5 Ways Turmeric Helps In COPD

COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a disease that affects the respiratory system. It is said to be the third leading cause of death in the US.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Other lung irritants like smoke, chemical fumes and dust can also cause COPD.

The main symptom of COPD is difficulty in breathing. COPD consists of two conditions:

  • Bronchitis: It is the inflammation of the airway that connects the lungs and nasal passage.
  • Emphysema: It is the damage of small air sacs present in the lung that help filter the air and absorb oxygen.

Inflammation of the airway leads to accumulation of mucus and narrows the airway thus causing difficulty in breathing.

Coughing, green sputum and recurrent infections are some of the symptoms. It is a progressive disease which can further lead to pneumonia, lung cancer, and heart disease.

However, the condition is treatable and includes lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and using bronchodilators and steroids.

Turmeric is a spice native to India and has been a herb that is revered in traditional medicinal systems like Ayurveda.

This article goes over the scientific evidence that suggests that turmeric can help with COPD.

How can turmeric help in treating COPD?

Turmeric milk is one of the age-old remedies that is very popular in India which suggests that turmeric is useful in the treatment of respiratory disorders.

1. Turmeric reduces inflammation

One of the most important pharmacological properties of turmeric is that it is an anti-inflammatory agent.

Inflammation is generally an immune response when body if fighting an infection or repairing tissue.

But most illnesses also give rise to inflammation which needs to be controlled and treated.

Curcumin displays anti-inflammatory effects by lowering the activity of inflammatory enzymes likes COX-1,2 or preventing the production of inflammatory chemicals like tumor necrosis factor.

Inflammation is the characteristic feature of COPD and cigarette smoking is one of the leading causes of COPD.

Certain compounds present in cigarette smoke activate a protein called nuclear factor-kappa B which controls the entire inflammation process. Studies show that curcumin inhibits the activity of this protein in normal as well as cancerous lung cells.

Emphysema is a common condition of COPD. An animal study was conducted where emphysema-like condition was induced by exposing animals to cigarette smoke or allergen.

Oral curcumin was found to reduce emphysema, inflammation, and migration of immune cells to airway within 10 days of administration.

A number of studies suggest that turmeric can serve as a potential natural anti-inflammatory agent in treating airway inflammation. Curcumin nanoparticles are also proven to reduce inflammation in respiratory disease.

What does this mean?
Turmeric reduces inflammation and emphysema both of which are the main features of COPD.

2. It attenuates oxidative stress

COPD is also characterized by oxidative stress which is an imbalance between prooxidants and natural antioxidants found in the body.

The gaseous phase of cigarette smoke also contains radicals like superoxide radicals, hydroxyl radicals, and hydrogen peroxide which cause oxidative damage and give rise to inflammation.

Curcumin acts as an antioxidant and it scavenges free radicals as well as raises the concentration of antioxidant enzymes and thereby alleviates oxidative stress.

Its role as an antioxidant has been implicated in the treatment of COPD.

What does this mean?
Turmeric reduces oxidative stress in COPD and elevates the level of antioxidant enzymes.

3. It reverses steroid resistance

Corticosteroids are often recommended in the treatment of COPD.

However, individuals tend to develop resistance to them. An enzyme known as histone deacetylase-2 plays an important role in inflammation.

This enzyme manipulates the activity of nuclear factor kappa B which in turn controls inflammation.

Steroids affect histone deacetylase in order to control inflammation but the activity of these enzymes is altered due to oxidative stress in COPD.

This renders steroid ineffective. Curcumin works like an antioxidant and reverses this resistance.

Studies show that curcumin increases the activity of histone deacetylase-2 enzyme which was impaired by cigarette smoke and improves steroid sensitivity.

Additionally, curcumin has a number of benefits over steroids. To know more about that check out: Why Turmeric Beats Many Steroidal Medications Hands Down

A clinical trial was conducted to assess the safety and efficacy of curcumin as an add-on therapy for bronchial asthma.

Two groups were made where one received only standard therapy and the other received standard therapy and curcumin for 30 days. Curcumin capsules were efficacious in reducing airway obstruction and were well tolerated.

What does this mean?
Curcumin reverses the resistance to steroid treatment in COPD patients.


4. It clears blockage of the respiratory tract

There is not enough evidence showing that curcumin reduces airway obstruction in COPD but the same phenomenon has been studied in relation to other respiratory diseases like asthma.

In animal models of chronic asthma, curcumin is found to reduce the accumulation of immune cells to the airway, reduce inflammation and alleviates the obstruction and the narrowing down of the respiratory passage.

These studies suggest that curcumin can be developed as nasal drops to prevent airway inflammation and bronchioconstriction.

Turmeric is proven to have a mild expectorant effect which is useful in treating chronic airway disease. It also alleviates nasal congestion.

Turmeric oil is useful in removing mucosal secretions, relieving cough and reducing breathing distress.

What does this mean?
Curcumin has the potential to being developed as nasal drops which can clear congestion and blockage of respiratory tract.

5. It prevents the progression of COPD into lung cancer

The research paper titled ‘Curcumin inhibits COPD-like airway inflammation and lung cancer progression in mice’ particularly focuses on the therapeutic use of curcumin in COPD.

Apart from cigarette smoke, a bacterial infection by Hemophilus influenza also contributes to airway inflammation in COPD.

In the study, curcumin was included in the diet prior and during exposure to infection. Curcumin reduced the incidence of lung tumors and also reduce the accumulation of immune cells.

Additionally, curcumin also reduced the proliferation of lung cancer cells.

Turmeric extract is proven to inhibit the growth of common organisms that cause a respiratory infection like Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus pyrogene and Staphylococcus aureus etc.

What does this mean?
Curcumin reduces the risk of developing cancer in high risk COPD patients and is also effective in preventing infection.


The best way to take turmeric is The Golden Paste. It contains black pepper and oil which increases the absorption of curcumin in the body. 1-2 teaspoons of The Golden Paste once or twice a day can help.

Read this to get ideas of how to use The Golden Paste. For more details on good have brands of turmeric powder please check this link.


Turmeric supplements should be avoided in case of pregnancy and lactation. Since turmeric is known to mildly increase bleeding risk, it is advisable to discontinue supplements 2 weeks prior to surgery.

Avoid turmeric supplements if you suffer from gallbladder issues. Turmeric supplements could possible drug interactions with diabetes medication, blood thinning medications, stomach acid-lowering medicines and certain antidepressants.

Please consult a doctor before taking turmeric supplements to ascertain right dose.


Despite increased awareness of the deleterious effect smoking can have on health, people still seem to indulge in smoking and COPD is one of its harmful consequences.

Turmeric shows great promise as an add on therapy for

COPD as it reduces inflammation, clears airway obstruction and prevents infection and progression to lung cancer. Consult your doctor before taking curcumin supplements or start including turmeric in your diet.

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