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Antimicrobial Activity of Turmeric

By Barbara Froek

Turmeric is a spice used widely in Indian cuisine. It's responsible for giving curry its yellow color and flavor. In herbal medicine, turmeric has a long history of use for treating various conditions and has demonstrated antimicrobial activity. Research into turmeric's antimicrobial potential is limited to animal and test-tube experiments and shows it can kill bacteria and viruses. Well-designed human studies are needed to know whether it will work the same in humans.

Fights Hepatitis C Virus

A study published in July 2013 in the journal "Gut" found that turmeric protects liver cells from hepatitis C, a virus that causes liver disease. Using human liver cells, researchers incubated curcumin -- the active component of turmeric -- with hepatitis C to examine its antiviral activity. They found that turmeric effectively prevented the hepatitis C virus from entering the human liver cells. Further testing revealed that curcumin impaired viral binding and fusion, which refers to the process in which a virus interacts with the surface of a host cell in order to invade it.

Protects Against Vibrio Vulnificus Infection

Turmeric curcumin exerts antimicrobial activity against Vibrio vulnificus infection, according to the results of a study published in December 2011 in the journal "FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology." Vibrio vulnificus belongs to the same family of bacteria that cause cholera. Being exposed to contaminated seafood or seawater can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Researchers found that curcumin prevented Vibrio vulnificus bacteria growth and kept the bacteria from binding to host cells, a major protective mechanism, according to the authors.

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Eradicates Human Papillomavirus Cancer Cells

Researchers say they've developed a curcumin-based vaginal cream that effectively eradicates human papillomavirus, or HPV cancer cells. In a test-tube study using human HPV cancer cells, they found that curcumin inhibited the expression of various pro-cancer proteins and selectively eliminated various types of HPV cancer cells without harming noncancerous tissue. The study was published in the April 2013 edition of the journal "Gynecological Oncology."

Turmeric in Food and Supplements

The roots and bulbs of the turmeric plant are used in food and herbal medicine. Turmeric is also available as a supplement in various forms such as capsules containing powder, liquid extract and tincture. Using turmeric in your food is considered safe, but talk to your doctor first if you're considering taking turmeric supplements. Turmeric may lower blood sugar, which can cause problems if you're taking diabetes medication. It may also act as a blood thinner, interacting with blood-thinning medication or increasing your bleeding risk during surgery.

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