Curcumin analogues and nanocurcumin

Could the creation of curcumin analogues to increase systemic availability be a possibility for the future?

An Indian company called Arjuna has developed a product called Biocurcumax, which mixes curcumin with an essential oil of turmeric (*UPDATE: I tried it in the winter of 2007 and my numbers worsened; so did Sherlock’s. It didn’t work for us, unfortunately). It is supposed to enhance the bioavailability of curcumin. The news about Biocurcumax was published in the online edition of India’s national newspaper, the “Hindu,” in September of 2006:

A Japanese study identified “new analogues that exhibit growth-suppressive activity 30 times that of curcumin and other commonly used anticancer drugs.” These analogues also had no toxicity in vivo. The study was published in “Molecular Cancer Therapeutics” in 2006:

Another curcumin analogue, called dimethoxycurcumin, appears to be more stable and more potent in killing cancer cells. This study can be found in the February 2007 edition of “Clinical Cancer Research”:

These are only a few of the studies that I have read online. I am not entirely sure how I feel about analogues. For now and the foreseeable future, I will continue to take curcumin with some sort of fat.

Nanocurcumin. A group of researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Delhi have created a nano-encapsulated form of curcumin, “nanocurcumin!,” which can be readily dispersed in aqueous media. This might overcome the problem of curcumin’s poor systemic bioavailability. It has already been tested in vitro on pancreatic cancer cells and has showed the same degree of effectiveness as regular curcumin, such as inhibition of NF-kB and downregulation of IL-6. Indeed, according to preliminary tests, pancreatic cancer cells lapped up this new form of curcumin more eagerly than regular curcumin. Nanocurcumin was also given to mice, and no ill effects were reported. See for more information. Also, have a look at the April 20 2007 news release from Johns Hopkins University, titled: “Polymer Coated Curcumin Promises Effective Against Cancer.”(

April 6 2008 post, update on nanotechnology: This morning I read a couple of Science Daily updates where I found two conflicting items. The first (, dated April 3, was about the potential risks involved in nanotechnology. The Science Daily article discusses a University of Oregon chemist’s concern about the potential hazards and lack of information concerning nanotechnology.

April 10 2008 post, update on nanotechnology: I just finished reading a rather alarming April 7 Science Daily article (see: on “toxic socks.” These are special socks permeated with nanoparticle silver, which has antibacterial and odour-fighting properties.

Problem is, if you buy these socks (or anything else containing nanosilver), you won’t be able to wash them. Ever! If you forget and throw them into the washing machine, tiny silver particles will probably be released into the waterwaste system and end up flowing into natural watercourses where they could have unwanted and deleterious effects on the organisms living in the water, and possibly, eventually, on us, too.
Two Arizona State University researchers brought the issue of nanosilver to our attention after conducting a recent experiment. They bought six pairs of no-smell socks, one from the UK (!), soaked them in a jar of room temperature distilled water, shook the contents for an hour and tested the water for two types of silver — the harmful “ionic” form and the less-studied nanoparticle variety. “From what we saw, different socks released silver at different rates, suggesting that there may be a manufacturing process that will keep the silver in the socks better,” said Benn. “Some of the sock materials released all of the silver in the first few washings, others gradually released it. Some didn’t release any silver.”
So if you wash these socks, possibly even large amounts of nanosilver will eventually end up in lakes and rivers. Ionic silver, the dissolved form of the element, does not just attack odor-causing bacteria. It can also hijack chemical processes essential for life in other microbes and aquatic animals. It can, for instance, kill fish by seeping into their gills, thereby disrupting their blood and tissue chemistries. And what happens to our gills and blood/tissue chemistries if we eat teenysilver-ridden fish? 
Oh boy, let me tell ya, I wouldn’t go near these socks, let alone touch them with my bare hands or put them on my feet! I will also never ever (never!) buy infection-fighting bandaids (oh yes, nanosilver is in those, too!). And, if you happen to be in the market for a new washing machine, avoid the ones that advertise “silvercare.”
After reading this piece, my advice is: let your socks smell a bit. It seems like a tiny price to pay compared to the potentially very negative environmental impact of the no-smell silver socks. Talk about nanoCRUD!


An excerpt (“he” is the UO chemist, by the way): Nanomaterials are complex, as are their interactions with biological organisms and the environment. While microscopically sized, they come in all sizes, shapes and compositions. “To confound the situation further,” he writes, “the methods of production are still immature for most materials, often resulting in batch-to-batch variability in composition and purity.” Impurities, he says, are hard to detect, difficult to extract and may obscure the real effects of nanomaterials. Nanoimpurities? Yikes!

Interestingly, this scientist is pushing for a green chemistry approach, which simplifies purification processes. Well, I am certainly all in favour of solving problems before they occur, and using an environmentally friendly approach makes a lot of sense to me.

Now for the second article. published on the following day ( It discusses the effect of nanotechnology on tumours. Unlike the University of Oregon piece, this article talks exclusively about the benefits of nanotechnology. As follows.

A group of researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine (St. Louis) tested a powerful drug directly on tumors  in rabbits (aaagh! ) using drug-coated nanoparticles. They found that a drug dose 1,000 times lower than used previously for this purpose markedly slowed tumor growth. “Many chemotherapeutic drugs have unwanted side effects, and we’ve shown that our nanoparticle technology has the potential to increase drug effectiveness and decrease drug dose to alleviate harmful side effects,” says lead author Patrick M. Winter, Ph.D., research assistant professor of medicine and biomedical engineering.

By the way, these nanoparticles contained a fungal toxin called fumagillin, which has been shown to be an effective cancer treatment, so the article states, in human clinical trials in combination with other drugs. The process whereby the tumours’ growth was slowed down is interesting: the nanoparticles latched on to sites of blood vessel proliferation and released their fumagillin load into blood vessel cells. Fumagillin blocks multiplication of blood vessel cells, so it inhibited tumors from expanding their blood supply and slowed their growth.

Aha, so fumagillin inhibits angiogenesis…very interesting. I will have to have a closer look at this toxin at some point.

Well, nanotechnology is interesting on many levels, but I have to admit that the issue of nanocrud (I just coined this term, you may use it with my permission…) does make me wary. I guess I won’t be testing nanocurcumin any time soon…


Curcumin analogues have been shown to inhibit the COX-1 enzyme, which is linked to inflammation and cancer. This process is described in the study titled Synthesis of novel curcumin analogues and their evaluation as selective cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) inhibitors, published in the Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin in January, 2007:

April 21 2008 post: This morning I read something that I did not know about curcumin in the “Times of India” ( Researchers at New Delhi’s Jamia Hamdard University have successfully used curcumin – extracted from turmeric and broken into nano form – to control and cure cirrhosis of liver in an animal model experiment. “Nano,” huh?  How “nano” were these nanoparticles, I wonder? Well, even though the jury is still out on the nano-stuff, in this case the nanocurcumin appears to have worked. Interesting.

And here is another interesting bit: It was found that when used in large doses, turmeric wasn’t particularly useful. But broken into nano particles, it worked wonders. It even reversed cirrhosis which is incurable,” said S Ahmad, vice-chancellor of Jamia Hamdard.
It reversed the…irreversible? Wowie! I imagine, by the way, that the researcher was referring to “curcumin,” not “turmeric.” Well, I suppose I will have to read the study at some point.
Then we read: The curcumin extract is an anti-oxidant that helps revive dead cells. It acts as a repairing agent and can regenerate cells that have broken up into nodules..
Helps revive dead cells, huh? Well, well…well!

2 thoughts on “Curcumin analogues and nanocurcumin

  1. Stephen S, MD

    Dear Margaret,

    I am a medical oncologist and my focus is usually on PC (prostate cancer). I have agreed to consult with a man who has MGUS. I have read a lot of literature on this (and more to come) but would like to talk with you and get a sense of what you can share with me to help this gentleman. A few issues to discuss:

    1. Is nano-curcumin commercially available?

    2. Have you used or heard good comments about Meriva-SR, which is curcumin bound to Phosphatidylcholine. I have some peer-reviewed literature I can share with you on this.

    3. Are you familiar with any literature on naltrexone and MGUS?

    4. Same question with denosumab.

    My contact info is below [deleted by blog author]

  2. fausto

    Dear Margaret, have you already seen this news on curcumin bioavailability (Sept 2010 – URL: It seems interesting. Let me know.
    Ciao for now, Fausto

    The clinical applications of BCM-95, which is a new, patented extract of curcumin, reportedly possessing unprecedented levels of potency and bioavailability, are currently being explored by scientists based at the Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Lab at the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. BCM-95 has been reported to be approximately 7-10 times more bioavailable than other forms of curcumin, and was found to have a retention time in the bloodstream of 8 to 12 hours.

    Ajay Goel, Ph.D., an Investigator at the Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Lab at Baylor University, said, “We have the most fascinating and convincing scientific laboratory evidence from thousands of studies finding that curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Abundant data point to the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory efficacy of curcumin – and these benefits are essentially drawn from its ability to suppress and inhibit the activities of two major pro-inflammatory targets within our cells: NF-kB and COX-2.”

    The relative ease of absorption and retention of BCM-95 circumin has been attributed to a process of homogenization and micronization with turmeric essential oil which is then bound to natural plant phospholipids. “Not only is BCM-95 curcumin absorbed up to 10 times better than conventional curcumin, it also is retained in the body longer. Currently, we have several scientific studies underway in our laboratory on BCM-95, and we are extremely encouraged by the new promising discoveries we are making with this miracle herb,” added Goel.

    Tags: curcumin, pain relief, turmeric


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *