Anti-cancer properties of terpenoids isolated from Rhizoma Curcumae--a review

J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Sep 28;143(2):406-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.07.009. Epub 2012 Jul 20.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Rhizoma Curcumae is a popular type of traditional Chinese medicine whose essential oils are widely used in the treatment of cancer in China. This review aims to systematically summarize and analyze the anti-cancer properties of terpenoids, the main components of essential oils in Rhizoma Curcumae, and thus enable the development of new anti-cancer drugs.

Materials and methods: Information on the recent progress of anti-cancer studies on terpenoids isolated from Rhizoma Curcumae, including β-elemene, δ-elemene, furanodiene, furanodienone, curcumol, and germacrone, was gathered and analyzed.

Results: Among these terpenoids, β-elemene is the most widely studied, whereas δ-elemene, furanodiene, furanodienone, curcumol, and germacrone have just recently attracted the attention of researchers. The anti-cancer effects of these terpenoids are related to the retardation of cell cycle arrest, the induction of apoptosis, and the inhibition of metastasis or tissue invasion, among others.

Conclusions: Most studies have focused on the in vitro data, and in vivo data is urgently needed. Further insight into the anti-cancer activity and the molecular basis of these compounds, combined with efforts in pharmaceutical chemistry and/or pharmaceutics, will potentially enable the development of new anti-cancer agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use
  • Curcuma*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Rhizome*
  • Terpenes / pharmacology*
  • Terpenes / therapeutic use


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Terpenes