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Curcumin may help to treat or prevent several health conditions, including high cholesterol and cancer. It may also have antioxidant effects and may stimulate the immune system. Even though curcumin is a "natural" substance, it may still cause side effects, such as nausea and diarrhea. Before using it, talk to your healthcare provider if you have gallbladder disease or a bleeding disorder.

What Is Curcumin?

Curcumin is an active component of turmeric, a spice and coloring agent used in curry powder. There has been much interest in using it to treat or prevent a number of different medical conditions, such as high cholesterol and cancer. There are many other purported uses as well, some of which are more valid than others.
 
(Click Benefits of Curcumin for more information.)
 

How Does Curcumin Work?

Curcumin may have several different effects in the human body, such as:
 
  • Anti-inflammatory -- Curcumin seems to inhibit several different inflammatory substances and enzymes. This may be helpful for a number of conditions, such as arthritis or heart disease.
     
  • Angiogenesis inhibition -- Curcumin may inhibit the growth of new blood vessels (a process known as angiogenesis). This property may be useful for preventing or treating cancer, but it could cause problems in the treatment of heart disease.
     
  • Blood clotting -- There is some evidence that it may help to prevent blood platelets from sticking together (a process known as platelet aggregation), an important step in the formation of blood clots.
     
There is also some evidence that it may have antioxidant effects and may stimulate the immune system.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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