Curcumin: from ancient medicine to current clinical trials

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2008 Jun;65(11):1631-52. doi: 10.1007/s00018-008-7452-4.


Curcumin is the active ingredient in the traditional herbal remedy and dietary spice turmeric (Curcuma longa). Curcumin has a surprisingly wide range of beneficial properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic activity. The pleiotropic activities of curcumin derive from its complex chemistry as well as its ability to influence multiple signaling pathways, including survival pathways such as those regulated by NF-kappaB, Akt, and growth factors; cytoprotective pathways dependent on Nrf2; and metastatic and angiogenic pathways. Curcumin is a free radical scavenger and hydrogen donor, and exhibits both pro- and antioxidant activity. It also binds metals, particularly iron and copper, and can function as an iron chelator. Curcumin is remarkably non-toxic and exhibits limited bioavailability. Curcumin exhibits great promise as a therapeutic agent, and is currently in human clinical trials for a variety of conditions, including multiple myeloma, pancreatic cancer, myelodysplastic syndromes, colon cancer, psoriasis and Alzheimer's disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal* / chemistry
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal* / metabolism
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal* / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Antioxidants* / chemistry
  • Antioxidants* / metabolism
  • Antioxidants* / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Curcuma / chemistry
  • Curcumin* / chemistry
  • Curcumin* / metabolism
  • Curcumin* / therapeutic use
  • Free Radical Scavengers* / chemistry
  • Free Radical Scavengers* / metabolism
  • Free Radical Scavengers* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • NF-kappa B
  • Iron
  • Curcumin