How Turmeric Fights These 7 Serious Viral Infections

Before discussing the antiviral properties of turmeric let us first discuss what exactly a virus is.

Viruses are obligatory parasites and are responsible for a large number of diseases from common cold to the deadly HIV-AIDS.

Viruses are very small microorganisms containing either DNA or RNA (linear or circular, single stranded or double stranded) as genetic material.

Their genetic material is enclosed by a protein coat called capsid made up of several smaller units called capsomeres.

They may be helical, polyhedral, enveloped, non-enveloped or complex. An interesting thing about viruses is that they can be neither considered as fully living or non living organisms.

Viruses inject their genetic material and reproduce inside the cells of host organisms where they cause infections; hence, they are living inside the host body.

But when outside the host body, they are metabolically inert and considered as non living organisms.

On coming in contact with the host cell, viruses inject their genetic material inside it by chemically interacting with the specific receptors present on the cell surface .

The DNA of virus (or RNA changed to DNA) incorporates with the DNA of host.

Using the host’s cellular machinery, it replicates its genome and reproduces to form a large number of viruses.

The cell eventually bursts and the viruses then infect new cells. ,

Fighting Viral Infections

The immune response to viral infections is generated by various specific and non specific mechanisms.

Humoral Immunity– If the virus is present in serum or on moist surfaces like respiratory tract, the infected cells cause the B lymphocytes to produce antibodies like IgG, IgM and IgA.

These antibodies neutralize the virus by the following two mechanisms-

  • Block the interaction between virus and host cells.
  • Antibody dependent cytotoxic cells or compliment mediated lysis after recognition of viral antigens.

Cell Mediated Immunity– Cell mediated Immunity helps in fighting viral infections by the following ways-

  • The leukocytes or the White blood cells like cytotoxic T lymphocytes, Natural Killer cells and Antiviral macrophages destroy the viruses and the infected cells.
  • Viral infection stimulates monocytes, T cells and Natural killer cells to produce cytokines that mediate antiviral immunity.

Anti- viral drugs

Several anti viral drugs are available in the market for combating viral infections like influenza, herpes, HIV AIDS etc.

They are highly specific and adopt various modes of action. For example-

  • Prevent the entry in or interaction of virus with the host cells.
  • Inhibit the replication of viral genome
  • Suppress the DNA polymerase enzyme of virus
  • Inhibits the synthesis of viral proteins and DNA.

How Turmeric Can Help in Fighting Viral Infections

How Turmeric Helps in viral infections

Turmeric (Curcuma longa, family: Zingiberaceae) is a great Indian spice referred to as “The Indian Saffron”.

Its golden- yellow color and pleasant aroma as well as flavor make it an important ingredient of almost every dish. Turmeric is beneficial not only for culinary but also for the health care industry.

It has been used as an effective therapeutic agent against a number of diseases since time immemorial.

It has the potential to cure various diseases like cough, diabetes, hepatic disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, different types of cancers etc.

All the major properties of turmeric are because of the polyphenolic component of Turmeric called Curcumin.

It is the primary bioactive component of turmeric and is responsible for its golden- yellow color and its anti- inflammatory , anti- oxidant , anti- cancer and anti- microbial activities .

A number of research studies and scientific evidences suggest that turmeric has a potent anti- viral activity.

Let us discuss in detail some of the viral infections against which turmeric is helpful.

1. Turmeric and Human Immuno- deficiency virus (HIV)

Human Immuno- deficiency virus or HIV is a retrovirus (RNA genome) which is responsible for Acquired Immuno- deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

It is a deadly virus which adversely affects the T cells or CD4 cells of the immune system.

It uses their machinery to multiply and then destroys them.

The virus takes over the immune functions of the body and weakens the immune system, hence, known as human Immuno-deficiency Virus.

It is believed to have come into human beings through simian monkeys and produces symptoms like fever, enlarged lymph nodes, rashes or sore throat.

The disease once contracted can never be cured completely. However, the progression of HIV infection to AIDS can be slowed down by treatment during early stages of infection.

Studies suggest that curcumin can be highly effective against Human Immuno- deficiency Virus.

It binds to the active site of HIV- 1 Integrase and Protease enzymes thereby preventing viral infection.

HIV proteases are enzymes which are important for the viral life cycle and responsible for virulence of HIV.

Inhibition of HIV proteases is an important mechanism exploited by several anti- viral drugs .

A research study published in the journal Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry shows that Curcumin and Curcumin boron complexes inhibit the HIV-1 and HIV- 2 Proteases.

HIV- 1 Integrase is an enzyme which causes reverse transcription in HIV i.e. converts its RNA genome to DNA and facilitates the integration of the reverse transcribed DNA of virus with the host cell chromosomes.

This step is essential for the replication and metabolic functioning of virus in the host body.

It has been found that anti-HIV property of Curcumin is also because it effectively suppresses the activity of HIV- 1 Integrase enzyme.

A study has also found that Curcumin inhibits the long terminal repeat region of viral genome thereby causing inhibition of its transcription. ,

What it means- The above discussed studies suggest that Curcumin can be an effective anti- HIV agent.

It inhibits HIV- 1 Integrase and HIV- 1 and 2 protease enzymes and suppresses the transcription of viral genome thereby preventing viral replication and infection in the host organism.

2. Turmeric and Herpes Simplex Virus

Herpes simplex virus causes Herpes infection . It is of two types-

  1. Herpes simplex virus 1- causes oral herpes characterized by cold sores in areas around mouth and face
  2. Herpes Simplex virus 2- causes genital herpes characterized by sores, pain and irritation in the genital and anal region.

Other symptoms are tingling, itching, burning sensations, fever, muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes or discharge and pain in the eyes.

HSV- 1 is caused by skin to skin contact, kissing or sharing of towels, lip balms, razors and silverware etc. It is usually contracted during infancy or childhood.

HSV- 2 is transmitted by sexual contact. Once the virus infects the host organism, it moves to the nerve cells of the host and never leaves its body.

Anti- viral drugs like Acyclovir, Famciclovir, valacyclovir etc are used for reducing the severity of the disease.

These drugs primarily target the DNA polymerase enzyme of Herpes simplex virus.

A 2008 research published in the journal ‘Virology’ explores the benefit of Curcumin in suppressing the gene expression and infection of Herpes virus.

It was found that Curcumin affects the recruitment of RNA polymerase II enzyme to immediate early (IE) gene promoters which is mediated by viral transactivator protein VP 16. This prevents herpes infection.

What it means- The above mentioned research study provides the evidence of anti- HSV activity of Curcumin.

Curcumin has the potential of acting as an effective curative against herpes infection as it inhibits the immediate early (IE) gene expression in herpes simplex virus.

3. Turmeric and Hepatitis Virus

Hepatitis is a viral infection caused by hepatitis A, B, C or D virus. It is a condition characterized by swelling and inflammation of liver.

It may be short term or a chronic infection. Complications include liver damage, liver failure and liver cancer.

Common symptoms are dark urine, fever and fatigue, itching, nausea, vomiting, jaundice, loss of appetite and weight loss.

Hepatitis A is the mildest form of hepatitis infection. Hepatitis B virus is spread through blood and body fluids.

Hepatitis C spreads through infected blood . Hepatitis D appears as a consequence of hepatitis B and can worsen the liver conditions.

Curcumin prevents hepatitis B infection by down- regulation of PGC-1 alpha protein that activates the transcription of Hepatitis B virus.

This mechanism prevents the replication and gene expression of the virus.

Curcumin exhibits effective anti-hepatitis C Virus activity by suppressing its replication.

It inhibits the activation of Akt-SREBP-1 and thereby reduces the gene expression and infection of HCV.

Its anti- oxidant activity against the production of reactive oxygen species and its cooperation with PDTC (Pyrrolidine Dithiocarbamate) also inhibits the viral replication.

It also inhibits the binding and entry of HCV genome into human liver cells (Hepatocytes).

What it means- Curcumin is effective against the life threatening Hepatitis B and C viruses. It prevents the replication and gene expression of these viruses in the host organism’s body.

In fact, it also prevents the entry of hepatitis C viral genome into the liver cells of hosts by inhibiting its interaction and fusion with the cell surface.

4. Turmeric and Influenza Virus

Influenza, commonly known as flu, is a viral respiratory disorder. It is highly contagious and in severe cases may lead to death of the patients.

The common symptoms of the disease are fever, cough, sore throat, body ache, headaches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea etc.

Curcumin, the primary polyphenol of turmeric is capable of fighting influenza virus. A recent study published in the year 2010 in the journal Food

Chemistry suggests that only 30 micrograms of Curcumin can effectively reduce the production of influenza virus in cell culture by 90%.

Inhibition of viral infection was observed in H1N1 and H6N1 subtypes of the virus caused as a result of haemagglutination inhibition.

Another research found that Curcumin analogues (Pet and THC) are effective against influenza infection.

Curcumin also prevents the entry of Influenza viral genome into the host cell by interfering with the interacting of Influenza Haemaglutinin (HA) protein essential for viral infection with the host cell receptors.

What it means- We can thus say that Curcumin is a powerful anti- influenza agent.

It inhibits the infection by preventing haemagglutination and interaction of HA protein with the host cell.

5. Turmeric and Ebola virus infection

Ebola is a fatal viral disease. It can be spread by direct contact with the blood or body fluids from an Ebola patient or objects contaminated with them.

Infected fruit bats or primates and Sexual contact with the patient are also a couple of causes of transmission of the virus from an infected person to a healthy individual.

Common symptoms are fever, chills, diarrhea, vomiting, bleeding, headache, sore throat, fatigue and weakness, rashes and abdominal pain etc. which can ultimately lead to organ failure or even death.

A research published in the journal “In Vivo” explores the mechanism by which Curcumin, the principle polyphenolic compound in turmeric, can help in getting rid of Ebola.

At the terminal stage, there is an increased secretion of inflammatory cytokines by the immune system of patient’s body. This is known as “cytokine storm”.

Curcumin inhibits the production of inflammatory cytokines like Interleukin-1, interleukin-6, and also Tumor- necrosis factor alpha.

This plays an important role in reducing the chances of death. Intravenous formulation of Curcumin is a potent treatment for Ebola patients.

What it means-This study gives us an idea about how turmeric can help in treatment of Ebola infection.

By not allowing the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL- 6 and IL-1, and tumor necrosis factor- alpha, Curcumin prevents cytokine storm and death of the patient.

6. Turmeric and Human papilloma virus infection (HPV)

Human papilloma virus infection (HPV) is a very common sexually transmitted viral infection that is contracted by most of the sexually active men and women.

Most of the times, the disease disappears without causing serious health conditions but sometimes it may lead to genital warts or cancer of cervix, vagina, penis, anus etc.

Turmeric has proven to be effective against HPV- induced human cervical cancer.

Paclitaxel is a well known therapeutic against human cancer like cervical cancer.

A research published in the journal “Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine” shows that Curcumin can improve the efficacy of paclitaxel in treating cervical cancer.

Curcumin promotes the apoptosis and cytotoxicity of cervical cancer cells and helps in reducing the gene expression of HPV. It also increases the p53 and cleaved capcase 3 levels.

Several research studies provide the evidences of suppression of viral oncoproteins E6/E7 by Curcumin and increase in p53 proteins p53.

It also helps in protecting cervical cancer cells from proliferating due to oral contraceptive like Estradiol intake.

Another research also indicates that Curcumin can suppress the expression of drug resistant proteins MRP1 and pgp1.

It increases the levels of p53 and decreases the expression of HDACs and HPV onco-proteins.

Thus, it reduces the Cisplatin resistance in HPV cervical cancer cells increasing the efficiency of the chemotherapeutic drug at low doses.

What it says- Thus, we infer that Curcumin has protective properties against Human Papilloma viral infection. It prevents the proliferation of HPV cervical cancer cells.

It suppresses the viral oncoproteins E6/E7 by following the NF-b-P53- capcase 3 pathway.

It also increases the efficiency of chemotherapeutic drugs by suppressing the expression of drug resistant proteins.

7. Turmeric and Rift Valley Fever Virus (RVFV)

Rift valley fever is a viral disease caused by rift valley fever virus (RVFV) and spread by mosquitoes.

It is mainly a disease of domestic animals but may also infect human beings through fluids or organs of infected animals.

Infected people usually have no or mild symptoms like fever, weakness, back pain or dizziness.

In worst cases, severe symptoms may also occur like ocular disease, encephalitis, hemorrhagic fever etc.

There is so far no permanent and effective treatment for RVFV. In fact, 1-10% of the people suffering from RFV who had inflammation in the retina have died.

Thankfully, scientists have recently discovered that Curcumin can help against the disease.

It has been found that Curcumin helps in preventing the virus from multiplying in number.

It does not let the virus to manipulate the human cells due to which the stop responding to the infection.

When they tested the efficacy of Curcumin in rat models, they got favorable results.

What it says- This study indicates that Curcumin, the compound responsible for the color and most medicinal properties of turmeric can serve as a therapeutic against Rift Valley Fever for which no specific treatment has yet been established.

It inhibits the viral multiplication inside the host organism’s body and also prevents the virus from suppressing the defense activity of the cell.

Dosage

It is safe to take upto 1 tsp turmeric on a daily basis without any side effects. One can higher dosages for a few weeks if needed.

It is best to make turmeric part of life by including in daily diet rather than popping turmeric or curcumin pills.

As turmeric is poorly absorbed in body it is important take it with fats or with black pepper. This way its bioavailability is improved. Read more about turmeric’s bioavailibility here>

One can include turmeric is almost everything you eat (see recipes) but two of the best ways are – turmeric milk and turmeric / golden paste

Any good quality turmeric powder (need not be expensive) is fine to use. If you are confused about the brands, here is a list of our recommended brands for you>

Precautions

Turmeric has been used as a traditional Indian folk medicine. It is a very safe therapeutic and does not usually cause side effects if consumed in small quantities with food.

However, excessive or inappropriate dosage for prolonged duration might cause several adverse effects (though mild) on patient’s health.

Always take curumin supplements with great caution. It is best to avoid them altogether. 

It is always advised to consult a doctor before taking turmeric doses.

  • Care must be taken by people having gallstones or obstruction in bile passages.
  • Pregnant and breast feeding women are advised not to take turmeric supplements or therapeutic doses of turmeric.
  • Turmeric may cause hypoglycemia in diabetic patients who are already on medication.
  • People going for surgery must cease turmeric consumption 2 weeks before surgery as Turmeric works a potent blood thinner.

Summary

Turmeric is an ancient Ayurvedic medicine. Its anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-oxidant, anti-tumor, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal activities are responsible for its extensive use in healthcare industry.

All these important medicinal properties of turmeric are because of its primary polyphenolic compound Curcumin obtained from its roots.

Despite the body’s immune responses against viral infections, they are still easily contracted and are difficult to treat.

Most often, the virus cannot be destroyed once a viral disease is contracted.

The symptoms of viral infections are difficult to detect in early stages and this usually worsens the conditions.

Curcumin has been found effective against a number of life- threatening viral infections like HIV- AIDS, Herpes, Influenza, Hepatitis, Ebola, Human Papilloma virus and Rift Valley Fever Virus etc.

It produces anti-viral activity by inhibiting the interaction of viral proteins with cellular receptors on host cells.

This prevents the entry of viral genome into the host cells. It also prevents the replication, gene expression and subsequent infection of viruses by various mechanisms specific to the diseases.

With so many benefits, turmeric should definitively be part of your diet.

About the Author

TurmericForHealthTeam

Turmeric for Health's writer team consists of passionate writers from the fields of biotechnology, pharmacy, nutrition, Ayurveda & microbiology.Our writers are highly qualified with many having Ph.D., M.Tech & MSc degrees while others having B.Tech, BSc, B.Pharm. Our differentiation lies in researching and presenting ONLY FACTUAL SCIENTIFIC information. We spend 10s of hours to write a single article. Info of our articles is sourced from reliable scientific sources which are also provided as a link alongside for readers to refer if they want. You can read more about our team in the " About us" section.

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26 Comments

  1. Hi, I’m currently breastfeeding my 5 month old. You’ve advised against turmeric supplements and therapeutic doses of turmeric but what about 1tsp a day ?

  2. The doctor tells me I have gallstones, although I have no symptoms, no pain, etc, but am having ulcer symptoms while taking doxycycline and wanted to try circumin for relief. your article states people with gallstones should be careful when using turmeric. How so?

    1. Turmeric can cause gallbladder contractions so if you have gallstones obstructing the passage then the contractions would be painful. You can consult a herbalist about this and take small amounts of turmeric in diet as research proves that turmeric/curcumin may help in dissolving gallstones.

    1. What I look for, when buying a Turmeric supplement is a good store that caters to people from India or Vitacost.com, as those are two of the cheapest places (usually) to purchase good quality turmeric powder as just a spice, which can then be used as a supplement by making it into a broth or simply mixing it in some warm water or tea.; but, it can also be used to flavor meals that are prepared at home.

      Supplements are tricky, as it is hard to tell the quality of your purchase. You can’t smell it or see it, much at all. Buying it from a regular store, as a spice, often costs too much and leaves you with an inferior product that’s full of filler. The color should be deep and the smell should be pungent.

      How much you should use it depends on how ill you are and with what.

      A good rule of thumb, as expressed in regards to how people from India use a certain immune building broth, is to use it two times a week for helping stay healthy and use it all day, every day (several times, at least) if you are ill.

      When I had really super bad symptoms related to Fibromyalgia, thyroid and endometriosis, where I got muscle cramps whenever I moved and my tendons were so stiff I was afraid they’d snap and I was gaining weight like crazy, with bouts of diarrhea and constipation and constant infections of flu, cold and who knows what … I started using 1 tbsp. of Turmeric 3 x a day, just mixed in water. My mom, who had much less severe symptoms, used 1/4 tsp. 3 x a day and then we both went to using 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. once a day, after about a week.

      As an aside I shall tell you that it did not cure anything, persay. I mean, I still have Fibromyalgiia and all that. But, in all fairness, I ran out of good quality Turmeric and only recently could afford to get more – because of finding Yogi’s (a store) in T ucson after having relocated to Tucson. So, I do not know how much improved my health would be if I had kept at it.

      What I do know is that it took me out of being so ill that I couldn’t do much except black out from pain and pray that I would make it to the bathroom before my legs seized up again all the way to being able to be part-time gainfully employed, fairly quickly and not just for as long as I was taking it. The benefits remained. I still have better or worse days, but, I have never gotten that ad or anywhere close to it, aftert taking the Turmeric for a coupl.e of weeks.

    2. It is important to check the certifications for organic and pure composition. Apart from that check the concentration of curcumin and if a bioenhancer is included. It is best to discuss turmeric supplements options with a health practitioner.

  3. Hi, I have 3 adult cats who are passing the cat flu ( I don´t know, if this is correct in English). They were on antibiothics and 2 of them are better now, but the third one is confronting eys problems. May I give them golden paste? And what is the dosage? Thanks for reply. Ivana

  4. Hi, I have 3 cats who are passing so called cat flu ( I am not sure if it is correct in English). May I give them golden paste? And what about dosage? They have about 10 pounds each. Thank you for reply.

    1. Yes turmeric can be given to cats to treat flu. The dosage (Golden Paste) would be 1/8 to 1/4 tsp a day and you can increase it gradually 1/4-1/2 tsp 2-3 times a day or how it suits them.

    1. Turmeric has multiple approaches when it comes to mental health. It works as anti-inflammatory agent, regulates levels of neurotransmitters, works as an antioxidant and impacts gut brain axis and gut microflora; each of these activities contribute to increased focus, reduced anxiety and depression and clear thinking.

  5. Hi, thanks for the pickle turmeric recipe. Sounds great I’ll have to try it. I make golden milk on cold nights but I live in Florida so that’s rare. I have recently been making a turmeric and ginger root tea. I thinly slice about 4 inches turmeric and ginger root. Boil that in some water (10 minutes) with a couple of sticks of cinnamon. Let it steep for 1 hour. I then add a little bit of honey and enough water to make a half gallon. Serve cold over ice. Do you think I get the benefits of the turmeric with it being served cold? Please say yes it is so delicious.

    1. Normally you would get an emphatic YES, because the mixture is exposed to cooking temperature and thus the desired properties are thereby released.

      However, you do not mention black pepper or any fat content as an ingredients. According to all of my research, turmeric can be properly absorbed and processed when consumed with fat (linseed, olive oil et al) and black pepper.

      1. Fat and black pepper, separately but especially together, make it work better. But, I used it to great affect before I knew either of those things would enhance its healing properties.

        I do wonder about the boiling, though. I don’t know, but, seems to me that something might be lost due to overcooking. In healthful immune-building broths and teas they generally recommend boiling the water and letting it cool slightly before pouring over the tea or adding in spices; or, to bring the whole shebang to a near boil and then, after a few minutes at that sort of temperature, turn it down to simmer until it reduces by about a cup as a means of extracting all the good without destroying any of the benefits.

        To the tea maker, I’d say if it helps you feel good, you are getting benefit. If you want to enhance that benefit, perhaps sip some with a meal that has fat and black pepper, such as a salad with oil and vinegar dressing and a dusting of black pepper. Then, drink the rest down about 20 minutes after the meal. That way, it aids your digestion, is stronger and your gastric juices are not diluted by too much drink with your meal.

        Though, stirring in a little black pepper and some coconut oil and drinking it warm would also be good. In fact, that sounds delicious.

    1. Personally I buy CoCurcumin from Ayush Herbs, can be found on amazon, and I buy the capsules and load them myself and save hundreds of dollars over time.

      1. Look at this 2nd last sentence “below”, from the ‘above’ passage:

        Precautions

        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.