Spice Fights Deadly Lung Cancer
The Asian spice, turmeric, is a canary-yellow powder made from the dried rhizomes of the Curcuma longa plant. It’s a familiar part of most prepared “curry” spice mixes. It imparts an earthy flavor to savory foods, such as stews and, well, curries. It also provides a tell-tale yellow stain, thanks to turmeric-based pigment compounds collectively called curcumin.
This culinary spice has been valued for its medicinal properties for many centuries. It’s very name, turmeric, comes down to us from its Latin moniker, which translates loosely as “earth merit.” The name reflects the ancients’ acknowledgment that this was no ordinary root. Turmeric was believed to possess healing power.
And modern science has proven that our ancestors knew what they were talking about. Turmeric truly merits our attention. For example, scientists all over the world are evaluating curcumin for a variety of important activities. Among other things, curcumin is a potent antioxidant with anti-cancer, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor properties.
Mounting evidence suggests that curcumin compounds from turmeric may help protect people from any number of illnesses. It’s under intense scrutiny, for example, for its ability to thwart cancer, through a variety of mechanisms. Just recently, scientists at Case Western Reserve University reported that, when combined with cancer-inhibiting peptides, curcumin helps stop the growth of a certain type of lung cancer, called mesothelioma. “Mesothelioma is a disease that continues to have a significant burden worldwide, and the treatment option is really suboptimal. We must find better ways to treat it,” said senior author Afshin Dowlati, MD.
One drawback to the immediate use of curcumin to treat cancer is it’s absorption into the bloodstream. Scientists are hoping to modify certain curcumin molecules to make them more capable of being absorbed and entering cells. “We must develop a curcumin analog that is absorbable by the human body. Currently, curcumin ingested as the spice turmeric has practically no absorption within the gut,” said Dowlati. Even so, you may want to familiarize yourself with this often-overlooked pantry staple. It’s beneficial properties are not to be missed.
S. Dabir, A. Kluge, A. Kresak, M. Yang, P. Fu, B. Groner, G. Wildey, A. Dowlati. Low PIAS3 Expression in Malignant Mesothelioma Is Associated with Increased STAT3 Activation and Poor Patient Survival. Clinical Cancer Research, 2014; DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-14-1233
[No authors listed]Curcuma longa (turmeric). Monograph.Altern Med Rev. 2001 Sep;6 Suppl:S62-6.