How Could Turmeric Prevent or Treat Prostate Cancer?

Promising research supports turmeric use for prostate cancer prevention

Turmeric is a spice that comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, part of the ginger family, which has been used for centuries in Asian cooking. Now research suggests that turmeric may help prevent or treat prostate cancer. Research has also shown that turmeric may help a wide variety of health conditions from acne to arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Turmeric roots and ground powder on a wooden spoon and inside a white bowl on a wooden table
manusapon kasosod / Moment / Getty Images

How Turmeric May Work

The popular herbal medicine contains the antioxidant curcumin, a curcuminoid that is responsible for turmeric’s yellow color and prevents inflammation by blocking molecules that cause it. Although the medicinal use of turmeric is not fully understood, the spice is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of illnesses.

Curcumin, the primary active ingredient in turmeric, protects the body in two ways: 

  • Enhancing the activity of an important detoxifying enzyme
  • Neutralizing molecules that cause DNA damage, such as free radicals

Studies of turmeric in rats have shown the spice to be vital in the prevention of kidney damage from toxins. Additional studies have shown that it may also have protective effects against colon, stomach, and skin cancer by stopping the replication of tumor cells in the lab. The effect in the human body is still being studied. 

Although research on turmeric as an anti-cancer supplement has been promising, especially in preventing and limiting the spread of prostate cancer, recent experiments suggest that it may interfere with the activity of some chemotherapy drugs.

Therefore, questions remain about its overall efficacy and clinical relevance as an adjunct to traditional cancer treatments.

Turmeric should not be used in lieu of chemotherapy or other traditional cancer treatments. So far there is not enough evidence to recommend turmeric for preventing or treating cancer, but research is ongoing. Delaying or avoiding treatment may result in poorer outcomes.


Several studies have looked into whether curcumin could be a cancer treatment with some promising results.

A 2015 study discovered that curcumin can restrict several cell-signaling pathways, thereby weakening tumor cell production. A second study found that curcumin may stop cancer-associated fibroblasts, connective tissue cells that hold malignant tumor cells together and signal others to join.

A third study found that combining curcumin and alpha-tomatine, which is found in tomatoes, helped stop the growth of cancer and may even speed up the death of cancer cells.

Another 2013 international laboratory study on bowel cancer cells looked at the effects of combined treatment with curcumin and chemotherapy. The researchers concluded that the combined treatment might be better than chemotherapy alone.

A problem highlighted by a number of review studies is that curcumin does not get absorbed easily. This makes it work less well as a treatment. Researchers are looking at ways of overcoming this problem.

More clinical human trials are needed before we know how well it works as a treatment for cancer.

How to Use Turmeric

Turmeric is usually found as a fine powder but is also available as a fluid extract, oil, or supplement. Many people enjoy turmeric as a tea with nutmeg and cinnamon. One should aim for 1/2 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons (500 to 1500 milligrams of curcuminoid) to maximize efficacy while avoiding side effects.

Some studies suggest that low doses of turmeric (1/2 teaspoon serving per day) may have some efficacy in conditions such as benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) or psoriasis, but larger confirmation studies are needed as only a small fraction of turmeric is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract at these low doses.

Turmeric can be added to smoothies and oats as a superfood for men’s health. Some research has also found that combining turmeric with certain vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, turnips, and cabbage can significantly reduce the risk of prostate cancer, as well as reduce the growth of tumors in some animal models.

Before Taking

Consult your healthcare provider prior to adding any supplement to your daily medication regimen, especially if you are being treated for prostate cancer or any other medical condition.

If you are already undergoing prostate cancer treatment, like chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy, it is crucial that you first complete your course of treatment before starting turmeric. 

It is important to keep an updated medication list—with the amount and frequency taken—to send it to your healthcare provider. Include reported side effects if they occur. If you plan to undergo surgery, tell your surgeon as turmeric may work like a blood thinner.

Side Effects

You may experience side effects if turmeric is taken in large doses. The most common side effects are stomach pain and inflammation of the skin if you come into contact with turmeric. Some people may experience an allergic reaction to turmeric, including rash, swelling, and redness if it touches the skin.  

Medical professionals caution patients with gastrointestinal disorders and those predisposed to kidney stone formation from taking turmeric supplements without first consulting their healthcare provider.

Treatment of Prostate Cancer

While some research has shown that turmeric can minimize the spread and even kill malignant prostate cancer cells, the research has been inconclusive on whether turmeric should be used as a stand-alone product for those with low grade cancers.

If left untreated, prostate cancer can be deadly. Prostate cancer is also the second most lethal cancer in men. Prostate health is important for all men as 1 in 5 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.

There is a growing body of research that supports evidence-based holistic measures such as turmeric supplementation for a wide variety of ailments, but medical professionals ardently encourage older men who experience symptoms of urgency, frequent urination, and weak or interrupted urine streams to contact their healthcare providers immediately.

A history and physical exam (including a digital rectal exam), imaging, a prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) and a biopsy can be used to diagnose prostate cancer. 

Traditional prostate cancer therapies include:

  • Prostate surgery to remove tissue or the entire prostate (radical prostatectomy)
  • Lymphadenectomy to remove pelvic lymph nodes
  • Radiation therapy
  • Radiopharmaceutical therapy and bisphosphonate therapy for prostate cancer that’s spread to the bone
  • Hormone therapy that removes or blocks hormones and stops cancer cell growth
  • Chemotherapy
  • Biologic therapy, which boosts, guides, or restores the body’s natural cancer-fighting defenses
8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Turmeric.

  2. Devassy JG, Nwachukwu ID, Jones PJ. Curcumin and cancer: Barriers to obtaining a health claimNutr Rev. 2015;73(3):155-165. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuu064

  3. Du Y, Long Q, Zhang L, et al. Curcumin inhibits cancer-associated fibroblast-driven prostate cancer invasion through MAOA/mTOR/HIF-1α signalingInt J Oncol. 2015;47(6):2064-2072. doi:10.3892/ijo.2015.3202

  4. Huang H, Chen X, Li D, et al. Combination of α-tomatine and curcumin inhibits growth and induces apoptosis in human prostate cancer cellsPLoS One. 2015;10(12):e0144293. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0144293

  5. Aggarwal BB, Gupta SC, Sung B. Curcumin: an orally bioavailable blocker of TNF and other pro-inflammatory biomarkersBr J Pharmacol. 2013;169(8):1672-1692. doi:10.1111/bph.12131

  6. Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A review of its effects on human healthFoods. 2017;6(10):92. doi:10.3390/foods6100092

  7. Khor TO, Keum YS, Lin W, et al. Combined inhibitory effects of curcumin and phenethyl isothiocyanate on the growth of human PC-3 prostate xenografts in immunodeficient miceCancer Res. 2006;66(2):613-621. doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-05-2708

  8. PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board. Prostate cancer treatment PDQ—patient version. National Cancer Institute.

By Shamard Charles, MD, MPH
Shamard Charles, MD, MPH is a public health physician and journalist. He has held positions with major news networks like NBC reporting on health policy, public health initiatives, diversity in medicine, and new developments in health care research and medical treatments.