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The global race for an Ebola drug or vaccine is on, with hundreds of millions of dollars of resources invested, but could our best bet already be hiding in plain sight within our spice racks?
A new study published in the journal In Vivo titled,"Curcumin Suppression of Cytokine Release and Cytokine Storm. A Potential Therapy for Patients with Ebola and Other Severe Viral Infections," has raised an intriguing possibility: that one of the world's most prized spices could provide an effective treatment against deadly viruses like Ebola that have no known conventional treatment to date.
Turmeric is about 3-5% curcumin by dry weight. It is one of the most extensively researched substances on the planet, with over 1540 studies available to view on our database alone. Amazingly, it has been identified to have potential or actual therapeutic value in over 600 health conditions. The discovery that it may also be an important anti-Ebola agent while new, is not surprising, given how profoundly it appears to ameliorate hundreds of causes of physical suffering, many of them associated with opportunistic infections with viruses, parasites and bacteria.
The study findings are summarized in the abstract succinctly:
Background: The terminal stage of Ebola and other viral diseases is often the onset of a cyotkine storm, the massive overproduction of cytokines by the body's immune system.
Materials and Methods: The actions of curcumin in suppressing cytokine release and cytokine storm are discussed.
Results: Curcumin blocks cytokine release, most importantly the key pro-inflammatory cytokines, interleukin- 1, interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-α. The suppression of cytokine release by curcumin correlates with clinical improvement in experimental models of disease conditions where a cytokine storm plays a significant role in mortality.
Conclusion: The use of curcumin should be investigated in patients with Ebola and cytokine storm. Intravenous formulations may allow achievement of therapeutic blood levels of curcumin.
In a previous article, Natural Treatments for Ebola Exist, Research Shows, we reviewed some of the preliminary research available on natural treatments for Ebola. Curcumin was not yet on the radar of researchers when the article was written. Now, considering the new study, and curcumin's long history of safe usage, affordability, and widespread availability as a food ingredient, it should be considered top on the list of candidates for a natural anti-Ebola agent. Moreover, curcumin has already been found to inhibit a broad range of viruses, including HPV and Hepatitis C virus, indicating that future research should be performed to ascertain if it possesses direct anti-Ebola virus activity as well. You can peruse first-hand abstracts on the topic on our focused research page: Turmeric's anti-viral properties.
The new study looked at the wide-ranging ways that curcumin may down-regulate the "cytokine storm" inducible through infection with potentially lethal viruses like Ebola, and even the more common influenza A. Below is a diagram of these specific beneficial modulatory actions:
For further research, you can visit our curcumin database where you will find over 150 distinct modulatory properties possessed by this biomolecule, including many of those listed in these tables above.
One issue raised in the study's concluding remarks is curcumin's limited bioavailabity:
The activity of curcumin in suppressing multiple cytokines, and its activity in experimental models of diseases and conditions associated with cytokine storm, suggest it may be useful in the treatment of patients with Ebola and cytokine storm. Curcumin is poorly absorbed from the intestinal tract; however, intravenous formulations may allow therapeutic blood levels of curcumin to be achieved in patients diagnosed with cytokine storm. Clinical status and levels of important cytokines, such as IL1β, IL6 and TNFα, should be monitored carefully when patients are treated with curcumin."
While curcumin's bioavailability may be a limiting factor, there are a number of formulas on the market today that include the curcumin in a phospholipid-based (usually lecithin-derived) delivery system which makes it much more water soluble and capable of passing through the liver's imposing glucoronidation barrier, so it may gain systemic entry into circulation and the peripheral tissues. Some of these such as Meriva® or BCM-95 (non-affiliate links) are available over-the-counter. It is also possible to combine piperine, a compound found in black pepper, to enhance absorption and systemic delivery. It should also be noted that curcumin has an exceptionally high safety profile, with as high as 12 grams daily used in the clinical setting without side effects. For information on how to use turmeric in a medicinal though culinary way, watch the popular video on GreenMedTV on how to make a golden turmeric milk recipe:
Keep in mind that curcumin is a non-patentable natural substance. This does not bode well for it gaining acceptance by the capital-intensive and/or capital-focused medical system which requires the passing of a gauntlet of expensive clinical trials (over 800 million dollars on average is required to receive FDA drug approval) in order to obtain FDA drug approval, not to mention market exclusivity. Of course they may try to synthetically alter curcumin, creating semi-synthetic or synthetic analogs, suitable for obtaining patent rights. But this approach amounts to a "kiss of death," rendering a natural biomolecule into a xenobiotic, the latter of which often have dozens of adverse downstream health effects. This is why curcumin will not be broadcasted anytime soon as a viable therapy, despite the dire need for an alternative to conventional approaches which have yet to manifest.
For more information read the article: Why The Law Forbids the Medicinal Use of Natural Substances.