Free radical mediated lipid peroxidation has been implicated in multiple diseases. A major oxidation by-product of this deleterious process is 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal (HNE). HNE is cytotoxic, mutagenic and genotoxic and is involved in disease pathogenesis. Curcumin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent (occurring as the yellow pigment found in the rhizomes of the perennial herb Curcuma longa known as turmeric), has emerged as the newest "nutraceutical" agent that has been shown to be efficacious against colon cancer and other disorders, including correcting cystic fibrosis defects. Since curcumin has been reported to have anti-oxidant properties we hypothesized that it will inhibit HNE-modification of a protein substrate. Using an ELISA that employed HNE-modification of solid phase antigen following immobilization, we found that the curcumin solubilized in dilute alkali (5mM sodium hydroxide, pH 11) inhibited HNE-protein modification by 65%. Turmeric also inhibited HNE-protein modification similarly (65%) but at a much lower alkali level (130muM sodium hydroxide, pH 7.6). Alkali by itself (5mM sodium hydroxide, pH 11) was found to enhance HNE modification by as much as 267%. Curcumin/turmeric has to inhibit this alkali enhanced HNE-modification prior to inhibiting the normal HNE protein modification induced by HNE. Thus, inhibition of HNE-modification could be a mechanism by which curcumin exerts its antioxidant effects. The pH at which the inhibition of HNE modification of substrate was observed was close to the physiological pH, making this formulation of curcumin potentially useful practically.