Turmeric, a spice used in curry and to give mustard its yellow color, is effective in trials involving cancer, depression and diabetes, U.S. researchers say.
Subash C. Gupta and Dr. Bharat B. Aggarwal, both of the Cytokine Research Laboratory at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said much has been published about curcumin -- a component of turmeric -- but comparatively little is known about turmeric itself.
Traditionally, this spice has been used in folk medicine for the treatment of such ailments as gynecological problems, gastric problems, hepatic disorders, infectious diseases and blood disorders.
However, modern science provided the scientific basis for the use of turmeric against such disorders. Various chemical constituents have been isolated from this spice, including polyphenols, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, triterpenoids, sterols and alkaloids.
Curcumin, which constitutes 2 percent to 5 percent of turmeric, was the most-studied component. Although some of the effects of turmeric can be mimicked by curcumin, others are curcumin-independent.
Cell-based studies have demonstrated the potential of turmeric as an anti-microbial, insecticidal, larvicidal, anti-mutagenic, radioprotector and anti-cancer agent, the researchers said.
Numerous animal studies showed the potential of this spice against pro-inflammatory diseases such as cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, depression, diabetes, obesity and atherosclerosis, the researchers said.
In clinical trials, turmeric showed some effectiveness against numerous human ailments, including lupus, cancer, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, acne and fibrosis.
The findings were published in the Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.