Curcumin (diferuloylmethane), a polyphenol extracted from the plant Curcuma longa, is widely used in Southeast Asia, China and India in food preparation and for medicinal purposes. Since the second half of the last century, this traditional medicine has attracted the attention of scientists from multiple disciplines to elucidate its pharmacological properties. Of significant interest is curcumin's role to treat neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's disease (AD), and Parkinson's disease (PD) and malignancy. These diseases all share an inflammatory basis, involving increased cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation and oxidative damage to lipids, nucleic acids and proteins. The therapeutic benefits of curcumin for these neurodegenerative diseases appear multifactorial via regulation of transcription factors, cytokines and enzymes associated with (Nuclear factor kappa beta) NFκB activity. This review describes the historical use of curcumin in medicine, its chemistry, stability and biological activities, including curcumin's anti-cancer, anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. The review further discusses the pharmacology of curcumin and provides new perspectives on its therapeutic potential and limitations. Especially, the review focuses in detail on the effectiveness of curcumin and its mechanism of actions in treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and brain malignancies.