The Essential Medicinal Chemistry of Curcumin

Kathryn M. Nelson, Jayme L. Dahlin, Jonathan Bisson, James Graham, Guido F. Pauli, Michael A. Walters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

623 Scopus citations


Curcumin is a constituent (up to ∼5%) of the traditional medicine known as turmeric. Interest in the therapeutic use of turmeric and the relative ease of isolation of curcuminoids has led to their extensive investigation. Curcumin has recently been classified as both a PAINS (pan-assay interference compounds) and an IMPS (invalid metabolic panaceas) candidate. The likely false activity of curcumin in vitro and in vivo has resulted in >120 clinical trials of curcuminoids against several diseases. No double-blinded, placebo controlled clinical trial of curcumin has been successful. This manuscript reviews the essential medicinal chemistry of curcumin and provides evidence that curcumin is an unstable, reactive, nonbioavailable compound and, therefore, a highly improbable lead. On the basis of this in-depth evaluation, potential new directions for research on curcuminoids are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1620-1637
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of medicinal chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 9 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
J.L.D., J.B., J.G., and G.F.P. acknowledge Dr. Brian Shoichet for helpful discussions. J.B. and G.F.P. acknowledge funding from NCCIH and ODS/NIH through Grant U41AT008706. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The opinions or assertions contained herein belong to the authors and are not necessarily the official views of the funders.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Chemical Society.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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