Curcuma Longa: Effects and its Mechanism of Action

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Curcumin is the primary curcuminoid of the well-known Indian spice turmeric, which belongs to the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). Desmethoxycurcumin and bis-desmethoxycurcumin are the other two curcuminoids. Curcuminoids, which are polyphenols, are responsible for turmeric’s yellow hue. At least two tautomeric forms of curcumin exist, keto and enol. The enol structure is more energetically stable in solid and liquid states.

Active Constituents

Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) and several volatile oils, including tumerone, atlantone, and zingiberone, are the active components of turmeric. Additionally, there are carbohydrates, proteins, and resins. Curcumin, which contains 0.3% to 5.4% of raw turmeric, is the most thoroughly studied active component.


Animal studies have shown that 40-85% of an oral dose of curcumin passes through the gastrointestinal tract unaltered, with the majority of the absorbed flavonoid being metabolized in the intestinal mucosa and liver. Due to its low absorption rate, curcumin is frequently combined with bromelain to boost its absorption and anti-inflammatory impact.

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curcuma longa

Antioxidant Effects

The antioxidant activity of water- and fat-soluble extracts of turmeric and its curcumin component is comparable to that of vitamins C and E. A study on feline heart ischemia revealed that pretreatment with curcumin reduced ischemia-induced heart abnormalities. Using bovine aortic endothelial cells, an in vitro examination of the effect of curcumin on endothelial heme oxygenase-1, an inducible stress enzyme, was done. Curcumin incubation for eighteen hours boosted cellular resilience to oxidative damage.

Hepatoprotective Effects

Similar to silymarin, turmeric has been found to have hepatoprotective properties. Numerous hepatotoxic insults, such as carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), galactosamine, acetaminophen (paracetamol), and Aspergillus aflatoxin, have been shown to be mitigated by the hepatoprotective properties of turmeric in animal experiments. The hepatoprotective action of turmeric is mostly due to its antioxidant capabilities and ability to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Aflatoxin-induced biliary hyperplasia, lipid alterations, and necrosis were likewise reversed by turmeric and curcumin. Sodium curcuminate, a salt of curcumin, exhibits choleretic effects by increasing biliary excretion of bile salts, cholesterol, and bilirubin as well as increasing bile solubility, hence potentially preventing and treating cholelithiasis.

Anti-inflammatory Effects

Curcuma longa’s volatile oils and curcumin have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers discovered that curcumin, when taken orally, was just as efficient as cortisone or phenylbutazone in treating acute inflammation and half as effective in treating chronic inflammation. Researchers found that giving rats Curcuma longa orally reduced inflammatory swelling in animals with Freund’s adjuvant-induced arthritis. Curcumin prevented neutrophil aggregation and consequent inflammation in monkeys.

Some research suggests that C. longa’s anti-inflammatory effects come from its capacity to dampen both neutrophil function and the manufacture of inflammatory prostaglandins from arachidonic acid. Care must be taken to avoid staining clothing from the yellow color, however, curcumin can be administered topically to reduce inflammation and irritation from inflammatory skin disorders and allergies.

Anticarcinogenic Effects

Curcumin has been shown to prevent carcinogenesis at three stages: tumor promotion, angiogenesis, and tumor growth, in both Vivo and in vitro experiments using rat and mouse models and human cell lines, respectively. Curcumin slowed the spread of cancer cells and tumors in two separate investigations of colon and prostate cancer. Both in vitro and in vivo studies show that turmeric and curcumin can inhibit the mutagenic and carcinogenic effects of several prevalent toxins. Turmeric and curcumin’s anticarcinogenic properties stem from their capacity to boost glutathione levels, which in turn aids the liver in its detoxification of mutagens and carcinogens and prevents nitrosamine production.

Antimicrobial Effects               

Curcuma longa essential oil and turmeric extract are effective against numerous pathogenic bacteria, parasites, and fungi. Diets supplemented with 1 percent turmeric increased weight gain and decreased the severity of minor intestinal lesions in a study of chicks infected with the caecal parasite Eimeria maxima. The topical application of turmeric oil inhibited dermatophytes and pathogenic fungi in guinea pigs infected with these organisms, but neither curcumin nor turmeric oil affected the yeast isolates. The guinea pigs with dermatophyte and fungal infections showed improvements in lesions, and by day seven after using turmeric, the lesions had completely vanished. The moderate activity of curcumin against Plasmodium falciparum and Leishmania major has also been observed.

Cardiovascular Effects

Reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels, decreased susceptibility of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) to lipid peroxidation, and inhibition of platelet aggregation are just some of turmeric’s beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system. Even at low doses, turmeric has been shown to have these benefits. 

Unlike the lower dose, the greater dose did not reduce LDL lipid peroxidation but reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels, albeit to a smaller extent. The potential mechanisms by which turmeric extract lowers cholesterol include enhanced conversion of cholesterol to bile acids in the liver and decreased cholesterol uptake in the intestines. C. longa compounds are hypothesized to reduce platelet aggregation by boosting prostacyclin production and blocking thromboxane synthesis.

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Gastrointestinal Effects

In numerous ways, the gastrointestinal system benefits from Curcuma longa’s constituents. Intestinal spasm was reduced by sodium curcuminate, and gastrin, secretin, bicarbonate, and pancreatic enzyme secretion were all stimulated by p-tolymethylcarbinol, another ingredient in turmeric. The addition of turmeric to the diet of rats exposed to gastrointestinal insults such as stress, alcohol, indomethacin, pyloric ligation, and reserpine dramatically increased stomach wall mucus.

Curcumin enhances immunity

If any cancer cells manage to avoid apoptosis, curcumin can help the body to destroy them. A larger number of CD4+ T-helper and B-type immune cells were detected in the intestinal mucosa of study participants who had taken curcumin. Curcumin not only stimulates the immune system locally, but it also improves immunity on a systemic level.

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