Curcumin, ion channels and excited membranes

This is a sort of continuation of yesterday’s post. In his comment, Peter asked an excellent question…my answer is that he is right, that these studies may not help us in practical terms right now, but they do point to the possibility that there is more to the curcumin picture than its well-documented poor bioavailability (when administered orally). The evidence that there may be other mechanisms at work seems to be accumulating…that is, unless I have completely misunderstood the studies that I have been reading recently!


The 2006 study (abstract: that I want to discuss today was sent to me recently by a friend (grazie!). It examines the link between the anticancer effects of dietary compounds and ion channels, which are membrane-bound proteins […] that are present on the surface of various cancer cells and tissues. Heh, and I thought cell membranes were difficult!


The activity of these ion channels is essential, it appears, for the progression of cancer…and metastasis. When certain ion channels (VPSCs, or voltage-gated sodium channels) are upregulated while others (VGPCs, or voltage-gated potassium channels…er, don’t ask!) are downregulated, in fact, cancer cell membranes get all excited, in line with such cells’ ‘hyperactive’ behaviour. The activity of ion channels has been found to control/enhance a variety of cellular behaviours that would be involved in the metastatic cascade. Oh boy.


The researchers therefore suggest that ion channels may be a major target for the anti-cancer effects of some natural compounds. By the way, an explanation of ion channels can be found at “Ion channels for beginners”: (see “Things ion channels do,” in particular). And the term “voltage-gated” is explained here:


At any rate, the main point is that the researchers set out to see if ion channels could be affected by a few well-known anticancer dietary compounds. What they discovered is significant, since, as I understand matters, when ion channels are affected, the various processes that lead to cancer progression/mestastasis are essentially stopped.


Well, as it turns out, resveratrol affects ion channel activity, thus reducing the excitability of metastatic cancer cells. So does curcumin, even though more evidence is needed for the latter, according to the study. The list of ion channel-affecting substances goes on: capsaicin, genistein, ginseng…ah, also omega 3 PUFAs and zinc. In fact, thanks to this study, genistein moved to the top of my to-be-tested supplement list.

My own ramblings. Okay, we know that very little curcumin ends up in the bloodstream, plus a lot of it gets transformed into metabolites that may not be as powerful as the original stuff (although that is an unresolved question, as we have seen in previous posts)…but just yesterday we learned that curcumin affects cell membranes…and today we find out that curcumin most likely affects ion channels, which are involved in cancer progression and metastasis. Well, the only possible conclusion, in my view, is that curcumin and other poorly bioavailable substances may work in ways that have yet to be explored. And this is all very encouraging to me, an enthusiastic curcumin-taker with smoldering myeloma…


  1. Hi,

    I have MGUS, dx last year. Continue to experience increasing free light chains, which puts me in a higher risk category for MM> I have started taking curcumin but don’t know if it is the best or even if I am taking it correctly. Any advice would be helpful on how to proceed with a curcumin regiment.


  2. I am presenting my personal vision about curcumin just in reasonable time about 20 years ahead.
    1. Curcumin will never be study in extensive double blind study in western countries
    2. Exiting new findings: We just synthesized another curcumin nanoparticle. This new compound has apparently less side effects than previous one. At this time we just need to check in animals setting if this result are consistent and possibly apply in human setting
    3. New nanocurcumin do not works better then curcumin
    4. The theory that the brain of the cell – membrane play even more imprinted role in activating new pathways in cancer cell will be more obvious and will be proven in regard to curcumin. We will have more knowledge and much more unconnected dots
    5. Complex Influence of curcumin on GI flora will not be study yet, because of lack of funding
    Peter 06

  3. Hi Kebo,

    I can only tell you how I take curcumin (etc), but I have no idea if it’s THE best way. The following is what has worked for me.

    Empty stomach. I take 1.5 grams of quercetin (with bromelain) about 15 minutes before taking curcumin. Then I take 8 grams of curcumin (C3 Complex with bioperine) and 2 grams of purified fish oil…all capsules. This is my basic regimen, to which I add things from time to time.

    Some curcumin-takers take two doses a day. I don’t have the time to do that. So I take one big dose late in the afternoon or early evening.

  4. Hello Margaret.

    Since three months I know that I also have MM disease. I read your blog with interest. Somewhere I read that black pepper efficacy of curcuma promoted. Black pepper is useful, do you think? Or fish oil is enough? Regards,

    Hans (Holland)

  5. Good point jbehles. I did not read this article ever. I was doing many experiments with curcumin as I mention about 2 years ago. One of the methods was adding warm flax seed oil, 40% ethanol, water to a small jar and vigorously shake closed jar for about 3 minutes. I do not remember exact proportions but the end result was combined curcumin with flax seed in a “jelly” form, may be micelle form and about 20% ethanol solution with slightly yellow dissolved curcumin. No unsolved curcumin was present. Curcumin from my prospective works much better in less advanced plasma cell dyscrasias than in more advanced forms like stage III myeloma, but this will not be clarified by official studies for a long time.

    Peter 06

  6. To add to jbehles’ comment, I have recently been working on a draft (one of many…!) on the study that I referred to in my Sept 10 2007 post:

    I got my hands on this study only recently, by the way. Two of the authors are the same as in the more recent study that jbehles found. Jbehles, I owe you a debt of gratitude. Thanks to your research, I now have this more recent study, too. And that has given me the incentive to finish my hot curcumin post.

    I have experimented in the past with curcumin powder and heated substances, too. And whenever I make curry for dinner, I take my curcumin capsules with some of the hot and spicy sauce. Peter, how did the curcumin jelly taste?

  7. Hi Margaret,
    I have been taking curcumin as you just explained. My fingernails are a pale yellow, no other problems. I have been concerned about taking it on an empty stomach since I have GERD. Have you had reports of stomach problems. I eat something light about 30 minutes later. Any advice?

  8. To Margaret. Curcumin jelly taste good, and is not messy. It is much easier to clean. It does not stick to glass jar. It sticks to metal painted lid and rubber seal.
    Peter 06

  9. It makes a lot of sense to heat the curcumin, since MM is supposedly not a disease of India where they eat a lot of curcumin – in the food they eat – usually hot.


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