By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Curcumin is a component of the Indian spice turmeric (Curcumin longa), a type of ginger. Curcumin is one of three curcuminoids present in turmeric, the other two being desmethoxycurcumin and bis-desmethoxycurcumin. These curcuminoids give turmeric its yellow color and curcumin is used as a yellow food colorant and food additive.
Curcumin is obtained from the dried rhizome of the turmeric plant, which is a perennial herb that is cultivated extensively in south and southeast Asia. The rhizome or the root is processed to form turmeric which contains 2% to 5% curcumin.
Turmeric Roots: Curcumin is the active ingredient in the traditional herbal remedy and dietary spice turmeric
Curcumin is present in two tautomeric forms known as keto and enol. The enol form is the more stable in both solid and solution phases. Curcumin can also be used for the quantification of boron since it reacts with boric acid to form a red colored compound called rosocyanine.
Curcumin has been the subject of much interest and research over the last few decades due to its medicinal properties. Research has demonstrated that curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory agent that can reduce inflammation and may even play a role in cancer treatment. Curcumin has been shown to reduce the transformation, proliferation and spread of tumors and it achieves this through regulation of transcription factors, inflammatory cytokines, growth factors, protein kinases and other enzymes.
Curcumin prevents proliferation by interrupting the cell cycle and inducing programmed cell death. Furthermore, curcumin can inhibit the activation of carcinogens through suppression of certain cytochrome P450 isozymes.
In animal studies, curcumin has been shown to have protective effects in cancers of the blood, skin, mouth, lung, pancreas and intestinal tract.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Oct 8, 2014