Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw’s®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 15 No. 4 • August 2012

Potential Efficacy of Curcumin
In Treatment of Inflamed Tendons

An in vitro study of cultured human tendon cells (tenocytes) derived from a healthy finger tendon of a single male middle aged donor during tendon-rupture surgery was conducted in order to study in detail the mechanism of curcumin in the inflammatory signaling of the proinflammatory cytokine IL-1beta and to investigate whether curcumin might antagonize the catabolic effects of this and other powerful inflammatory cytokines by suppressing the activation of NFkappaB—a master regulator of inflammation—as well as NFkappaB-induced gene expression. By following a complex map of inflammatory regulation using amazingly sophisticated experimental tools, the researchers were able to determine that curcumin regulates a series of inflammatory mediators and predict that “curcumin might have prophylactic potential for the treatment of tendinitis.”1 Curcumin and related curcuminoids are found in turmeric, a yellow spice used in generous quantities in curry dishes.

The researchers explain that “[t]endinopathy is accompanied by inflammation and degradation of the tendon extracellular matrix ... [where] pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-1beta may initiate a cascade of events leading to tendon destruction and loss of biomechanical structural integrity.” Part of the destruction involves a catabolic process in which there is down-regulation of structural components such as collagen types I and III, decorin, and tenomodulin in tenocytes; the latter are all suppressed by IL-1beta. The authors consider the control of IL-1beta to possibly be “critical” for protecting tendons from pathological inflammatory processes that involve subsequent activation of specific transcription factors such as NF-kappaB.

The authors found that “curcumin suppresses the activation of NF-kappaB in human tenocytes in vitro and inhibits the expression of NF-kappaB gene products, including COX-2 [an inflammatory enzyme], MMPs [matrix degrading enzymes], Bax, and caspase-3.” (Bax and caspase-3 are involved in the process of apoptosis, programmed cell death.) “Curcumin at concentrations of 5–20 uM inhibited IL-1beta-induced inflammation and apoptosis [programmed cell death] in cultures of human tenocytes.”1 The researchers point out that, importantly, the treatment time as well as the concentration may determine the effects of curcumin on various cell types.”

Furthermore, the authors explain that in human phase I clinical trials, oral doses of curcumin have been found to be safely administered at doses of 0.2–12 g/day with no dose limiting toxicity, being eliminated within 12 hours. They also cite a phase II study of curcumin that reported biological activity in patients with pancreatic cancer.

This paper is a good example of the sort of sophisticated and exquisitely designed study that can isolate the contribution of various aspects of a complex interaction to identify what is causing what so as to potentially control disease. And all this for the sake of helping people deal with inflamed tendons!

The work was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and The Wellcome Trust, UK.


  1. Buhrmann et al. Curcumin modulates nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB)-mediated inflammation in human tenocytes in vitro. J Biol Chem 286(32):28556-66 (2011).

FREE Subscription

  • You're just getting started! We have published thousands of scientific health articles. Stay updated and maintain your health.

    It's free to your e-mail inbox and you can unsubscribe at any time.
    Loading Indicator