Role of curcumin in the management of pathological pain

Phytomedicine. 2018 Sep 15:48:129-140. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2018.04.045. Epub 2018 Apr 17.


Background: Pathological pain conditions can be triggered after peripheral nerve injury and/or inflammation. It is a major clinical problem that is poorly treated with available therapeutics. Curcumin is a phenolic compound derived from Curcuma longa, being widely used for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects.

Purpose: This review systematically summarized updated information on the traditional uses of curcumin in order to explore antinociceptive effects in pathological pain and evaluate future therapeutic opportunities clinically. Moreover, some structure-activity relationships would greatly enrich the opportunity of finding new and promising lead compounds and promote the reasonable development of curcumin.

Methods: PubMed were searched and the literature from the year 1976 to January 2018 was retrieved using keywords pain and curcumin.

Results: This review systematically summarized updated information on the traditional uses, chemical constituents and bioactivities of curcumin, and highlights the recent development of the mechanisms of curcumin in the pathological pain by sciatic nerve injury, spinal cord injury, diabetic neuropathy, alcoholic neuropathy, chemotherapy induced peripheral neuroinflammtion, complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) injection or carrageenan injection. Importantly, the clinical studies provide a compelling justification for its use as a dietary adjunct for pain relief. And we also present multiple approaches to improve bioavailability of curcumin for the treatment of pathological pain.

Conclusion: This review focuses on pre-clinical and clinical studies in the treatment of pathological pain. Although the mechanisms of pain mitigating effects are not very clear, there is compelling evidence proved that curcumin plays an essential role. However, further high-quality clinical studies should be undertaken to establish the clinical effectiveness of curcumin in patients suffering from pathological pain. Potential methods of increase the water solubility and bioavailability of curcumin still need to be studied. These approaches will help in establishing it as remedy for pathological pain.

Keywords: Bioavailability; Curcumin; Depression; Inflammatory pain; Neuropathic pain (NP).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Curcumin / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain Measurement


  • Analgesics
  • Curcumin