Prostate health becomes a concern as a man grows older. The prostate is a small, walnut-sized gland between a man’s bladder and rectum.
Researchers have found that the spice turmeric and its extract, curcumin, may help prevent, and even treat prostate cancer. The warm, yellow spice contains anticancerous properties that may stop the spread and growth of prostate cancer cells.
About 8% of men are affected by symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia at the age of 40.
By 90 years of age, at least 60% of men experience urinary symptoms, such as nighttime urination and the inability to fully empty their bladder, caused by this condition. The risk of prostate cancer also becomes a more pressing concern with age.
Numerous natural remedies have been suggested to help men maintain a healthy prostate.
We take a closer look at whether turmeric is really an effective way for men to keep their prostate gland healthy.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a root plant that is processed to make spice by the same name. The spice has become exceptionally popular in regions such as Asia and India.
Many traditional dishes from these areas of the world use turmeric. This most commonly includes curries, but turmeric is sometimes used in mustards, cheeses, and even butter.
Turmeric contains a chemical that is known as curcumin – this is the active ingredient that causes the spice to have a yellowish color.
Curcumin is not only the chemical that causes the yellow color, but also what makes turmeric a potentially effective medicinal plant for inflammation, pain, and many other conditions. It has been shown to help with the following conditions:
- ulcerative colitis (UC)
- stomach ulcers
- degenerative joint disease
- heart disease
- high cholesterol levels
- problems with liver
- viral and bacterial infections
- neurogenerative diseases
While turmeric has been shown to yield positive health benefits in terms of inflammation and other symptoms, it is important to realize that eating the spice itself is unlikely to produce these benefits.
The turmeric root contains curcumin, which is a type of pf polyphenol. This chemical is what causes turmeric to produce medicinal effects in the human body.
There is, however, very little of this chemical in turmeric spice. Thus, when the spice is consumed, quite a large amount would need to be used to provide the body with enough of the curcumin chemical to feel its effects.
The health benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric has been shown to yield several benefits for both men and women. The bioactive compound known as curcumin has been proven to possess potent antioxidant capabilities.
What this means is that turmeric can help the body fight against oxidative stress – caused by free radicals.
Oxidative stress has been linked to several adverse effects in the body, including inflammation and cancer.
Let’s take a look at some of the essential benefits that have been associated with turmeric and curcumin:
- Curcumin is known to be a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Even though acute inflammatory responses are useful in the body, long-term exposure to chronic inflammation can be harmful and lead to disease.
Studies have shown that curcumin is able to block a molecule known as NF-kB, which triggers an inflammatory response in the body. It has also been found that curcumin may provide an anti-inflammatory effect that is similar to that of using anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical drugs.
- We have touched the fact that curcumin acts as an antioxidant in the body. In addition to this, studies have also shown that the chemical helps to improve the body’s own capability of fighting against free radicals and oxidative damage. This is because the enzymes linked to antioxidant activities in the body seems to become more effective with the use of curcumin supplements.
- Curcumin might also be effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. One study found that endothelial function is significantly improved with the use of curcumin.
In fact, the efficacy of curcumin was found to be similar to the potency of Atorvastatin. This is a pharmaceutical drug that helps to improve endothelial function. In another study, there was a 65% reduction in the risk of suffering a heart attack among patients with heart disease risks who were hospitalized.
- People who are at risk of conditions like Alzheimer’s also seem to benefit from the effects of turmeric and curcumin supplements. The benefits of turmeric for the brain is well established.
One study showed that the use of curcumin supplements could actually cross what is known as the blood-brain barrier. According to one study, the use of curcumin leads to a reduction in the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain.
This type of plaque has been linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, the use of these supplements could potentially help to prevent the disease.
- Curcumin also seems to pose as an effective treatment for arthritis. This is one of the main areas that research is currently focused on – determining how curcumin helps patients diagnosed with arthritis.
There is one study that actually showed curcumin yields a reduction in inflammation in affected joints more effectively than pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory drugs. The patients in this study were all diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Turmeric and prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is one of the most concerning forms of this disease among men. In the United States, over 170,000 new cases of this cancer are diagnosed each year.
There are also more than 31,000 men who die from prostate cancer in the country each year. Prostate cancer is expected to affect about one in every nine men at some point in their life.
Early diagnosis and intervention with prostate cancer have been shown to yield positive effects. However, the prevention of the disease is certainly preferred. Some men may also experience a more invasive type of prostate cancer – and in such a case, the cancerous cells may spread to other areas of the body.
Several studies have looked at how turmeric interacts with cancer. It has been found that the use of turmeric and curcumin supplements may effectively help to reduce the risk of several cancer types.
Some studies have also shown beneficial effects when turmeric is used among patients who have already been diagnosed with this disease.
A study in the AAPS Journal found that curcumin is able to reduce the angiogenesis effects within tumor growth. Angiogenesis is a term used to describe the development of new blood vessels within the tumors that have grown in the patient’s body.
Additionally, the same study describes that curcumin might be potentially effective at destroying cells that are considered cancerous.
There also seems to be a possibility that curcumin may reduce the risk of cancer metastasis. This is a term used to describe the spreading of cancer to other regions of the body.
A study that was published in the Journal of Nutritional Reviews provided further evidence of how curcumin may be a powerful component in the treatment of cancer.
In this study, it was shown that curcumin might hold the potential as a therapeutic agent for several types of cancers, including:
In this study, researchers showed that curcumin works by altering certain pathways that are involved in the formation of cancer. In turn, this may cause cancerous cells to become weaker.
When it comes to looking at prostate cancer in particular, we should turn our focus to a study in the International Journal of Oncology.
In this study, it was shown that curcumin could effectively inhibit MAOA/mTOR/HIF-1a signaling. What this essentially means is that the development of fibroblasts associated with cancer can be stopped with this chemical.
Fibroblasts are responsible for producing collagen and classified as a type of connective tissue cell. Fibroblasts also produce other types of fibers.
Fibroblasts have been linked to prostate cancer development. When the signaling related to the activity of fibroblasts is inhibited, curcumin is able to reduce the likeliness of prostate cancer developing.
A research paper in the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer shows that curcumin may also be a useful complementary therapeutic solution for patients undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer.
In this paper, researchers describe a potential radiosensitizing effect caused by the curcumin chemical. At the same time, there seems to be a radioprotective effect associated with the use of the chemical.
This combination essentially means that the tumor cells in the prostate gland of the patient being treated will be more susceptible to the radiation used during cancer treatment.
In another study, scientists also revealed that the use of curcumin could reduce the impact that radiation therapy seems to have on the urinary tract.
A large number of men who undergo radiation therapy for prostate cancer tend to experience urinary symptoms. With the use of curcumin, these side-effects could be potentially avoided – or symptoms would at least not be as severe.
What the research says
Prostate cancer is not the only area of male health, where the use of curcumin could be useful. Scientific research has revealed that turmeric could be useful for any man – even when they do not have any existing problems with their prostate.
The use of curcumin may be able to effectively prevent the development of common issues that men tend to face with their prostate. The earlier the use of curcumin is initiated, the more significant of a reduction may be experienced.
Apart from being able to prevent the development of certain prostate-related conditions, curcumin is also beneficial for men who do have an existing disease or condition that affect this gland.
The most important benefit of turmeric is its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. When a curcumin extract is used, it can effectively reduce the signaling of inflammatory pathways in the body.
Both benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostatitis feature inflammation. With BPH, however, there is also an actual enlargement of the prostate gland, caused by excessive tissue growth.
The Journal of BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that the use of curcumin may be an effective way of inhibiting the effects of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
During the study, animal models were used to determine whether curcumin would be able to effectively inhibit the enlargement of the prostate gland – when BPH is induced with the use of testosterone supplementation.
The scientists found that the subjects provided curcumin while they were fed testosterone supplements did not develop BPH. The conclusion here is that curcumin is, in fact, effective at preventing this condition. Further human studies are needed to provide more accurate results, however.
A Frontiers in Pharmacology Journal entry explains that several polyphenols, of which curcumin is one, may pose as potential alternative treatments for benign prostatic hyperplasia.
The study compares the efficacy of curcumin, along with other natural chemicals classified as polyphenols, to that of medicines that are often prescribed to patients with this condition.
A study in the Panminerva Medica Journal looked at how a specific curcumin delivery system was able to assist in the management of BPH.
The researchers behind the study found that the curcumin extract was highly effective at supporting an existing treatment strategy.
There seemed to be a reduction of symptoms associated with BPH in the patients who were provided with the lecithinized curcumin.
The researchers also noted that no serious side-effects were observed among those who took the curcumin extract. Thus, the use of these supplements poses as an effective solution for improving symptoms without causing further risks.
How to use Turmeric
Turmeric is traditionally a spice that is made from a plant root. The spice is used in cooking – especially Indian and Asian dishes. It can also be used as:
- a supplement
- a fluid extract
- an herbal tincture
As we have mentioned previously, the main chemical of interest when it comes to looking at the use of turmeric for prostate health is curcumin. The concentration of curcumin in turmeric as a spice is extremely low.
Men are advised to opt for supplements that contain curcumin as an ingredient to benefit from the potent effects. These supplements are taken as an oral tablet. The dosage and number of servings required on a daily basis differ from one supplement to the next.
Users should ensure they look at the usage instructions provided on the label of the product and adhere to the specific number of servings that are advised per day.
Many supplements would also combine turmeric with other ingredients. This is as to provide more of an impact on the existing inflammation that may be affecting the user’s prostate.
For a more potent effect, curcumin supplements should ideally be combined with a compound known as Bioperine. This is an extract from black pepper. It has been shown to increase the bioavailability and absorption rate of the curcumin chemical by as much as 2000%.
Are there any risks of taking Turmeric?
Turmeric, as a spice, is generally considered very safe. Most people who do want to take advantage of the health properties of the spice tend to opt for supplements.
These would contain a concentrated turmeric extract. For a more potent effect, supplements with the active ingredient curcumin are used.
In these cases, there are a few side-effects that have been reported among users.
Some of the side-effects that may be experienced by men who decided to take turmeric or curcumin supplements include:
- Stomach upset
These are not serious side-effects, and men who do experience these adverse reactions tend to recover from them quickly.
It is important to note that in rare cases, an abnormal heart rhythm has been reported. This can be a dangerous side-effect. When this side-effect is experienced, the user should immediately stop taking the turmeric supplements and seek medical assistance.
Turmeric is not just a spice that adds color and an earthy taste to some dishes but may also be a critical part of keeping the prostate healthy among men.
The spice has natural anti-inflammatory properties that could help to shrink an enlarged prostate. Additionally, it may also play a role in cancer prevention.