Herbal Cure: Turmeric Can Help Fight Colon Cancer

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Turmeric, a yellow indian spice commonly used as a food coloring, is already known to treat many health problems such as liver disorder, bacterial infections in wounds, eye disorders and many other conditions.

Now a new study from Belgium shows that a compound in turmeric has the potential to treat and prevent colon cancer, thanks to its medicinal properties.

In fact, the study suggests that a combination of two plant compounds – curcumin (an active ingredient in turmeric) and silymarin (a compound naturally found in milk thistle) – can effectively ward off colorectal cancer cells.

According to the study’s findings, both compounds, when used individually, were effective in preventing spread of colon cancer cells, but a combo-pack of them showed a synergistic effect against the colorectal cancer cells.

“A single phytochemical at high concentration may exhibit anticancer activity,” observed the Saint Louis University researchers while conducting a lab test in a line of colon cancer cells. “By combining two phytochemicals, anticancer activity at much lower doses has been sought.”

For the lab test, researchers used three different human colon cancer cell lines and treated them with varying doses of curcumin, silymarin, and a combo of curcumin and silymarin. Cell proliferation (increase in the number of cells) and apoptosis (a process of programmed cell death) were assessed after treating the cells with the compounds.

The research team observed a significant difference between single compound-treated cells and cells treated with a combo of both compounds. They found cells treated with either phytochemical alone had low levels of apoptosis, while treating the cells first with curcumin and then with silymarin resulted in an increased cell death, thus was more effective in fighting cancer.

“The combination of phytochemicals inhibited colon cancer cells from multiplying and spreading. In addition, when the colon cancer cells were pre-exposed to curcumin and then treated with silymarin, the cells underwent a high amount of cell death,” said study author Dr. Uthayashanker Ezekiel, from Saint Louis University.

“Phytochemicals may offer alternate therapeutic approaches to cancer treatments and avoid toxicity problems and side effects that chemotherapy can cause,” Ezekiel added.

The researchers acknowledge theirs is a preliminary cell study and more research is to be done before determining the curcumin and silymarin are an effective treatment for colon cancer patients.

“Future studies will explore the NF-kB (nuclear factor-kappa beta) and apoptotic pathways to understand synergistic effects of curcumin and silymarin on colon cancer cells,” they conclude.

The research findings appear in the Journal of Cancer.

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