How Turmeric Benefits Breast Health [UPDATED]

Breast changes take place throughout a woman’s life.

Age, medicines, hormone levels all these play a role in these changes which can take the form of lumps, and fluid discharges which is not breast milk.

Anyone with such changes to the breasts is advised to consult a doctor immediately especially to rule out breast cancer.

Some common breast disorders:

  • Fibrocystic breast changes which occur before a menstrual cycle and cause thickening, lumpiness and swelling of breasts
  • Cysts which are fluid-filled lumps
  • Blocked milk ducts
  • Intraductal papillomas which are wart-like growths around the nipples
  • Milk secretion even in women who are not breastfeeding
  • Fibroadenomas which are round, rubbery, solid lumps which move around and occur in younger women.
  • Mastitis which usually affects breastfeeding women is a breast tissue infection. This causes swelling, pain, redness and warmth of the breasts accompanied by fever and chills.
  • Breast cancer is the most serious of all breast disorders and occurs when tumors form in the breast tissue. This can spread to surrounding organs and tissues. Diet, ethnicity, genetics and age can all be contributing factors to breast cancer.

How Turmeric Benefits Breast Health

Primarily turmeric benefits in breast cancer; however its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties benefit in various breast related disorders.

1. Curcumin kills breast cancer cells

Turmeric and Curcumin have natural anti-cancer activity.

A recent study published in Cancer Cell International, 2017 demonstrated that curcumin and its derivatives can terminate breast cancer cells by arresting their development in various phases of cell cycle and growth and inducing cell death.

Curcumin nanoparticles are found to be more effective than curcumin in exerting anti-proliferative effect against breast cancer cells. It also prevents metastasis of breast cancer cells.

Wang et.al have proven that curcumin and berberine have a synergistic anti-cancer action in breast cancer and may benefit in treatment and prevention of breast cancer.

Research by Saab et.al highlights that curcumin may be beneficial in the treatment of non-malignant or benign breast tumors as well. A study published in Anticancer Research 2005, demonstrates that curcumin regulates as many as 30 genes and acts on multiple biochemical pathways in order to destroy breast cancer cells.

Researchers in France have conducted a clinical trial to identify the dose suitable for advanced or metastatic breast cancer treatment. As per the study, the recommended dose of curcumin is 6000mg per day for 7 consecutive days every 3 weeks along with standard docetaxel treatment.

What does this mean?

Curcumin in turmeric benefits in breast cancer and reverses drug resistance.

2. Topical turmeric benefits in external breast cancer lesions

Kuttan et.al published a study in 1987 on ‘Turmeric and Curcumin as topical agents in cancer therapy’.

This study involved patients who had external cancerous lesions and some of them were breast cancer lesions. These lesions did not respond to treatment.

Turmeric tincture was mixed with petroleum jelly and patients were asked to apply this preparation thrice a day on the external lesions.

90% individuals experienced a reduction in smell. Itching reduced in almost all cases. 70% individuals experienced drying up of lesions. 10% of patients experienced a reduction in lesion size and pain.

For more details please read 6 Benefits of Topical Turmeric In Cancer

What does this mean?
Topical application of curcumin can benefit in external breast cancerous lesions by bringing about reduction in pain, smell and itching.

3. Curcumin benefits in breast cancer therapy

Curcumin serves as chemosensitizer and radiosensitizer – it increases the effectiveness of cancer therapy (Read How Turmeric Increases Efficacy of Chemotherapy, How Turmeric Increases Efficacy of Radiotherapy)

A study published in International Journal of Oncology, 2016 reveals that curcumin increases the apoptotic (apoptosis means cell death) effect of paclitaxel (chemotherapeutic drug) in breast cancer and its concomitant use may reduce the toxicity of the therapy.

Curcumin and doxorubicin combination is found to be effective in treating drug resistant breast cancer.

Kumar et.al have identified that curcumin can be an effective adjuvant treatment in breast cancer as it increases the effectiveness of chemotherapeutic drugs and kills cancer cells and prevents metastasis.

Researchers at University of Rochester Medical Center have proven that daily supplementation of 2g curcumin three times a day (total 6 g) significantly reduces the rate of radiation dermatitis in patients suffering from breast cancer and receiving radiotherapy.

What does this mean?
Curcumin increases the sensitivity of chemotherapeutic drugs and protects from toxicity of cancer therapy in breast cancer.

4. Curcumin remedies lactational mastitis

Lactational mastitis is a condition faced commonly by breastfeeding women. Blockage of breast ducts leads to milk stasis which gives rise to inflammation in breast tissue and pain.

In some cases, it may trigger infection.

A study was conducted which involved 63 breastfeeding women suffering from lactational mastitis. They were treated with either topical curcumin ( 1 pump every 8 hours for 3 days) or a topical moisturizer as a placebo.

After 72 hours, it was observed that patients in the topical curcumin group had a reduced rate of mild to moderate mastitis.

Reduction in scores of pain, tension, swelling, and redness was also observed. No side effects were observed.

Researchers concluded that topical curcumin can be an effective solution to reducing pain and inflammation in lactational mastitis.

What does this mean?
Research shows that topical curcumin application can reduce breast inflammation or mastitis in lactation.

turmeric for breast health

5. Turmeric protects from infectious conditions

Breast infection is common in breastfeeding women; however, a small percentage of non-lactating women may also present with a breast infection. This may lead to breast inflammation or mastitis and in severe cases may even cause abscess.

The causative bacteria included Staphylococcus aureus as well as its drug resistant strain MRSA. It may cause swelling of the breast tissue, pus like discharge from the nipple, pain, and redness.

Research suggests that curcumin has broad spectrum anti-microbial action- it acts against infections caused by bacteria, virus or even fungi.

Curcumin shows bactericidal activity against Staphylococcus aureus by damaging the cell membrane and destroying bacteria.

It reverses drug resistance in MRSA infection and has a synergistic action with other antibiotics in treatment of MRSA.

What does this mean?
Curcumin’s anti-microbial action can target Staphylcococcus aureus – the most common causative microorganism of breast infection.

6. Curcumin attenuates premenstrual syndrome symptoms

Many women experience breast tenderness and pain as part of premenstrual syndrome. Curcumin works as a phytoestrogen and benefits in menstruation. (Read 8 Benefits Of Turmeric In Menstruation)

A study was conducted where 70 women suffering from premenstrual syndrome were treated with either curcumin or placebo. They received 2 capsules of 100mg curcumin each per day, 7 days prior to menstruation and 3 days after menstruation. This was followed by 3 consecutive menstrual cycles.

A decrease of 59.59 points was observed in baseline and post –treatment premenstrual syndrome severity score was observed in curcumin group while only a decrease of 14.45 points was observed in placebo group.

A significant improvement in physical, mood and behavioral symptoms were observed in the curcumin group.

Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effect and ability to regulate neurotransmitter levels was beneficial in alleviating premenstrual syndrome.

What does this mean?
Curcumin can help minimize severity of pre-menstrual syndrome and this effect may impact the changes that affect breast health with every menstrual cycle.

7. Turmeric’s medicinal properties may benefit from various breast disorders

Mastitis is breast inflammation which could result due to inflammatory or reactive changes but is most commonly observed in lactation. Granulomatous mastitis occurs as a result of systemic autoimmune conditions or even tuberculosis of the breast.

Fibrocystic breast disorders are characterized by a change in breast tissue and may present with breast lumps. Cysts in brest tissue are also a common condition that affects women of the age group of 35-50 years.

Though no study has investigated this, turmeric and curcumin have a number of pharmacological properties that could benefit in these conditions.

Curcumin has a natural anti-inflammatory property and acts on diverse biochemical signalling pathways in order to reduce inflammatory reactions and levels of inflammatory mediators.

It is proven to be a safe natural anti-inflammatory agent for human use.

Diet is found to play an influential role in development of benign breast diseases. Curcuminoids are natural antioxidants found in turmeric.

They help build an antioxidant defense and reduce oxidative stress.

Curcumin has immunomodulatory property-it can regulate immune responses. This is beneficial in autoimmune conditions which may cause disorders of the breast.

Curcumin’s epigenetic regulation- ability to regulate gene activity prior to expression can help in chemoprevention of breast cancer; this is of relevance to genetic inheritance of breast cancer traits.

What does this mean?
Curcumin’s intrinsic pharmacological properties can benefit in prevention and treatment of various benign breast disorders.

Dosage of Turmeric For Breast Health

There is no specific dosage of turmeric prescribed for breast conditions. A good start is to include turmeric in diet. It can be sprinkled on salads and soups, included in smoothies, rice preparations, curries, etc.

Curcumin in turmeric is poorly absorbed in the body. (Read How to improve Turmeric’s Bioavailability) Piperine, the compound offers a pungent taste to black pepper, increases the absorption of curcumin.

Curcumin is poorly soluble in water but readily soluble in fats, therefore fats also help absorption of curcumin. Heat also increases the absorption of curcumin. (Read Do you need to cook turmeric to get its benefits?)

Golden Paste combines these 3 elements with turmeric to give you a really effective way of taking turmeric at home. (Read How to make Turmeric or Golden Paste) You can even make Golden Paste from fresh turmeric roots.

Start with small doses say ¼-1/2 tsp a day and follow for a week. If no side effects are observed then gradually increase the dose by ¼ or ½ tsp every week. The suggested dose is 1-2 tsp 2-3 times a day (precisely 1 tsp 3 times a day).

However, one dose does not suit all; some may require more some do fine on less. A good dose is one where you do not experience gastric discomfort and get the health benefits or relief from the disease.

Avoid taking it on an empty stomach. (Read Does turmeric cause acid reflux?) Avoid taking it close to the time of taking any medication. (Read Black Pepper in GP: Does it cause drug interactions?)

Turmeric Milk also taken on a regular basis (1 cup per day) can reap some awesome health benefits. For tea lovers, there is Turmeric Tea.

For the dosage of turmeric for breast cancer, refer to Turmeric/Curcumin Dosage For Cancer: A Scientific Plan

Consult a health practitioner before taking turmeric supplements.

Precautions

Turmeric in diet is a very safe, but there are a few precautions and possible side effects one should be aware of. (Read Side effects of Turmeric)

High doses of turmeric may cause gastric discomfort. Avoid taking it on an empty stomach. Start with small doses of turmeric and increase gradually.

This would give your body time to adjust and minimize the possibility of gastric discomfort.

Curcumin in turmeric has anti-platelet property. It is advisable to take turmeric with caution if suffering from bleeding or clotting disorder or if taking anti-coagulant medications.

Dietary turmeric should not pose such risk but it is best to consult a health practitioner before taking turmeric in such a case. (Read Is Turmeric A Blood Thinner?)

Curcumin supplements should be discontinued 2 weeks prior to any surgical procedure to minimize any bleeding risks.

Curcumin at low doses causes gallbladder contraction. If suffering from gallstones or bile duct obstruction, this contraction may cause pain hence curcumin supplements should be avoided in such conditions. (Read Is it safe to take turmeric in gallstones?)

Turmeric is high in oxalates hence turmeric as a spice must be consumed in moderation in case of gout or kidney stones. Curcumin supplements may benefit in such cases. (Read Is Turmeric Safe in gout? Does turmeric cause kidney stones?)

Curcumin in turmeric interferes in drug metabolism. Avoid taking curcumin supplements at the same time as any medication, maintain a 3-4 hour gap.

Consult a health practitioner before taking curcumin supplements.

Conclusion

Quite a significant number of research studies have proven that curcumin benefits in breast cancer treatment and prevents metastasis. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory property can benefit from mastitis.

Its ability to regulate hormones can help mitigate changes in breast health prior to menses. Turmeric’s anti-microbial action can benefit in any infectious conditions affecting the breast tissue.

However, in case of the breast lump or breast pain, it is best to consult a health practitioner for a definitive diagnosis.

Turmeric can benefit other aspects of female health as well. (Read 10 Benefits Of Turmeric In Female Health, How turmeric benefits female reproductive system, 8 Benefits of Turmeric In Menstruation, 11 Benefits of Turmeric In Menopause)

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About the Author

Aakanksha (BSc. Plant Biology)

Turmeric for Health's writer team consists of passionate writers from the fields of biotechnology, pharmacy, nutrition, Ayurveda & microbiology.Our writers are highly qualified with many having Ph.D., M.Tech & MSc degrees while others having B.Tech, BSc, B.Pharm. Our differentiation lies in researching and presenting ONLY FACTUAL SCIENTIFIC information. We spend 10s of hours to write a single article. Info of our articles is sourced from reliable scientific sources which are also provided as a link alongside for readers to refer if they want. You can read more about our team in the " About us" section.

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