Curcumin use in pulmonary diseases: State of the art and future perspectives

Pharmacol Res. 2017 Jan;115:133-148. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2016.11.017. Epub 2016 Nov 22.


Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) is a yellow pigment present in the spice turmeric (Curcuma longa). It has been used for centuries in Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine) for the treatment of several diseases. Over the last several decades, the therapeutic properties of curcumin have slowly been elucidated. It has been shown that curcumin has pleiotropic effects, regulating transcription factors (e.g., NF-kB), cytokines (e.g., IL6, TNF-alpha), adhesion molecules (e.g., ICAM-1), and enzymes (e.g., MMPs) that play a major role in inflammation and cancerogenesis. These effects may be relevant for several pulmonary diseases that are characterized by abnormal inflammatory responses, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, acute respiratory distress syndrome, pulmonary fibrosis, and acute lung injury. Furthermore, some preliminary evidence suggests that curcumin may have a role in the treatment of lung cancer. The evidence for the use of curcumin in pulmonary disease is still sparse and has mostly been obtained using either in vitro or animal models. The most important issue with the use of curcumin in humans is its poor bioavailability, which makes it necessary to use adjuvants or curcumin nanoparticles or liposomes. The aim of this review is to summarize the available evidence on curcumin's effectiveness in pulmonary diseases, including lung cancer, and to provide our perspective on future research with curcumin so as to improve its pharmacological effects, as well as provide additional evidence of curcumin's efficacy in the treatment of pulmonary diseases.

Keywords: Asthma; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Curcumin; Cystic fibrosis; Lung; Pulmonary fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Curcumin / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Lung Diseases / drug therapy*


  • Curcumin