Curcumin (diferuloyl methane), a small-molecular weight compound isolated from the roots of Curcuma longa L. (family Zingiberaceae), has been used traditionally for centuries in Asia for medicinal, culinary and other purposes. A large number of in vitro and in vivo studies in both animals and man have indicated that curcumin has strong antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-angiogenic, antispasmodic, antimicrobial, anti-parasitic and other activities. The mechanisms of some of these actions have recently been intensively investigated. Curcumin inhibits the promotion/ progression stage of carcinogenesis by induction of apoptosis and the arrest of cancer cells in the S, G2/M cell cycle phase. The compound inhibits the activity of growth factor receptors. The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin are mediated through their effects on cytokines, lipid mediators, eicosanoids and proteolytic enzymes. Curcumin scavenges the superoxide radical, hydrogen peroxide and nitric oxide, and inhibits lipid peroxidation. These actions may be the basis for many of its pharmacological and therapeutic properties. Curcumin is a nutraceutical of low toxicity, which has been used successfully in a number of medical conditions that include cataracts, cystic fibrosis, and prostate and colon cancers.
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