ent times, with various biological applications. Although
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