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Spice Used in Curry May Kill Head and Neck Cancer Cells

People in India have been using turmeric for various folk remedies for years. Now a study conducted at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Center suggests that curcumin—a main component of turmeric—can battle neck and throat cancers.

The findings were published on September 15, 2011 in Clinical Cancer Research.

Following up on promising animal studies that demonstrated the cancer inhibiting properties of curcumin, the researchers conducted a human study. They recruited 21 adults suffering from head and neck cancers for the study. They also included a control group of 13 participants with tooth decay and 5 healthy participants.

The scientists tested the saliva of the test group and then gave them two 1,000 mg supplements of curcumin. An hour after consumption, the scientists again tested the saliva for protein levels and IKK-B kinase activity. IKK-B kinase is an enzyme that inhibits kappa kinase and promotes cancer growth.

The test group showed a significant reduction in IKK-B kinase activity as well as a reduction in the number of pro-inflammatory, cancer-causing cytokines in the saliva. When tested again at an independent Maryland lab, the same results were seen.

The researchers believe that the curcumin helped block the pathways between cancer-causing cells and tumors, inhibiting the growth and spread of the cancer.

The researchers pointed out that eating turmeric in your daily diet wouldn't provide enough to get these cancer-fighting benefits. Only a supplement could provide you with enough curcumin to be effective. They hope to combine turmeric consumption with other cancer treatments to improve the chance of recovery.

Turmeric has also been used in folk remedies to ease menstrual cramping, help heal wounds, and to improve the appearance of skin. All of these benefits are a result of the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric.

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