MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection is caused by the strains of Staphylococcus aureus bacterium which are resistant to several antibiotics like methicillin and oxacillin.
Turmeric and its phenolic component curcumin have anti-microbial properties against these strains and thus, may provide an alternative, natural and safer therapeutic approach.
S. aureus is part of the natural microbiome of the body and is found predominantly on the skin, in the respiratory tract and the gut.
It can colonise and cause infections in these body parts. Genetic variations and environmental factors can cause mutations in these strains and make them resistant to antibiotic treatments.
This leads to the emergence of MRSA strains which cause many difficult-to-treat infections.
Due to their superiority over antibiotics, these species are also known as ‘superbugs’.
The infection is contagious and can be acquired from hospitals, nursing homes, dialysis centers (called Hospital-acquired MRSA).
One can also be affected by sharing common spaces, equipment, personal-use items and supplies (called Community-acquired MRSA). People with a weak immune system are more likely to get affected.
Treatment of MRSA involves the use of high-degree antibiotics, which can have side effects. Thus, the quest for finding natural, safe and effective treatment measures for MRSA continues.
Scientists have discovered that Turmeric, the natural healing herb can be used for treating MRSA infections. Before finding out how it does so, let us know more about Turmeric.
Table of Contents
- What is Turmeric?
- Benefits of Turmeric for MRSA Infection
- Turmeric shows anti-microbial propensities against MRSA
- Curcumin can be used in Photodynamic therapy for MRSA
- Turmeric can Reverse Antibiotic Resistance in MRSA
- Turmeric is safer and more Effective than Other Antibiotics
- Turmeric has Excellent Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Potentials
- Turmeric can be used in Various types of MRSA infections
- Dosage of Turmeric for MRSA Infection
- Precautions to be Taken
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric, scientifically called Curcuma Longa has been long used in the Asian countries, both for its culinary and therapeutic advantages.
The rhizome of the plant is dried and ground to form Turmeric powder, which is used as a spice. Its benefits in treating wounds and common ailments like cough, cold and pain have been documented in ancient Indian medical systems.
Benefits of Turmeric for MRSA Infection
Turmeric and its components like the bioactive curcumin and the turmeric essential oil have now been proven by several studies to possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer and anti-microbial properties.
Here are the many ways in which Turmeric can be useful in treating MRSA infections.
Turmeric shows anti-microbial propensities against MRSA
Turmeric shows anti-microbial activity against a wide range of pathogenic bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus.
A study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine reported that a conjugate of curcumin shows positive results for eight MRSA strains at minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs). 
Also, fermented turmeric was found to exhibit antioxidant and inhibitory effects against MRSA due to its high phenolic content. 
In-depth studies explain that the components of turmeric can damage the biofilms and cellular architecture of the bacteria.
It can also prevent the formation of cellular clusters, which inhibits the adhesion of the bacteria to human cells. 
Similar effects were demonstrated by a herbal extract comprising of turmeric, coconut oil and barberry, which suppressed the expression of cell binding proteins.
The anti-adhesive effect not only helps in treatment but can also prevent the spreading of MRSA infections in hospitals and communities. 
This has prompted scientists to create curcumin-based formulations like nanofibers for improved delivery and therapeutic effect in MRSA infections. 
What does this mean?
Turmeric is a strong anti-MRSA agent which inhibits bacterial growth, disrupts its cell membrane and suppresses its adhesion to human cells.
Curcumin can be used in Photodynamic therapy for MRSA
Photodynamic therapy is a technique used to kill microbial cells, which involves treatment using light and a photosensitising chemical substance.
This therapy has been identified as an alternative method to treat infections arising from antibiotic-resistant strains such as MRSA.
Scientists have widely used the active ingredient of turmeric, curcumin, as a substance which sensitises bacteria to radiations.
Curcumin and its nanoformulations, in the presence of light, can deactivate biofilms, cause damage to microbial cell membranes and cause cytoplasmic leakage, without having any toxic effects on healthy skin cells.  
What does this mean?
MRSA infections can be treated more efficiently and safely by utilising curcumin in photodynamic therapy.
Turmeric can Reverse Antibiotic Resistance in MRSA
Curcumin can reverse the resistance of MRSA and increases its susceptibility to antibiotics.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Molecules reports that curcumin treatment to MRSA results in the disruption of the bacterial cell wall, cell membrane, membrane proteins, cytoplasmic contents, and eventually brings about cell lysis. 
Thus, it can be said that curcumin weakens the membrane structure and increases its permeability. This makes it easier for antibiotics to suppress bacterial growth. 
Several scientific reports further point out that curcumin has a synergistic action together with antibiotics against MRSA.
This phenolic component of turmeric can significantly reduce the Minimum Inhibitory Concentrations (MICs) of several antibiotics like oxacillin, ampicillin, erythromycin, ciprofloxacin and norfloxacin against many strains of MRSA. 
This proves that curcumin has the potential to restore the effectiveness of several antibiotics of the beta-lactam group to which MRSA is resistant.
It can also be used in combination with other antibiotics for an increased therapeutic effect.
What does this mean?
Turmeric can resensitise MRSA strains to antibiotics and decrease its resistance by increasing the bacterial membrane permeability.
Turmeric is safer and more Effective than Other Antibiotics
S. aureus infections are usually treated with antibiotics of the beta-lactam group which involves methicillin and ampicillin. Improper and irregular doses of these antibiotics can cause the strains to become resistant, as is the case of MRSA.
MRSA has a very low susceptibility to conventional antibiotics. Its treatment requires a higher dose or a different class of antibiotics, which may have side effects.
In contrast, natural anti-microbial agents like turmeric can be used, which may have an increased microbicidal activity as compared to other antibiotics.
Recent research shows that turmeric is more effective than the antibiotic ampicillin in inhibiting the growth of MRSA strains. It is also better than other medicinal plants like aloe vera, ginger and betel leaf in this regard.  
Moreover, it is considered to be safe and well-tolerated in humans. It is non-toxic even at high doses of up to 8 g per day. 
What does this mean?
Turmeric offers a safer and more effective treatment against MRSA as compared to antibiotics like ampicillin.
Turmeric has Excellent Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Potentials
MRSA infection any body part including skin, wound sites, incision sites, respiratory tracts or urinary tracts, is followed by inflammation.
The immune system fights the bacterial invasion by sending immune cells and other immune components which results in the buildup of fluids, inflammation, swelling, redness, and pus-formation in the affected area.
The bacterial toxins and the by-products of inflammation may result in the generation of free radicals and the development of oxidative stress. This further deteriorates tissues health by causing cell injury and DNA damage.
In addition to its anti-microbial ability against MRSA, turmeric is also a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidative agent. 
This means that it can not only reduce the severity of bacterial infection but can also lower the cellular damage caused by inflammation and toxins.
Thus, it protects the healthy body cells from damaging effects of MRSA infections.
What does this mean?
Turmeric can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress and prevent tissue damage caused by MRSA infections.
Turmeric can be used in Various types of MRSA infections
Curcumin present in turmeric can be used for treating several infections caused by MRSA. Some examples include:
In pneumonia (respiratory tract infection), curcumin can inhibit the toxic proteins produced by MRSA strains which damage the alveolar cells in the lungs. 
In the case of osteomyelitis (bone infection), combining curcumin with the antibiotic erythromycin might also result in a stronger inhibitory effect.
For wounds, which are frequent and easy targets of microbial infections, curcumin treatment can suppress MRSA growth and enable faster healing of wounds.
It can be used for preventing MRSA infections in individuals with a weakened immune system such as those having cancer. 
What does this mean?
Turmeric can be used for preventing and reducing MRSA infections in wounds, and diseases like pneumonia, osteomyelitis and cancer.
Dosage of Turmeric for MRSA Infection
There is no specific dosage of turmeric for treating MRSA infection entirely. Regular intake of turmeric in the diet can help in preventing and reducing the severity of infections.
Turmeric and Curcumin are poorly absorbed by the body. Thus they should be taken with foods that increase their bioavailability. (Read How to improve Turmeric’s Bioavailability?)
Find the recipe to make a golden paste using turmeric powder here. To make it from fresh turmeric roots, the recipe can be found here.
Start with small doses of ¼ to ½ tsp a day for a week. If no gastric side effects are seen, the dose can be increased gradually by ¼ to ½ tsp a week, till the recommended dose of 2-3 tsp a day is reached.
Avoid taking golden paste on an empty stomach and close to taking other medicines. (Read Does turmeric cause acid reflux? Black pepper in GP: Does it cause drug interactions?)
The ideal dose may differ from person to person. This is because every individual has varying levels of tolerability to spices. Some may require more while others may need lesser quantities.
If opting for turmeric/curcumin supplements, first consult with a healthcare professional.
For skin infections and healing of wounds, turmeric can be applied topically. For doing this, first, conduct a patch test to check for possible allergies.
Take sufficient amount of turmeric powder and mix it with oil, preferably olive oil or coconut oil and apply to the affected area.
Leave for 30 minutes or longer if required. The area can be covered with gauze if needed. This can be repeated 2-3 times a day.
Turmeric is excellent for healing skin wounds. But if turmeric can be applied to certain wounds depends on the severity and type of infection. Thus, it is recommended to seek advice from a doctor before topical use.
Precautions to be Taken
Dietary intake of turmeric is considered safe. However, if using turmeric/curcumin supplements, some precautionary measures must be followed. (Read Side effects of Turmeric)
Supplemental doses of turmeric must be avoided during pregnancy, lactation, in case of gallbladder obstruction, bleeding disorders or prior to surgery.
In instances of bleeding disorders, turmeric, in small doses is safe, but still, it is advised to consult with a medical professional before use.
Intake of turmeric supplements on an empty stomach should be avoided to avoid symptoms of acid reflux. (Read Does turmeric cause acid reflux?)
Some studies show that turmeric and curcumin can interfere with the process of drug metabolism, and thus, can interact with some drugs like anti-depressants and anti-diabetics.
Thus, as a precaution, maintain a gap of 3-4 between taking turmeric and other medications.
With more and more species of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics, the search for novel, useful and safer approaches for MRSA infection is in progress.
In this quest, turmeric has emerged as a potential candidate due to its excellent anti-microbial activities against many MRSA strains.
Turmeric can also reverse antibiotic resistance and make MRSA more sensitive to antibiotics.
Scientists have developed curcumin formulations and used them in newer and safer treatment measures like photodynamic therapy.
However, more research in humans is required in this field to utilize turmeric’s potential to the fullest.
In the meantime, regular intake of turmeric can help one in preventing, treating and reducing the severity of MRSA infections.