Turmeric, the yellow-coloured spice, is native to India and has been used since time immemorial to cure many health ailments. It is considered to be a ‘superfood’ and is a staple in all Indian kitchens. Additionally, its usage has been long embedded in Ayurveda, and it has been cited to promote the holistic health of the body.
Modern medicine, perhaps influenced by ancient practices, has been working on the curative properties of the compound ‘curcumin’ found in turmeric. However, low solubility, half-life, and the poor bioavailability of curcumin, in a drug form, are some of the obstacles.
Now, thanks to a team of researchers from the University of Hyderabad, the humble spice might just be at the center of a significant new medical breakthrough.
Dr Ashwin Nangia of the University of Hyderabad, is leading a team of researchers who claim that a new co-amorphous solid, Curcumin Artemisinin (CUR-ART) has been found to solve the problems mentioned above. Artemisinin is incidentally a plant-derived compound.
To combat ailments, any drug needs to be effective in two ways—it needs to be easily soluble in blood, and stay in the system long enough to be potent. Pure Curcumin, isn’t soluble, nor does it remain in the body for long.
The researchers in Hyderabad found that when CUR-ART co-amorphous in solid form, was administered orally to mice at a dose of 200 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of body weight, solubility levels of 0.90 – 1.23 microgram per milliliter of blood was recorded in 30 minutes.
This is considerably better than pure curcumin, which has a very low solubility.Furthermore, it was observed that CUR-ART stayed in their system for a longer time (6-7 hours) as compared to pure curcumin (less than an hour).
Finally, when CUR-ART was tested in Simulated Gastric Fluid and Simulated Intestinal Fluid, it was observed that CUR was present for a long time in both mediums to release a high concentration of CUR over an extended time period which is required for any drug to be effective against diseases.
The researchers also tested the effectiveness of CUR-ART on a pancreatic tumour. A dosage of 100mg/kg, given to mice for five weeks, showed that the tumour had an inhibition percentage of 61.87 %, close to that of the drug, Doxorubicin, which had a 69.97% inhibition percentage.
Most importantly, if plant-based cures are used, side effects are not a threat. The Hyderabad team carried out toxicology tests and got positive results—no adverse effects even after a substantial increase in dosage.
Dr Nangia, sounding optimistic about the future of CUR-ART, says that animal trials should pave the way for human trials, once drug companies show interest.