Favorite Female Herbs - Curcuma longa

Best for: Breast cancer prevention

This yellow Indian spice is related to ginger, and has been long been loved for its anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers are now taking a long look at its potential activity against tumours. Last year alone, there were over 250 studies published about curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric.

Curcumin has multiple effects. It is anti-bacterial,  anti-fungal and a strong anti-inflammatory agent. It inhibits some classes of leukotrienes, which are inflammatory compounds associated with different types of arthritis. It prevents auto-immunity and protects the nervous system. It also increases the production of glutathione, an important anti-oxidant made by the liver.

With regard to cancer, turmeric induces cell-death in cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells undamaged. According to recent studies, curcumin inhibits the release of a transcription factor that is made by cancer cells.

With specific regard to breast cancer, turmeric has been shown to potentiate the action of certain types of chemotherapy. It does this by increasing the sensitivity of the cancer cell to the drug. Curcumin has also been shown to prevent the spread of breast cancer to the lungs and other parts of the body.

An average serving of curry contains 250mg of turmeric. Most herbal tablets contain between 300 and 1000mg of turmeric. Concentrated tablet form is recommended for those with a more serious risk of breast cancer. Consult your health care practitioner before taking any new supplment. 

You can also add turmeric powder to food (use with black pepper and coconut/olive oil or ghee (clarified butter) for best absorption.

Precautions: Do not take turmeric if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. There is some evidence that it causes DNA damage, and theoretically could damage the fetus. There is no actual record of this occurring however, and millions of pregnant women do eat curry, however, a concentrated tablet may pose a risk.