Turmeric is an Indian spice cultivated in India and other parts of Southeast Asia. It is a type of herb belonging to ginger family. The yellow pigment extracted from turmeric is called as ‘curcumin’. Medicinal properties of turmeric are due to this chemical compound – curcumin. Turmeric is considered as a “nutraceutical”. A nutraceutical is a term that comes from a combination of “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical”. Any food that provides medical or health benefits, including prevention or treatment of a disease is called as a nutraceutical. The medicinal properties of turmeric have been known for thousands of years. It was widely described in Ayurveda, ancient Indian medicine and also in traditional Chinese medicine.
Turmeric is proven to have anti-inflammatory, anti-migraine, antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. There have been multiple studies to prove these different properties of turmeric. As the Novel Coronavirus pandemic started recently, there are no studies directly looking at turmeric effects on Novel Coronavirus. However, there are published studies discussing the effects of turmeric on Influenza virus, Zika virus and Chikungunya virus. We may have to extrapolate these results to see if turmeric can have any preventive measures during this COVID-19 pandemic.
A study published in J Food Drug Anal demonstrated that Curcumin and its analogues inhibited Influenza virus replication and reduced Influenza virus infectivity. This study was based on laboratory experimentation and did not include any patients affected by Influenza. Similarly, a study published in Antiviral Res proved anti-viral properties of turmeric against Zika and Chikungunya viruses. Both these viruses responded to treatment of cells with ‘curcumin’. It was also observed that direct treatment of viruses with curcumin reduced infectivity of the viruses. There were other studies that confirmed antiviral properties of curcumin against Dengue virus and Hepatitis C virus.
Based on these studies, it may be extrapolated that turmeric may have a beneficial effect on Coronavirus infection, especially as it has inhibitory effect on Influenza virus. However, there is no direct strong evidence to prove it. U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeled turmeric as ‘generally safe’ as it does not have any side effects. Given turmeric’s multiple health benefits without adverse effects, it may be consumed if any individual is interested to do so.
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Synergic effect of curcumin and its structural analogue (Monoacetylcurcumin) on anti-influenza virus infection. Richart SM et al. J Food Drug Anal. 2018 Jul;26(3):1015-1023. doi: 10.1016/j.jfda.2017.12.006.
Curcumin inhibits Zika and chikungunya virus infection by inhibiting cell binding. Mounce BC et al. Antiviral Res. 2017 Jun;142:148-157. doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2017.03.014.
Curcumin and its analogues: a potential natural compound against HIV infection and AIDS. Prasad S et al. Food Funct. 2015 Nov;6(11):3412-9. doi: 10.1039/c5fo00485c.
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