Curcumin and the immune system

April 2007. This morning I read the most recent article sent to me by a member of Prof. Aggarwal’s team at the MD Anderson Cancer Research Center in Texas (for more information on these curcumin-related mailings, please leave me a comment here). Today’s article, titled ‘Spicing up’ of the immune system by curcumin, was published in the January 2007 edition of the Journal of Clinical Immunology. The abstract can be read at: The study focuses on how curcumin affects the immune system, and more than reinforces my conviction that, whenever possible, ALL cancer patients should be taking curcumin (see my Warning section for counter indications). Indeed, healthy people should be taking it (at low doses), or should be using the spice turmeric in their cooking. Why? Because curcumin PREVENTS illnesses of all kinds. Not just cancer. Have a look at the following list, which, sorry!, does repeat a few of the things that I have written in other posts (last month’s Curcumin, a Panacea? ), but hey, repetition is not necessarily a bad thing.

Study excerpt: [ ] Turmeric has been used as a non-toxic drug in Ayurveda for centuries to treat a wide variety of disorders including rheumatism, body ache, skin diseases, intestinal worms, diarrhea, intermittent, fevers, hepatic disorders, biliousness, urinary discharges, dyspepsia, inflammations, constipation, leukoderma, amenorrhea, and colic. Turmeric has been considered as an emmenagogue, diuretic, and carminative when taken orally, whereas topical application is commonly used to treat bruises, pains, sprains, boils, swellings, sinusitis, and various skin disorders. Turmeric is used to treat angina pectoris, stomach-ache, postpartum abdominal pain, and gallstones in the Chinese system of medicine. It seems to promote the qi flow, stimulates menstrual discharge, and relieves menstrual pain. The poultices prepared from turmeric are topically applied to relieve pain and inflammation. A mixture of turmeric powder and slaked lime is applied topically as a household remedy to cure injury-related sprains and swelling. Turmeric is also an effective household remedy for sore throat, cough, and common cold, where it is taken orally with tea or hot milk.

Study conclusion: Curcumin primarily exerts its therapeutic effects by inhibiting the degradation of IκBα and subsequent inactivation of NF-κB, thus initiating a cascade of downstream inflammatory and immunogenic events. Curcumin’s inhibition of NF-κB activation, in turn, leads directly to the inhibition of expression of a number of proinflammatory cytokines (e.g., TNF, IL-1, IL-2, IL-6, IL-8, and IL-12) and downregulation of the mRNA expression of several proinflammatory enzymes (e.g., COX, LOX, MMPs, and NOS). In addition, curcumin’s immunogenic response is further enhanced by its ability to inhibit TLRs. Finally, curcumin exerts proimmune activity in several autoimmune disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, allergy, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, renal ischemia, psoriasis, and scleroderma. Overall, these findings suggest that curcumin warrants further consideration as a potential immunoregulatory treatment in various immune disorders. Overwhelming, to say the least.

My personal experience. I have no doubt that curcumin has brought down my IgG count and is keeping my MM stable, which of course is my main purpose in taking it every day. However, curcumin has also given me many unexpected side benefits. For instance, I no longer have asthma, allergies, body aches, constipation and menstrual pain. Curcumin has also helped me improve my memory. In the pre-curcumin era, I used to forget everything, and had to write important things down. Then I would forget to read my notes! In a word, I was a scatterbrain (however, this could also be imputed to my high levels of blood viscosity, which have since decreased). Now I find it easier to remember things; even my husband has noticed a big improvement in my mental acuity. Plus, compared to the pre-curcumin era, I haven’t had any night sweats, and my night-time peripheral neuropathy (PN) has almost completely disappeared (it returns only on occasion, usually after I have eaten foods I normally avoid, like sugar). I have mentioned elsewhere that my cholesterol levels, which used to be very (very!) high, are now practically normal. So, you see, I have many good reasons to be curcumin-obsessed -)

Update. From my June 3 2007 post: Yesterday I came upon a recent study on curcumin and immune disorders. Published in the June 2007 edition of the Journal of Biological Chemistry (, it is titled Curcumin Prevents Tumor-induced T Cell Apoptosis through Stat-5a-mediated Bcl-2 Induction. Yes, I know, the second part of the title sounds nonsensical to non-scientific minds like mine. But when you read the abstract (and I am hoping to get my hands on the full text), it becomes clear that curcumin protects our T-cells. Indeed, this study shows that it restores T-cells from tumour-induced apoptosis: Administration of curcumin to tumor-bearing animals resulted in restoration of progenitor, effecter, and circulating T cells. In other words, curcumin can REVERSE the damage, or some of the damage at least, done to our T-cells by cancer. Now, isn’t that fantastic news? The study concludes: Thus, these results raise the possibility of inclusion of curcumin in successful therapeutic regimens against cancer. No kidding!

An article published in Cancer Research in January 2007 ( also looks at curcumin and immunity. Concluding remarks: Thus, our results suggest that unlike many other anticancer agents, curcumin is not only devoid of immunosuppressive effects but also acts as immunorestorer in tumor-bearing host. I am all in favour of restoring my immune system!

Actually, this is not news to me, since a few months ago Prof. Aggarwal kindly sent me the above-mentioned study that he co-authored on this very topic. However, it is comforting to read a bit of updated research confirming curcumin’s strong pro-immune activities. This can only be good news for those of us who have compromised immune systems or autoimmune disorders.



  1. I am so happy that I ‘stumbled” on your site.
    I was diagnosed with CLL 3 years ago. The illness seems to be in remission now. I had 4 chemo’s in 2008.
    Now my blood is low says the oncologist. I am very in favor of Curcumin + green tea + garlic.
    Pleas give memore advice if possible.
    Gratefully yours,

  2. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for your “corner”, which has been very informative for my husband with MGUS. He’s been taking curcumin fro some time now, both “Phytosome” and an Australian product called Nalgesic. However, we’ve noticed an increase in his susceptibility to colds, and with a little searching, I have found a number of papers which warn about the suppression of immunity, particularly Th1, by long term curcumin and even turmeric use. I’ve pasted some of them below. I’d be interested in your observations and opinions about this.

    Nagasuresh Adapala and Marion M Chan (2008) Long-term use of an antiinflammatory, curcumin, suppressed type 1 immunity and exacerbated visceral leishmaniasis in a chronic experimental model. Lab Invest. 2008 December ; 88(12): 1329–1339. doi:10.1038/labinvest.2008.90.

    S. Sharma, K. Chopra, S. K. Kulkarni and J. N. Agrewala (2006) Resveratrol and curcumin suppress immune response through CD28/CTLA-4 and CD80 co-stimulatory pathway. British Society for Immunology, Clinical and Experimental Immunology, 147: 155–163

    Sandhya A. Marathe, Seemun Ray, Dipshikha Chakravortty (2010) Curcumin Increases the Pathogenicity of Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium in Murine Model. July 2010 | Volume 5 | Issue 7 | e11511

  3. For Rosey: I don’t know about those products your husband is taking, but I’ve written quite a bit about the Th1 response issue…all you have to do is search my blog using the handy “Search” box on the right.

    I have been taking the C3 Complex curcumin used in the MM and MGUS trials…for years, now. And every time I go see my hematologist, she’s surprised I don’t have chronic infections, colds etc. In sum, I should be sick all the time, because my immune system is almost non-existent. She (and I, of course!) has come to the conclusion that it’s the curcumin that keeps me healthy. No other explanation.

    Lots of things depress the Th1 response, including aspirin and dexamethasone, as I’ve written in my Th1 posts. And probably (almost certainly!) to a much higher degree than curcumin.

    Perhaps your husband could try switching to the C3 Complex curcumin for a while, to see if his susceptibility to colds improves a bit? Just a thought.

  4. Hi Margaret ,
    Pls tell is curcumin imune suppressive or imune buster .. I have ankylosing spondolyties and if it is immune buster my pain will increase .. For 7 days i have taken it , and my pain has increase , I can’t understand whTs going on … But my brother have ankylosing plus uvities he also taking curcumin but he has no problem at all … Pls share your knowledge and idea …

  5. Hi
    What is the relation between curcumin and common cold?Can it weak the immune system and so having a predisposing effects on getting cold?

  6. Margaret—my son has had Multiple Myeloma for 10 years now and his labs are now showing that his immune system is in really bad shape. He usd to take curcumin in the beginning and helped so much but then it seemed to quit helping so he quit but now that he has no immunity, I am saying he shoukd go back on. Can you tell me what kind to take and how much . He really needs to build up his whole immunity. Antibodies and etc.

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