Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has long been used as an anti-inflammatory and in the treatment of colds and asthma in both Chinese and Indian medicine systems. Scientists have also found that turmeric appears to have properties that give it an ability to manage prostatitis and prostate cancer. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which gives the spice its peppery, bitter taste.
Turmeric and Prostate Cancer
Scientists at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, noticed that in contrast to the high incidence of prostate cancer in the United States, disease incidence in India is very low. It has been suggested that this difference may be related to the fact that Indians consume large amounts of plant-based foods that are rich in phytochemicals, which have been shown to protect against disease.
To test this hypothesis, the researchers used mice that were injected with human prostate cancer cell lines to grow tumors so they could test certain compounds—namely turmeric and phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), a phytonutrient found in cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, turnips, and others). The scientists found that both turmeric (curcumin) and PEITC, in combination and each alone, may be effective in the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer. When the scientists tested the impact of turmeric and PEITC in mice that already had well-established tumors, the phytonutrients alone had little effect, but when they were combined they significantly reduced tumor growth. (Khor 2006)
An Oregon Health and Science University study published in 2009 reported that curcumin has “potential anti-metastatic effects in bone-derived prostate cancer cells.” (Herman 2009) In a Columbia University report, the researchers noted that turmeric “is a novel and potent inducer of apoptosis [cell death] in both androgen-dependent and androgen-independent prostate cancer cells.” This led the researchers to conclude that “curcumin may provide an alternative, nontoxic modality by which the clinician may prevent the progression of prostate cancer…or to treat advanced prostate cancer by forcing them to undergo apoptosis.” (Dorai 2000)
In a 2010 study in which researchers explored the benefits of several botanicals on prostate cancer, including turmeric, they found that turmeric inhibited growth in both human and animal prostate cancer cell lines. (Slusarz 2010)
Turmeric and Prostatitis
A recent study in rats found that curcumin was effective in managing chronic nonbacterial prostatitis in the animals. The researchers believe curcumin was beneficial because it reduced the effect of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-8 and tumor necrosis factor alpha in the blood and tissues. (Zhang 2010)
A combination of curcumin, quercetin, saw palmetto, and stinging nettle was given to men who had prostatitis in a study published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents. Researchers reported that compared with men who received an antibiotic alone, those who took the herbal combination along with the antibiotic had significantly better resolution of their symptoms. (Cai 2009)
Other Health Benefits of Turmeric
A recent study from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston reported on the role of iron and copper neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, noting that these metals induce reactive oxygen species (highly active molecules that cause cell damage) while also inhibiting DNA damage repair. One way to fight this “double-edged sword” may be with curcumin. The researchers found that when they exposed iron and copper to curcumin in the lab, the spice bound to the metals and nearly completely reversed the inhibition of DNA repair. (Hegde 2011)
Another recent study, this one a review from Oregon Health & Science University, reported there is “limited evidence” indicating that turmeric and curcumin are beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Curcumin has demonstrated limited effectiveness for people who have familial adenomatous polyposis, inflammatory bowel disease, inflammatory eye diseases, kidney transplantation, and psoriasis. (White 2011)
How To Use Turmeric
The suggested dose of turmeric as a standardized powder (curcumin) is 400 to 600 mg, three times daily. (University of Maryland) Turmeric and curcumin are considered safe when taken at the recommended doses. However, if you take large amounts for a prolonged period of time, there is a risk of stomach upset or even ulcers. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor before you take turmeric, as this herb can lower blood sugar levels.
Cai T et al. Serenoa repens associated with Urtica dioica (ProstaMEV) and curcumin and quercitin (FlogMEV) extracts are able to improve the efficacy of prulifloxacin in bacterial prostatitis patients: results from a prospective randomized study. Int J Antimicrob Agents 2009 Jun; 33(6): 549-53
Dorai T et al. Therapeutic potential of curcumin in human prostate cancer. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis 2000 Aug; 3(2): 84-93
Hegde ML et al. Oxidative genome damage and its repair in neurodegenerative diseases: function of transition metals as a double-edged sword. J Alzheimers Dis 2011 Jan 1; 24:183-98.
Herman JG et al. Curcumin blocks CCL2-induced adhesion, motility and invasion, in part, through down-regulation of CCL2 expression and proteolytic activity. Int J Oncol 2009 May; 34(5): 1319-27.
Khor TO et al. Combined inhibitory effects of curcumin and phenethyl isothiocyanate on the growth of human PC-3 prostate xenografts in immunodeficient mice. Cancer Res 2006 Jan. 15; 66(2): 613-21
Slusarz A et al. Common botanical compounds inhibit the hedgehog signaling pathway in prostate cancer. Cancer Res 2010 Apr 15; 70(8) : 3382-90
University of Maryland: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/turmeric-000277.htm
White B, Judkins DZ. Clinical inquiry: does turmeric relieve inflammation conditions? J Fam Pract 2011 Mar; 60(3): 155-56
Zhang QY et al. Reducing effect of curcumin on expressions of TNF-alpha, IL-6 and IL-8 in rats with chronic nonbacterial prostatitis. Zhonghua Nan Ke Xue 2010 Jan; 16(1): 84-88