How Curcumin Can Spice Up Your Life

Mojgan Hosseinipour, D.O.
Edited by Paul M. Graham, D.O.

“Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.”

Curcumin is a major constituent found in the spice tumeric and it has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. It can be administered through various routes including topically and orally. Research has revealed that curcumin has a wide range of beneficial properties including, but not limited to anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, analgesic, and antioxidant effects as demonstrated in both cultured cells and animal models; paving the way for ongoing human clinical trials.

Molecular research on the biological and therapeutic effects of curcumin have been studied at esteemed comprehensive medical centers such as the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. These studies have demonstrated that curcumin has effects on many signaling pathways and molecular targets. Several animal studies have shown that curcumin has a dose-dependent chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic effect. Curcumin has the ability to block tumor initiation and can inhibit almost every step of tumor progression. This is important because there has been extensive research concluding the overlap of the pathways in which chronic inflammation may lead to cancer development.

Figure 1

There are over 14,000 articles on the vast benefits of curcumin for many preventive and therapeutic effects. It is the most extensively studied naturally-derived product due to its various properties. Focusing specifically on the skin, this spice may be a helpful concomitant therapy for the treatment of psoriasis. Several clinical trials have studied the effects of curcumin on pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-22 and TNF. Cytokines are substances secreted by cells that have a specific effect on various cellular interactions and communication. For example, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is elevated in patients with psoriasis and is a key mediator in the disease process. Curcumin has been shown to directly bind and downregulate TNF, thus reducing inflammation.

Several studies have also shown that interleukin (IL)-22 plays a major role in inflammation and keratinocyte (skin cell) proliferation, commonly seen in psoriasis. A study performed at the University of Florence demonstrated that curcumin is a safe and effective adjuvant therapy in patients with mild to moderate plaque psoriasis through its ability to downregulate IL-22 and thus an inflammatory pathway involved in the disease process.

A Phase III, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial with 63 patients was conducted in patients with mild to moderate plaque psoriasis. The patients were divided into two groups: those treated with a topical steroid alone, versus those treated with a topical steroid in addition to oral curcumin (2 grams/day). The 12-week study analyzed the clinical improvement as well as the level of cytokines (cell signaling molecules), such as IL-22. The study demonstrated a significant reduction of lesions in patients treated with curcumin plus the steroid ointment versus the steroid ointment alone. Specifically, a 50% improvement was reported in 92% of patients given the combination treatment versus 54% treated solely the steroid ointment. A 75% improvement was reported in 48% of patients given the combination treatment versus only 12% in those treated with the steroid ointment alone.

tumPatients with chronic inflammatory diseases are often offered immunotherapies such as biologic medications (biological response modifiers) for the treatment of their condition. These medications are derived from living material and interfere with the body’s immune system to help treat and prevent immune-mediated inflammatory disorders. These targeted therapies are often concerning to patients because of the well-advertised potential adverse effects. For example, TNF (tumor necrosis factor) blockers have been used successfully to treat psoriasis. However, these medications have a black label FDA warning for it’s potential to cause lymphoma and serious infections. These medications require a skin injection and may cost up to $20,000 per year for patients. Although it is effective in treating psoriasis, patients may wish to consider alternative therapies prior to initiating biologic treatment.

Curcumin may be a great natural and holistic alternative treatment to offer patients with psoriasis due to its proven efficacy, oral bio-availability, minimal cost, and favorable safety profile. Curcumin is highly safe in humans. There have been no reported toxic effects with standard dosing (2 grams/day) and even at very high doses, such as 12 grams/day. Curcumin is generally well-tolerated, but may cause gastrointestinal upset. In these cases, it is recommended to either decrease the dose and/or take the supplement with a full glass of water or with food.

This powerful polyphenol packs a punch! The evidence demonstrates strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer effects. You may want to consider adding this supplement to your daily regimen of multivitamins.


Photo Credits: 

Figure 1. Hatcher H, Planalp R, Cho J, Torti FM, Torti SV. Curcumin: From ancient medicine to current clinical trials. Cellular and molecular life sciences : CMLS. 2008;65(11):1631-1652. &


  1. Aggarwal BB, Gupta SC, Sung B. Curcumin: an orally bioavailable blocker of TNF and other pro-inflammatory biomarkers. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2013;169(8):1672-1692.
  2. Antiga E, Bonciolini V, Volpi W, Del Bianco E, Caproni M. Oral Curcumin (Meriva) Is Effective as an Adjuvant Treatment and Is Able to Reduce IL-22 Serum Levels in Patients with Psoriasis Vulgaris. BioMed Research International. 2015;2015:283634.
  3. Hatcher H, Planalp R, Cho J, Torti FM, Torti SV. Curcumin: From ancient medicine to current clinical trials. Cellular and molecular life sciences: CMLS. 2008;65(11):1631-1652.
  4. Perrone D, Ardito F, Giannatempo G, et al. Biological and therapeutic activities, and anticancer properties of curcumin. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. 2015;10(5):1615-1623.
  5. Kurd SK, Smith N, VanVoorhees A, et al. Oral Curcuminoid C3 Complex® in the Treatment of Moderate to Severe Psoriasis Vulgaris: A Prospective Clinical Trial. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2008;58(4):625-631.

Please note, our medical disclaimer applies to all information, images, recommendations, and comments published on this page.

Please note, our medical disclaimer applies to all information, images, recommendations, and comments published on this page.

Published by Dr. Paul M. Graham

Paul M. Graham, D.O. (Founder/Editor-in-chief) founded Dimensional Dermatology in May 2016 with the vision to provide concise, easy to read, up-to-date dermatology and aesthetic medicine information to patients, medical staff, providers, and the general public. Dr. Graham is currently completing his training as a cosmetic dermatologic surgery fellow in Virginia Beach, Virginia at the McDaniel Laser and Cosmetic Center. He completed his dermatology training at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and was a clinical instructor at Michigan State University. He received his B.S. degree as Summa Cum Laude at Old Dominion University, his D.O. degree as Cum Laude at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, completed his internship at Largo Medical Center in Largo, Florida as chief intern, and completed his dermatology residency training at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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