Curcumin, a compound present in that yellow curry spice turmeric, has been shown to kill cancer cells. A new study found that the chemical, which has long been thought to have curative properties, begins to kill esophageal cancer cells within 24 hours of application. The reaction also causes the cells to consume themselves after triggering “lethal cell death signals,” the BBC reports.
“Scientists have known for a long time that natural compounds have the potential to treat faulty cells that have become cancerous and we suspected that curcumin might have therapeutic value,” a researcher says. Esophageal cancer rates have been on the rise since the 1970s, perhaps as consequence of the uptick in obesity. An expert praised the research, predicting “natural chemicals found in turmeric could be developed into new treatments.”