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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Synthetic versus natural curcumin: bioequivalence in an in vitro oral mucositis model

Sonja C Lüer1*, Jeannette Goette2, Rolf Troller3 and Christoph Aebi13

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Bern, Inselspital, Bern CH-3010, Switzerland

2 Institute of Hospital Pharmacy, University of Bern, Inselspital, Bern CH-3010, Switzerland

3 Institute for Infectious Diseases, University of Bern, Inselspital, Bern CH-3010, Switzerland

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:53  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-53

Published: 11 February 2014



Curcumin (CUR) is a dietary spice and food colorant (E100). Its potent anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting the activation of Nuclear Factor-κB is well established.


The aim of this study was to compare natural purified CUR (nCUR) with synthetically manufactured CUR (sCUR) with respect to their capacity to inhibit detrimental effects in an in vitro model of oral mucositis. The hypothesis was to demonstrate bioequivalence of nCUR and sCUR.


The purity of sCUR was HPLC-confirmed. Adherence and invasion assays for bacteria to human pharyngeal epithelial cells demonstrated equivalence of nCUR and sCUR. Standard assays also demonstrated an identical inhibitory effect on pro-inflammatory cytokine/chemokine secretion (e.g., interleukin-8, interleukin-6) by Detroit pharyngeal cells exposed to bacterial stimuli. There was bioequivalence of sCUR and nCUR with respect to their antibacterial effects against various pharyngeal species.


nCUR and sCUR are equipotent in in vitro assays mimicking aspects of oral mucositis. The advantages of sCUR include that it is odorless and tasteless, more easily soluble in DMSO, and that it is a single, highly purified molecule, lacking the batch-to-batch variation of CUR content in nCUR. sCUR is a promising agent for the development of an oral anti-mucositis agent.

Curcumin; Synthetic; Bioequivalence; Mucositis; Cancer; Chemotherapy