Introduction: Managing burn injury-associated pain and wounds is a major unresolved clinical problem. Opioids, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antidepressants and anticonvulsants remain the most common forms of analgesic therapy to treat burn patients. However, prolonged treatment with these drugs leads to dose escalation and serious side effects. Additionally, severe burn wounds cause scarring and are susceptible to infection. Recent encouraging findings demonstrate that curcumin, a major bioactive component found in turmeric, is a natural pharmacotherapeutic for controlling both severe burn pain and for improved wound healing.
Areas covered: This article covers current pr-clinical and clinical studies on the analgesic and wound healing effects. Particular emphasis has been placed on studies aimed at developing improved curcumin delivery vehicles that increase its bioavailability. Based on the available evidence, a hypothesis is proposed that the dual beneficial effects of curcumin, analgesia and enhanced wound healing are mediated through common anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
Expert opinion: Emerging studies have demonstrated that curcumin is a promising investigational drug to treat both pain and wounds. The adequate control of severe burn pain, particularly over the long courses required for healing, as well improvements in burn wound healing are unmet clinical needs.