Influenza (Flu) is a common viral infection. It affects the respiratory system and is different from a ‘stomach flu’ that causes vomiting and diarrhea. The elderly, young children, pregnant women, those with poor immune systems or chronic illnesses are more susceptible to flu. Sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, high fever, aching muscles and joints, headaches, dry cough, chills, sweats, fatigue and nasal congestion are common flu symptoms.
Taking the right medication within 48 hours of symptoms developing is the key to prevent complications and reduce the duration of the flu. Flu can spread when an infected person sneezes or coughs near you, by touching a common object like a telephone etc. Untreated, flu can progress to pneumonia, bronchitis, ear and sinus infections. Plenty of rest, consumption of fluids and sometimes antiviral medications are prescribed to treat flu. Flu vaccines are available to protect against 3 types of influenza viruses during the flu season.
Turmeric & The Flu
Turmeric – especially curcumin its chemical compound – contains potent antiviral, anti-fungal, anti-cancer and anti-bacterial properties. Researchers are trying to find new ways to contain a flu pandemic especially in overpopulated developing countries. One such way is to have adequate supplies of antiviral agents and vaccines. Inexpensive antiviral agents like turmeric are being widely studied – especially their ability to contain an infection. Among the many agents studied is curcumin, which has cell signaling effects which could prove beneficial. Laboratory studies found that curcumin reduced viral replication of 90% and more of cells infected by influenza virus. It also displayed an ability to protect infection from spreading to other cells. This ability to halt replication of microbes and viruses means that turmeric could offer therapeutic benefits in treating flu.
Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that can fight free radicals which damage the immune system. One cause of infections like flu is a weakened immune system more susceptible to infections. One study found that curcumin was able to activate the hemeoxygenase-1 gene in the brain. This gene produces bilirubin a vital antioxidant. Along with bilirubin, curcumin is also able to fight infections.
Apart from turmeric supplements, turmeric powder can be used in other ways to ease symptoms of flu. A cup of warm milk with a teaspoon of turmeric powder can fight flu, colds and cough. In Indian cuisine, turmeric, ginger and garlic are added to most recipes to fight against infections during the fu season or simply to warm the body.
Turmeric is considered a natural antibiotic in Ayurvedic medicine. For those with respiratory tract infections – common flu symptoms – mix water, ½ tsp turmeric and little milk and gargle with this. Turmeric increases protein levels in the body that can protect the immune system from viruses and bacteria that attack it. It also contains potassium and manganese that support immunity. All these properties mean that turmeric could help in treating the flu.
A study on another type of turmeric – zedoary turmeric oil – and its antiviral benefits was done. It was found that a spray containing zedoary turmeric oil was able to inhibit certain strains of parainfluenza virus I, III, AD virus 3, 7 and RS virus slightly but had stronger effect on parainfluenza virus II. It is considered a safe and effective antiviral agent.
Turmeric is safe when adults use it in appropriate doses. Turmeric supplements are available as capsules, tablets, liquid extracts or tincture. The recommended dosage for adults is 400-600mg daily of standardized curcumin powder. You can also take cut root – 1.5-3g daily, fluid extracts – 30-90 drops daily or dried, powdered root 1-3g daily. The preventive dosage of turmeric can range from 250-500mg a day.
Taken in excess, turmeric could cause upset stomach, dizziness, diarrhea or nausea. Pregnant women can suffer from over stimulated uterus or menstrual bleeding. Hence those who are pregnant and breastfeeding are advised to avoid turmeric supplements Those who are to undergo surgery or have gall bladder problems and those on medications for diabetes or blood thinning medications must avoid taking turmeric supplements. Always consult your doctor before taking turmeric or other herbal supplements for the flu.