Beating TB with Turmeric Compounds
According to clinical research, turmeric compounds could offer a natural solution to tuberculosis (TB). Combined with conventional therapy and other herbs, turmeric can also help reduce the risk of drug side effects in the liver. (v.177)
Approximately a third of people worldwide are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis. Most people who are infected have a latent form of infection, with inactive bacteria. (v.21)
Symptoms and Risk Factors for TB
How Does TB Spread?
Breathe in enough of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and you're likely to get infected. When a person with active TB in the lungs coughs, sneezes, or even talks, the bacteria become airborne. That's how the disease spreads from one person to another. (v.21, 178)
Experts suggest that spending a lot of time in crowded places where there are high infection rates (such as hospitals) may increase the risk of exposure and infection. Personal respiratory protective devices can help protect against infection in those environments, as well as having a healthy immune system. (v.21, 178)
- Coughing up blood.
- Feeling weak and tired.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Fever and chills.
- Night sweats.
While TB is on the decline in the United States, travel overseas could be a risk factor when combined with weakened immunity — especially to developing countries. Who's prone to a stressed immune system? The answer might surprise you. Beyond babies, the elderly, and people with HIV, there are quite a few conditions that can weaken the immune system, including: (v.21, 178-179)
- Head and neck cancer
- Kidney disease
- Organ transplant
- Steroid treatment
- Substance abuse
Millions of new TB cases are identified each year, and there's a growing number that are resistant to drug treatment. In addition to strains that are resistant to conventional first line drugs, there are now cases that fail to respond to even second line drugs. (v.178-179)
How Can Turmeric Help?
Lab experiments with curcumin and other turmeric compounds show promising antibacterial activity against TB. Interestingly, animal studies on some of the same isolated compounds in turmeric show much greater success against TB than demonstrated in lab tests. (v.180)
- Combining copper and curcumin compounds is highly effective against TB. (v.181)
- Demethoxycurcumin, one of the curcuminoid compounds in turmeric, shows antitubercular activity. Derivatives from this curcumin compound, however, worked substantially better at much lower concentrations than curcumin. (v.182)
Turmeric Reduces TB Drug Risks and Improves Outcomes
Lab experiments using simple extracts of whole turmeric from water or ethanol had no activity against regular and drug resistant strains of TB. However, similar to the differences in effectiveness for other plant compounds outside the lab, animal research and a large clinical trial indicate otherwise. Results of these suggest turmeric can: (v.177, 179, 183)
- Reduce the toxic side effects of conventional TB treatment.
- Improve the efficacy of the most commonly used drugs.
Studies have shown all these drugs can increase the risk of drug-induced liver damage and related death. The risks may even be much higher and worse with the combination of isoniazid and rifampin, which is a standard treatment protocol. (v.177, 183)
Research show that feeding dried turmeric to guinea pigs helped prevent the negative side effects of these three drugs: (v.183)
- Significantly prevented the abnormally high liver enzyme levels caused by the drugs.
- Substantially reduced signs of drug damage in liver cells.
- Helped restore restore immune system functioning that was suppressed by treatment drugs.
Three other herbs (including holy basil) were also tested and showed potential protective effects against liver damage. Of the four, however, turmeric and Tinospora cordifolia demonstrated the strongest beneficial effects. (v.183)
Clinical Evidence of Benefit
Based on the animal study results, a large clinical trial was carried out in 6 different clinics involving over 500 male and female patients with active TB infection. The patients were randomly assigned to take only the conventional TB drugs or the TB drugs along with curcumin-enhanced turmeric and Tinospora cordifolia herbal supplements. For the TB drugs, patients were given ethambutol, isoniazid, rifampicin, and pyrazinamide for 2 months followed by 4 months of all but pyrazinamide. (v.177)
Results showed the following: (v.177)
|TB DRUGS ONLY 192 patients||TB DRUGS, TURMERIC, AND T. CORDIFOLIA 316 patients|
|TOXIC EFFECTS IN LIVER||14%
|DEVELOPED SYMPTOMATIC HEPATITIS||
(17 of the 27 patients with abnormal liver enzyme levels)
|% OF PATIENTS STILL (+) FOR TB BACTERIA IN SPUTUM AFTER 1 MONTH||15%||2%|
|% OF PATIENTS WITH UNRESOLVED LUNG LESIONS||6%||less than 1%|
|FAILURE TO IMPROVE||10%||2%|
Not only did turmeric help prevent the toxic side effects of TB drugs, it improved their effectiveness. Turmeric also showed other benefits that are significant for TB patients: (v.177)
- Increased treatment compliance. Stopping drug treatment prior to completion contributes to the growing resistance to drugs in the bacteria that cause TB. In this study, patients taking turmeric and T. cordifolia were less likely to stop treatment.
- Reduced malnourishment. Dietary deficiency is considered a risk factor for tuberculosis — both before and after infection. Patients were considered malnourished at the start of the clinical trial. Those who took the herbal supplements gained significantly more weight than the patients treated with TB drugs only.
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