Abstract More than 30 Curcuma species (Zingiberaceae) are found in Asia, where the rhizomes of these plants are used as both food and medicine, such as in traditional Chinese medicine. The plants are usually aromatic and carminative, and are used to treat indigestion, hepatitis, jaundice, diabetes, atherosclerosis and bacterial infections. Among the Curcuma species, C. longa, C. aromatica and C. xanthorrhiza are popular. The main constituents of Curcuma species are curcuminoids and bisabolane-type sesquiterpenes. Curcumin is the most important constituent among natural curcuminoids found in these plants. Published research has described the biological effects and chemistry of curcumin. Curcumin derivatives have been evaluated for bioactivity and structure-activity relationships (SAR). In this article, we review the literature between 1976 and mid-2008 on the anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-HIV, chemopreventive and anti-prostate cancer effects of curcuminoids. Recent studies on curcuminoids, particularly on curcumin, have discovered not only much on the therapeutic activities, but also on mechanisms of molecular biological action and major genomic effects.