HPV or Human Papillomavirus infects around 50% of the population who are sexually active. Most people infected with HPV do not have any symptoms and it can also disappear quietly. Some strains (there are more than 100) could cause cancer of the penis, anus or cervical cancer. Some HPV types cause genital warts and hence the term ‘papilloma’. This sexually-transmitted infection spreads through genital skin contact, body fluids or mucous membranes – during oral sex or intercourse.
Those who have sex early in life or have multiple partners or sex with someone who has had several partners are more at risk of contracting HPV. Genital warts are the main symptoms of HPV. For cancerous HPV, tests like a PAP smear are done. HPV infections usually clear on their own unless they are caused by the cancerous HPV 16 or 18 strains. There are many treatment options available for HPV. In addition vaccination could reduce the risk of contracting HPV.
Turmeric & HPV
As you can see, there is a vast number of people who suffer from HPV, though most do not have serious symptoms and get well soon others may contact serious diseases such as cancer. This is where turmeric comes into picture.
Studies have established a link between frequent turmeric usage to lower rates of certain cancers – breast, lung, colon and prostate. Laboratory experiments find that curcumin – the chemical compound in turmeric – can inhibit growth of transcription factors. These regulate genes that work to form tumors. When these transcription factors are switched off, some cancer-causing genes are shut down and the risk of contracting certain cancers is reduced. Studies are underway on the therapeutic and chemopreventive properties of curcumin against other cancers.
Curcumin has been examined in laboratory tests for its ability to reduce HPV oncoprotein expression and in helping with programmed cancer cell death. Curcumin may also help suppress tumor causing proteins. Laboratory studies were also conducted on cervical cancer cells caused by HPV – especially its anti-viral and anti-tumor properties. Turmeric displayed cytotoxic activity against HPV 16 and 18 – the two strains of HPV known to cause cervical cancer. It was found that curcumin could induce apoptosis of cancer cells, inhibit growth of viral oncogenes and could prevent activation of the regulatory molecule NF-kappaB. This regulatory molecule is responsible for producing various inflammatory molecules like COX-2 and TNF that could increase growth of cancer cells.
In a human study, 25 cancer-risk patients were given 500-8000mg of curcumin daily. The patients had cervical intraepithelial neoplasm, bladder cancer, intestinal metaplasia, arsenic Bowen’s disease or oral leukoplakia. There was histological improvement in pre-cancerous lesions in one patient. Of the entire group, only 2 patients developed full-blown malignancies after a 3-month treatment with curcumin. No patient in the study was given other cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation. There was also no toxicity reported.
Medical composition of an oil made from borneol (an organic compound) and zedoary turmeric (a variety of the curcuma longa – turmeric plant) is said to help in treating various infections caused by HPV.
While turmeric has been found useful, low bioavailability of curcumin is a major concern. This could be overcome by combining curcumin with long or black pepper that contain piperine – an alkaloid. There is little epidemiologic evidence on turmeric’s benefits for various cancers and further extensive research is required.
It has been suggested that the Indian diet that includes spices like turmeric, chilies, cumin and other plant seeds could be the reason why there is lower rate of certain types of cancer in this country compared to other countries. When Indians migrate to other western societies, their risk of cancer also increases indicating that this could be due to a change in diet and adopting a western diet.
Based on studies I believe turmeric has potential in case of HPV, but more research needs to be conducted to be conclusive here.
The recommended dosage of standardized curcumin powder used to make capsules is 400-600mg thrice daily. We can also use cut root, dried powdered root, tincture or liquid extracts of curcumin. Sometimes turmeric supplements are combined with bromelain. This compound can increase the absorbability an d anti-inflammatory benefits of curcumin.
Anyone can safely use turmeric spice in their food. Those requiring surgery must avoid it for it could interact with anti-coagulant medications. Those who have diabetes or gallbladder problems must avoid turmeric for it may worsen their condition. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are usually advised to avoid all herbal supplements. Turmeric could stimulate the uterus or cause menstrual bleeding, increasing the risk of a miscarriage. Turmeric supplements must only be taken under medical supervision.