In these last couple of posts I’ve been talking about research that supports the use of herbs as alternative cancer therapies and curcumin is right up there with green tea for its therapeutic benefits. See that post here
Curcumin is the active ingredient in Tumeric. It is an essential addition to curries and provides that wonderful yellow colour. India has always known of its healing properties – Indian people chew the root for its healthful benefits. I love to use it in cooking, but I don’t cook curries that regularly and you need rather more than you would use in cooking for its health benefits so this is one spice that is worth taking a supplement for if you are using it to support health. There is evidence for the use of curcumin for plenty of health problems besides cancer and I’ll get around to talking about that in another post but for today I’m concentrating on cancer.
Curcumin is one herb of interest with colon cancer. Now colon cancer is very sneaky. It is possible to get to a stage 4 without any symptoms that you would recognize. What would you think if your stools changed in consistency or alternated between constipation and diarrhea? Probably not much because these symptoms are often the case with other gastro intestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome or can come on with changes in food. But if you are over 50, or you have a family history of colon cancer you absolutely should have a colonoscopy. This really could save your life because the symptoms described above are very often overlooked as something much more benign than cancer. Colon cancer is one of the easiest cancers to prevent by detecting precancerous polyps it at the early stages but you may never know you’ve got them until they have become cancerous and way advanced at that. While we are talking about this, if you have blood in your stools you need to get it checked. Hopefully it will be something simple like a fissure or a hemorrhoid but you need to find out. How tragic would it be to discover a stage 4 colon cancer when you finally DO get symptoms that tell you something really is wrong.
There are other cancers too –cervical cancer, oral cancer and melanoma that may get downsized by including curcumin supplements.
OK so how can curcumin help with cancers? It does a lot of things. Like green tea it increases the rate that cancer cells die and it slows down the rate that they reproduce. It does this by affecting the ability of the cell to reproduce itself at the gene level. There’s a lot involved in this. Like I’ve said before, cell life and cell replication is an amazing thing. The biological process is complex and clever. And the way that herbs and spices work to support the human body and affect the unhealthy cell, helping to die is nothing short of mind blowing. Curcumin affect cancer cells at the DNA level of cell replication and expression to thwart them in their attempts to grow and live. Curcumin is also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. It can help prevent a cancer from developing in the first place and inhibit its growth, preventing metastasis.
If you are receiving radiation treatment curcumin has a double edge to it to help you. Amazingly it helps protect healthy cells from radiation treatment while making the cancer cells more susceptible to the radiation. I don’t know about you but –WOW! The mechanism of action here is thought to be in both its antioxidant abilities by preventing oxidation and inflammation and its ability to cause cancer cells to die at a faster rate.
Curcumin is very well tolerated in human clinical trials with amounts of up to 10grams and that is an excessive amount for therapeutic purposes. The natural standard data base reports that amounts found in food are safe, and amounts used in medicinal treatments are likely safe – I couldn’t find any evidence of toxicity. Remember that there are very nasty side effects from chemo drugs too. The amounts used in medicinal treatments are anywhere up to 4 to 8 grams. Now for this amount, I think you’ll agree a supplement is warranted.
To increase the uptake of curcumin take it with pepper (or maybe not) and coconut oil
There are commercial supplements available of curcumin which combine pepper aka piperine. The amount of curcumin the body can absorb is not all that much, which may be why there is such a wide dosage of curcumin. However it is much better absorbed with black pepper about 20mg increases bioavailability by 2000%. You need to be a bit careful with this though because piperine can cause increased uptake and slower elimination time of drugs – which is why it works so well with curcurmin. Some of these drugs include phenytoin aka Dilantin an antiseizure drug; Propranolol aka Inderal- used for heart conditions and migraine and Theophylline used for breathing problems. Hopefully, you won’t be taking any of those – but if you are you might want to skip the curcumin with piperine and just take curcumin. If you take any drugs its a good idea to check the interaction with piperine. There is a brand of supplement that doesn’t use piperine for enhanced uptake. The brand is Biomor which claims to have a patented method of delivering curcumin so that it is far more bioavailable than regular curcumin if you are interested in checking that one out. Curcumin is not water soluble and the watery environment of the stomach doesn’t lend itself to good absorption. Coconut cream is a good medium to put it with. The fat allows for much greater absorption.
It’s important to note that you should NOT take both green tea and curcumin at the same time of day. Taken together at the same time they have an antagonistic affect on the cells which means that they do the opposite of what you want – allowing cancer cells to survive. However, taken separate from each other they have a synergistic effect, working together to make it harder for cancer cells to replicate and thrive. There don’t seem to be any hard and fast rules about how far apart to take the supplements, but if you are going to take both, I would take one in the morning and the other in the evening.
The next post on cancer therapies with herbs will be discussing Astragalus.
As mentioned, I posted recommendations and contraindications on an earlier post.
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