Can Turmeric Treat Prostate Cancer?

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP on June 24, 2016Written by Annamarya Scaccia

Turmeric

Is there a link?

Prostate cancer occurs when malignant cells form in the prostate. The prostate is a small, walnut-sized gland between a man’s bladder and rectum. About 1 in 5 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.

Researchers have found that turmeric and its extract, curcumin, may help prevent or treat prostate cancer. The warm, bitter spice contains anticancerous properties that may stop the spread and growth of cancerous cells. If you’re interested in using turmeric medicinally, talk to your doctor about it. They can work with you to determine whether this is the best addition to your current regimen.

The health benefits of turmeric

Benefits

  1. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory.
  2. The spice’s primary active component, curcumin, has antibiotic properties.
  3. It’s said to treat conditions ranging from stomach ulcers to heart disease.

Turmeric has wide-ranging health benefits. It has been used an anti-inflammatory remedy in Chinese and Indian folk medicines for centuries. Some people use turmeric to treat:

  • inflammation
  • indigestion
  • ulcerative colitis
  • stomach ulcers
  • osteoarthritis
  • heart disease
  • high cholesterol
  • liver problems
  • viral and bacterial infections
  • wounds
  • neurogenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis

What the research says

Researchers in one 2015 study discovered that curcumin, which is the particle behind turmeric's color and taste, can restrict several cell-signaling pathways. This may be able to stop or weaken tumor cell production.

A separate study found that curcumin may stop cancer-associated fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are connective tissue cells that produce collagen and other fibers. These fibers may contribute to prostate cancer.

It’s thought that a combination of curcumin and alpha-tomatine, which is found in tomatoes, can help stop the growth of cancer cells. It may even speed up the death of cancer cells.

Curcumin also has radioprotective and radiosensitizing properties. These may help make tumor cells more susceptible to radiation while also protecting your body against its harmful effects. A 2016 study found that curcumin supplementation can improve a person’s antioxidant status while undergoing radiotherapy. The study determined that this can be done without hurting the therapy's effectiveness.

Researchers in an earlier study determined that curcumin supplementation may lessen lower urinary tract symptoms associated with radiotherapy.

How to use turmeric

The roots of the turmeric plant are boiled, dried, and then ground into a fine consistency to create this spice. It’s used in everything from food and textile dye to herbal medicine. In addition to a cooking spice, turmeric is also available as:

  • a supplement
  • a fluid extract
  • an herbal tincture

You should aim for 500 milligrams (mg) of curcuminoids, or about 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder, per day. Doses of 1,500 mg of curcuminoids, or about 1 1/2 teaspoons of thermic powder, per day may cause side effects.

If you don’t’ want to take it as a supplement, you can also use the spice when cooking. Add a dash of the spice to your egg salad, sprinkle it on some steamed cauliflower, or mix it into brown rice. For best results, add black pepper to the recipe. The piperine in the pepper will help your body properly absorb the curcumin.

You can also enjoy turmeric as a relaxing tea. Simmer together water and a blend of the following ingredients for 10 minutes:

  • turmeric
  • cinnamon
  • clove
  • nutmeg

Once you’re done simmering, strain the mixture and add milk and a drop of honey for sweetness.

Risks and warnings

Risks

  1. Turmeric may cause stomach pain or other side effects if you ingest large amounts of it.
  2. If turmeric comes into contact with your skin, it’s possible to experience inflammation or swelling.
  3. You shouldn’t take turmeric supplements if you have certain conditions or take certain medications.

Turmeric supplements are generally considered safe for most people. When used in moderation, they’re typically said to cause little-to-no side effects. When taken in large amounts, the extent of its effects isn’t clear, though some people have reported stomach pain.

Memorial Sloane Kettering warns against taking turmeric supplements if you’re taking certain medications or have certain medical conditions. Turmeric may agitate bile duct obstruction, gallstones, and other gastrointestinal issues, such as stomach ulcers.

The spice may also reduce the effects of drugs such as reserpine, which is used to treat high blood pressure, and the anti-inflammatory indomethacin.

You should avoid turmeric if you use blood thinners, as it may increase your bleeding risk. You should also avoid turmeric if you take diabetes medication because it can lower blood sugar.

Its extract, curcumin, may cause allergic reactions on the skin, including rash, swelling, and redness.

Other treatments for prostate cancer

Prostate cancer care can alleviate symptoms and improve your quality of life. Several types of available treatments include:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • radiopharmaceutical therapy and bisphosphonate therapy for prostate cancer that's spread to the bone
  • hormone therapy that removes or blocks hormones and stops cancer cell growth
  • biologic therapy, which boosts, guides, or restores the body's natural cancer-fighting defenses
  • radical prostatectomy to remove the prostate
  • lymphadenectomy to remove pelvic lymph nodes
  • surgery to remove prostate tissue

Surgery may cause side effects, such as:

  • impotence
  • urine leakage
  • stool leakage
  • shortening of the penis

Radiation therapy can also cause impotency and urinary issues.

Hormone therapy may lead to:

  • sexual dysfunction
  • hot flashes
  • weakened bones.
  • diarrhea
  • itching
  • nausea

What you can do now

Research supports incorporating turmeric and its extract, curcumin, into your treatment plan. The spice has been shown to reduce the spread of cancer, and even prevent precancerous cells from becoming tumorous. If you plan to add the spice to your regimen, remember the following:

  • The recommended dose is 1/2 teaspoon per day.
  • You may experience side effects if you consume turmeric in larger amounts.
  • You shouldn’t use the spice if you have certain conditions or take certain medications.

You should speak with your doctor about how often and how much turmeric to use. Although turmeric may have many benefits, no evidence suggests using the spice as a standalone treatment option.

Learn more: Can you use curcumin to treat cancer? »

Risks and warnings

Turmeric supplements are generally considered safe for most people. When used in moderation, they’re typically said to cause little-to-no side effects. When taken in large amounts, the extent of its effects isn’t clear, though some people have reported stomach pain.

Memorial Sloane Kettering warns against taking turmeric supplements if you’re taking certain medications or have certain medical conditions. Turmeric may agitate bile duct obstruction, gallstones, and other gastrointestinal issues, such as stomach ulcers.

The spice may also reduce the effects of drugs such as reserpine, which is used to treat high blood pressure, and the anti-inflammatory indomethacin.

You should avoid turmeric if you use blood thinners, as it may increase your bleeding risk. You should also avoid turmeric if you take diabetes medication because it can lower blood sugar.

Its extract, curcumin, may cause allergic reactions on the skin, including rash, swelling, and redness.

Other treatments for prostate cancer

Prostate cancer care can alleviate symptoms and improve your quality of life. Several types of available treatments include:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • radiopharmaceutical therapy and bisphosphonate therapy for prostate cancer that's spread to the bone
  • hormone therapy that removes or blocks hormones and stops cancer cell growth
  • biologic therapy, which boosts, guides, or restores the body's natural cancer-fighting defenses
  • radical prostatectomy to remove the prostate
  • lymphadenectomy to remove pelvic lymph nodes
  • surgery to remove prostate tissue

Surgery may cause side effects, such as:

  • impotence
  • urine leakage
  • stool leakage
  • shortening of the penis

Radiation therapy can also cause impotency and urinary issues.

Hormone therapy may lead to:

  • sexual dysfunction
  • hot flashes
  • weakened bones.
  • diarrhea
  • itching
  • nausea

What you can do now

Research supports incorporating turmeric and its extract, curcumin, into your treatment plan. The spice has been shown to reduce the spread of cancer, and even prevent precancerous cells from becoming tumorous. If you plan to add the spice to your regimen, remember the following:

  • The recommended dose is 1/2 teaspoon per day.
  • You may experience side effects if you consume turmeric in larger amounts.
  • You shouldn’t use the spice if you have certain conditions or take certain medications.

You should speak with your doctor about how often and how much turmeric to use. Although turmeric may have many benefits, no evidence suggests using the spice as a standalone treatment option.

Learn more: Can you use curcumin to treat cancer? »

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