The Indian spice turmeric shows promise in fighting viruses, according to George Mason University researchers.
In a lab study, curcumin, found in turmeric, inhibited a virus from multiplying, says Aarthi Narayanan, lead investigator on the new study.
“Growing up in India, I was given turmeric all the time,” says Narayanan, who has spent the past 18 months working on the project. Narayanan has long wanted to explore the infection-fighting properties of turmeric, in particular its key component, curcumin. “It is often not taken seriously because it’s a spice,” she says.
There’s more work to do before curcumin-based pharmaceuticals become commonplace, Narayanan emphasizes. She plans to test 10 different versions of curcumin to determine which one works the best. She also intends to apply the research to other viruses, including HIV.
Science is transforming the spice from folk medicine to one that could help a patient’s body fight off a virus because it can prevent the virus from taking over healthy cells. These “broad-spectrum inhibitors” work by defeating a wide array of viruses.
“Curcumin is, by its very nature, broad spectrum,” Narayanan says. “However, in the published article, we provide evidence that curcumin may interfere with how the virus manipulates the human cell to stop the cell from responding to the infection.”
J Biol Chem. 2012 Jul 30. [Epub ahead of print] “Curcumin Inhibits Rift Valley Fever Virus Replication in Human Cells.” Narayanan A, Kehn-Hall K, Senina S, Hill L, Van Duyne R, Guendel I, Das R, Baer A, Bethel L, Turrell M, Hartman AL, Das B, Bailey C, Kashanchi F. George Mason University, United States