Curcumin, a concentrated extract of the herb, turmeric, is a widely used medicinal agent purported to deliver significant anti-inflammatory and other pharmacological activities. As much as curcumin presents a narrower range of pharmacological activity over the whole herb, the extract is still comprised of multiple curcuminoid constituents that contribute to a polypharmacology. Curcumin has been administered successfully in clinical trials to treat depression; Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases; autoimmune and auto inflammatory disorders; and various types and stages of cancer with reasonable success but also with conflicting reports. Upon meta-analysis of the plethora of curcumin-related research it is evident that the pharmacology of this extract is not fully understood.
The naturally occurring, highly homologous curcuminoid analogues are assumed to partake in similar and additive pharmacological events due to their common structural features. However, a perspective shift is presented to feature their electrochemical and structural differences and highlight the potential for each curcuminoid to also exhibit unique pharmacology that is distinct from the others. This, in part, is shown to help explain curcumin's polypharmcology when administered to treat multiple diseases that manifest with pathological features and symptoms, nevertheless, that are quite diverse.
A full review explains how highly hydrophobic and extremely reactive curcuminoid chemistry can still be administered orally; is bioavailable despite conflicting reports that it is not; and delivers efficacious pharmacology systemically as a direct function of the parent curcuminoid molecules and in an additive manner through the accompanying auto-oxidative degradation by-products of the parent curcuminoids.
Franco Cavaleri and William Jia
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