Turmeric and its Effect as an Anti-Inflammatory

Curcumin, a yellow pigment from Curcuma longa, is a major component of turmeric and is commonly used as a spice and food-coloring agent. It is also used as a cosmetic and in some medical preparations. The desirable preventive or putative therapeutic properties of curcumin have also been considered to be associated with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Because free-radical-mediated peroxidation of membrane lipids and oxidative damage of DNA and proteins are believed to be associated with a variety of chronic pathological complications such as cancer, atherosclerosis, and neurodegenerative diseases, curcumin is thought to play a vital role against these pathological conditions. The anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin is most likely mediated through its ability to inhibit cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), lipoxygenase (LOX), and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). COX-2, LOX, and iNOS are important enzymes that mediate inflammatory processes. Improper upregulation of COX-2 and/or iNOS has been associated with the pathophysiology of certain types of human cancer as well as inflammatory disorders. Because inflammation is closely linked to tumor promotion, curcumin with its potent anti-inflammatory property is anticipated to exert chemopreventive effects on carcinogenesis. Hence, the past few decades have witnessed intense research devoted to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. In this review, we describe both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, the mode of action of curcumin, and its therapeutic usage against different pathological conditions.


Tumeric is a spice that comes from the root Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family, Zingaberaceae. In Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine), tumeric has been used for its medicinal properties for various indications and through different routes of administration, including topically, orally, and by inhalation. Curcuminoids are components of tumeric, which include mainly curcumin (diferuloyl methane), demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcmin.


The goal of this systematic review of the literature was to summarize the literature on the safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin.


A search of the computerized database MEDLINE (1966 to January 2002), a manual search of bibliographies of papers identified through MEDLINE, and an Internet search using multiple search engines for references on this topic was conducted. The PDR for Herbal Medicines, and four textbooks on herbal medicine and their bibliographies were also searched.


A large number of studies on curcumin were identified. These included studies on the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antifungal properties of curcuminoids. Studies on the toxicity and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin have included in vitro, animal, and human studies. A phase 1 human trial with 25 subjects using up to 8000 mg of curcumin per day for 3 months found no toxicity from curcumin. Five other human trials using 1125-2500 mg of curcumin per day have also found it to be safe. These human studies have found some evidence of anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin. The laboratory studies have identified a number of different molecules involved in inflammation that are inhibited by curcumin including phospholipase, lipooxygenase, cyclooxygenase 2, leukotrienes, thromboxane, prostaglandins, nitric oxide, collagenase, elastase, hyaluronidase, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), interferon-inducible protein, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and interleukin-12 (IL-12).


Curcumin has been demonstrated to be safe in six human trials and has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity. It may exert its anti-inflammatory activity by inhibition of a number of different molecules that play a role in inflammation.

Some pharmacological actions of curcumin (diferuloyl methane) have been examined in rats, mice and cats. The compound possesses significant anti-inflammatory activity in acute as well as in chronic models of inflammation. It is as potent as phenylbutazone in the carrageenan oedema test but only half as potent in chronic tests. Curcumin possesses a much lower ulcerogenic index than phenyl-butazone. It prevents the inflammation induced increase in SGOT and SGPT levels. It lacks analgesic and antipyretic activity. It has no other significant pharmacological effects. The oral LD50 in mice is more than 2.0 g kg-l.

Cyclophosphamide causes lung injury in rats through its ability to generate free radicals with subsequent endothelial and epithelial cell damage. In order to observe the protective effects of a potent anti-inflammatory antioxidant, curcumin (diferuloyl methane) on cyclophosphamide-induced early lung injury, healthy, pathogen free male Wistar rats were exposed to 20 mg/100 g body weight of cyclophosphamide, intraperitoneally as a single injection. Prior to cyclophosphamide intoxication oral administration of curcumin was performed daily for 7 days. At various time intervals (2, 3, 5 and 7 days post insult) serum and lung samples were analyzed for angiotensin converting enzyme, lipid peroxidation, reduced glutathione and ascorbic acid. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid was analyzed for biochemical constituents. The lavage cells were examined for lipid peroxidation and glutathione content. Excised lungs were analyzed for antioxidant enzyme levels. Biochemical analyses revealed time course increases in lavage fluid total protein, albumin, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), lactate dehydrogenase, N-acetyl-beta-D-glucosaminidase, alkaline phosphatase, acid phosphatase, lipid peroxide levels and decreased levels of glutathione (GSH) and ascorbic acid 2, 3, 5 and 7 days after cyclophosphamide intoxication. Increased levels of lipid peroxidation and decreased levels of glutathione and ascorbic acid were seen in serum, lung tissue and lavage cells of cyclophosphamide groups. Serum angiotensin converting enzyme activity increased which coincided with the decrease in lung tissue levels. Activities of antioxidant enzymes were reduced with time in the lungs of cyclophosphamide groups.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

The present report, describes for the first time the clinical efficacy of curcumin, the active constituent of rhizomes of Curcuma longa, in the treatment of patients suffering from idiopathic inflammatory orbital pseudotumours. Curcumin was administered orally at a dose of 375 mg/3 times/day orally for a period of 6-22 months in eight patients. They were followed up for a period of 2 years at 3 monthly intervals. Five patients completed the study, out of which four recovered completely and in one patient the swelling regressed completely but some limitation of movement persisted. No side effect was noted in any patient and there was no recurrence. It is suggested that curcumin could be used as a safe and effective drug in the treatment of idiopathic inflammatory orbital pseudotumours.

Curcumin (CCM), a major yellow pigment of turmeric obtained from powdered rhizomes of the plant Curcuma longa Linn, is commonly used as coloring agent in foods, drugs and cosmetics. In this study we report that gavage administration of 200 mg/kg or 600 mg/kg CCM effectively suppressed diethylnitrosamine (DEN)-induced liver inflammation and hyperplasia in rats, as evidenced by histopathological examination. Immunoblotting analysis showed that CCM strongly inhibited DEN-mediated the increased expression of oncogenic p21(ras) and p53 proteins in liver tissues of rats. In cell-cycle-related proteins, CCM selectively reduced the expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), cyclin E and p34(cdc2), but not Cdk2 or cyclin D1. Moreover, CCM also inhibited the DEN-induced increase of transcriptional factor NF-kappa B. However, CCM failed to affect DEN-induced c-Jun and c-Fos expression. It has become widely recognized that the development of human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is predominantly due to the chronic inflammation by virus, bacteria or chemical. Our results suggest a potential role for CCM in the prevention of HCC.

A new model for evaluating nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is described. In this model of postoperative inflammation, the anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin (diferuloyl methane) was investigated in comparison with phenylbutazone and placebo. Phenylbutazone and curcumin produced a better anti-inflammatory response than placebo.

Exposure of eukaryotic cells to extracellular stimuli results in activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades composed of MAPKs, MAPK kinases (MAP2Ks), and MAPK kinase kinases (MAP3Ks). Mammals possess a large number of MAP3Ks, many of which can activate the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) MAPK cascade when overexpressed, but whose biological function is poorly understood. We examined the function of the MAP3K MEK kinase 1 (MEKK1) in proinflammatory signaling. Using MEKK1-deficient embryonic stem cells prepared by gene targeting, we find that, in addition to its function in JNK activation by growth factors, MEKK1 is required for JNK activation by diverse proinflammatory stimuli, including tumor necrosis factor alpha, IL-1, double-stranded RNA, and lipopolysaccharide. MEKK1 is also essential for induction of embryonic stem cell migration by serum factors, but is not required for activation of other MAPKs or the IkappaB kinase signaling cascade.

Free radical reactions of lysozyme (Lz), tryptophan and disulfides were studied with curcumin, a lipid-soluble antioxidant from turmeric, in aqueous solution using a pulse radiolysis technique. The binding of curcumin with lysozyme was confirmed using absorption, fluorescence and stopped-flow techniques. The free radicals of curcumin generated after repairing radicals of disulfides, lysozyme and tryptophan absorb at 500-510 nm. Implication of this in evaluating the antioxidant behavior of curcumin in protecting proteins is discussed.


Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties. The objective of this study was to investigate the therapeutic effects of curcumin on functional disturbances, oxidative stress, and leukocyte infiltration induced by renal ischemia/reperfusion (I/R).

Materials and Methods:

Animals were randomly divided into 9 groups. The groups with 24-h reperfusion consisted of sham-24h, I/R-24h, and three I/R groups treated with curcumin at 10, 20, or 30 mg kg-1, i.p. after the ischemic period. The 72-h reperfusion groups also included Sham-72h, I/R-72h, I/R treated with curcumin at single dose of 20 mg kg-1, i.p., and I/R group which received three doses of curcumin at 20 mg kg-1, i.p., consecutively. Renal functional injury was assessed by measuring serum creatinine and urea-nitrogen concentrations. Oxidative stress was evaluated by assessment tissue malondialdehyde (MDA) and the ferric reducing/antioxidant power (FRAP) levels. Moreover, renal tissue leukocyte infiltration was measured by histopathology examination.


Ischemia/reperfusion resulted in a significant increase in serum concentration of creatinine, urea-nitrogen, tissue MDA level, and leukocytes infiltration as well as reduced FRAP level. Treatment with curcumin in 24-h reperfusion groups could only lead to a significant change in the levels of MDA and FRAP. However, in 72-h reperfusion groups, curcumin was able to correct all functional disturbances, oxidative stress, and leukocytes infiltration with more effectiveness in groups that received three doses of curcumin.


The administration of curcumin during 72-h reperfusion following 30 minutes of ischemia can decrease renal oxidative stress and leukocytes infiltration as well as improve kidney function. However, during first 24-h reperfusion, curcumin only decreased oxidative stress.

A short term, double blind, cross-over study was carried out in 18 patients with 'definite' rheumatoid arthritis to compare the antirheumatic activity of curcumin (diferuloyl methane) 1200 mg/day with phenylbutazone 300 mg/day. Subjective and objective assessment in patients who were not taking corticosteroids just prior to the study showed signifitant (P<005) improvement in morning stiffness, walking time and joint swelling, following two weeks of curcumin or phenylbutazone therapy. Grip strength, articular index and ESR did not change following administration of either of the compounds. Although a significant improvement was noted in both the groups by the observer, patients assessed significant improvement only with phenylbutazone.

An apparent clinical relationship between pain and depression has long been recognized. Depression and pain are often diagnosed in the same patients. The emerging concept for pain–depression pathogenesis is the dysfunction of biogenic amine-mediated pain–depression control and the possible involvement of nitrodative stress-induced neurogenic inflammation. The present study was designed to investigate the effect of curcumin on reserpine-induced pain–depression dyad in rats. Administration of reserpine (1 mg/kg subcutaneous daily for three consecutive days) led to a significant decrease in nociceptive threshold as evident from reduced paw withdrawal threshold in Randall Sellitto and von-Frey hair test as well as significant increase in immobility time in forced swim test. This behavioural deficit was integrated with decrease in the biogenic amine (dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin) levels along with increased substance P concentration, nitrodative stress, inflammatory cytokines, NF-?ß and caspase-3 levels in different brain regions (cortex and hippocampus) of the reserpinised rats. Curcumin (100, 200, 300 mg/kg; ip) dose dependently ameliorated the behavioural deficits associated with pain and depression by restoring behavioural, biochemical, neurochemical and molecular alterations against reserpine-induced pain–depression dyad in rats.

Curcumin is known to possess potent antiinflammatory and antiarthritic properties. This pilot clinical study evaluated the safety and effectiveness of curcumin alone, and in combination with diclofenac sodium in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Forty-five patients diagnosed with RA were randomized into three groups with patients receiving curcumin (500 mg) and diclofenac sodium (50 mg) alone or their combination. The primary endpoints were reduction in Disease Activity Score (DAS) 28. The secondary endpoints included American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria for reduction in tenderness and swelling of joint scores. Patients in all three treatment groups showed statistically significant changes in their DAS scores. Interestingly, the curcumin group showed the highest percentage of improvement in overall DAS and ACR scores (ACR 20, 50 and 70) and these scores were significantly better than the patients in the diclofenac sodium group. More importantly, curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate with any adverse events. Our study provides the first evidence for the safety and superiority of curcumin treatment in patients with active RA, and highlights the need for future large-scale trials to validate these findings in patients with RA and other arthritic conditions.


To review the literature on herbal preparations commonly utilized in the treatment of rheumatic indications.


Search of MEDLINE (PubMed) was performed using both the scientific and the common names of herbs. Relevant articles in English were collected from PubMed and reviewed.


This review summarizes the efficacy and toxicities of herbal remedies used in complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies for rheumatologic conditions, by elucidating the immune pathways through which these preparations have antiinflammatory and/or immunomodulatory activity and providing a scientific basis for their efficacy. Gammalinolenic acid suppresses inflammation by acting as a competitive inhibitor of prostaglandin E2 and leukotrienes (LTs) and by reducing the auto-induction of interleukin1a (IL-1a)-induced pro-IL-1ß gene expression. It appears to be efficacious in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) but not for Sjogren’s disease. The antiinflammatory actions of Harpagophytum procumbens is due to its action on eicosanoid biosynthesis and it may have a role in treating low back pain. While in vitro experiments with Tanacetum parthenium found inhibition of the expression of intercellular adhesion molecule-1, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a), interferon-?, I?B kinase, and a decrease in T-cell adhesion, to date human studies have not proven it useful in the treatment of RA. Current experience with Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F, Uncaria tomentosa, finds them to be efficacious in the treatment of RA, while Urtica diocia and willow bark extract are effective for osteoarthritis. T. wilfordii Hook F extract inhibits the production of cytokines and other mediators from mononuclear phagocytes by blocking the up-regulation of a number of proinflammatory genes, including TNF-a, cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2), interferon-?, IL-2, prostaglandin, and iNOS. Uncaria tomentosa and Urtica diocia both decrease the production of TNF-a. At present there are no human studies on Ocimum spp. in rheumatic diseases. The fixed oil appears to have antihistaminic, antiserotonin, and antiprostaglandin activity. Zingiber officinale inhibits TNF-a, prostaglandin, and leukotriene synthesis and at present has limited efficacy in the treatment of osteoarthritis.


Investigation of the mechanism and potential uses of CAM therapies is still in its infancy and many studies done to date are scientifically flawed. Further systematic and scientific inquiry into this topic is necessary to validate or refute the clinical claims made for CAM therapies. An understanding of the mechanism of action of CAM therapies allows physicians to counsel effectively on their proper and improper use, prevent adverse drug-drug interactions, and anticipate or appreciate toxicities.


The use of CAM therapies is widespread among patients, including those with rheumatic diseases. Herbal medications are often utilized with little to no physician guidance or knowledge. An appreciation of this information will help physicians to counsel patients concerning the utility and toxicities of CAM therapies. An understanding and elucidation of the mechanisms by which CAM therapies may be efficacious can be instrumental in discovering new molecular targets in the treatment of diseases.

The effects of curcumin, an anti-inflammatory agent from Curcuma longa, on the proliferation of blood mononuclear cells and vascular smooth muscle cells were studied. Proliferative responses were determined from the uptake of tritiated thymidine. In human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, curcumin dose dependently inhibited the responses to phytohemagglutinin and mixed lymphocyte reaction at the dose ranges of 10(-6) to 3 x 10(-5) and 3 x 10(-6) to 3 x 10(-5) M, respectively. Curcumin (10(-6) to 10(-4) M) dose dependently inhibited the proliferation of rabbit vascular smooth muscle cells stimulated by fetal calf serum. Curcumin had a greater inhibitory effect on platelet-derived growth factor-stimulated proliferation than on serum-stimulated proliferation. Cinnamic acid, coumaric acid and ferulic acid were much less effective than curcumin as inhibitors of serum-induced smooth muscle cell proliferation, suggesting that the cinnamic acid and ferulic acid moieties alone are not sufficient for activity, and that the characteristics of the diferuloylmethane molecule itself are necessary for activity. Curcumin may be useful as a new template for the development of better remedies for the prevention of the pathological changes of atherosclerosis and restenosis.