There is growing interest in the use of natural compounds such as phytochemicals in medicine. Turmeric is known to possess many health benefits and has been used for centuries for culinary and traditional uses. Its most potent phytochemical, curcumin, has been subject to extensive research and
exhibits biological activities, including anti-cancer activities. However, it has not been approved for therapeutic use due to poor bioavailability. Recently, efforts have turned to improving its bioavailability, such as the use of adjuvant phytochemicals. Turmeric contains a variety of phytochemicals, many of which also possess anti-cancer activities themselves. In this review, the
evidence for the superior bioavailability and chemopreventative activities of turmeric compared to curcumin alone are discussed, and mechanisms that may underlie these observations are highlighted. More research should be done to uncover the interactions of the phytochemicals within turmeric. Most research has focused on the use of curcumin and other phytochemicals as potential adjuvants in cancer treatment. However, a large proportion of cancers, particularly of the digestive system, are preventable, so the current review focuses on the chemopreventative potential of the phytochemicals discussed. Ultimately, consumption of turmeric and other foods rich in phytochemicals should be encouraged to reduce the incidence of cancer.
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