Turmeric Could Help Prevent and Treat Bird and Swine Flu Naturally
Researchers suggest that turmeric contains a compound with great promise against bird and swine flu, including type H1N1. Curcumin is one of the curcuminoid pigment compounds that give turmeric's rhizome its rich, deep gold color. It has clinically demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer properties in lab, animal, and human studies. All of these properties are valuable antiviral tools as well, including against avian influenza. (v.44)
Flu Pandemics Can Be Deadly
Influenza has been a public health concern ever since the H1N1 flu pandemic in 1918 killed millions of people worldwide. Anxiety over potential fatalities from global outbreaks of bird and swine flu is a controversial subject. Fortunately, so far the number of deaths associated with various outbreaks has turned out to be less than feared. (v.45-47)
Why Are Experts So Concerned?
- There aren't enough vaccines or medication to prevent or treat a worldwide bird or swine flu epidemic.
- Influenza A rapidly mutates and increases virulence through drug resistance.
- When bird and swine flu crosses species lines and infect humans, they can set off a dangerous—and sometimes fatal—inflammatory immune system response. This response is characterized by massive increases of inflammatory proteins called cytokines.
Doctors Say Herbal Compounds like Turmeric Could Help in Flu Epidemics
Because of these factors, medical researchers continue to look for cheaper, readily available, and effective treatment options. These include anti-inflammatory herbal remedies—such as turmeric compounds, resveratrol, and green tea catechins —to supplement vaccines and antiviral drugs. (v.49)
What is Influenza A Virus and How Dangerous is it?
Influenza A is a family of viruses that causes flu in people and animals. Some types that usually infect birds and swine can mutate and infect humans. Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, is one sub-type that has already mutated. It is mostly spread by contact between humans and infected animals. (v.46, 49)
Although most infections are treatable, a particularly deadly type of bird flu (H5N1) has emerged, and one strain of flu crossed into birds, swine, and humans (H1N1). Even with treatment, the fatality rate in Indonesia during one particular H5N1 bird flu outbreak reached 74% of those infected. (v.46, 49)
Outbreaks of different strains of bird and swine flu—particularly H5N1 and H1N1—have alarmed some in the healthcare community with fears of a global pandemic. This could occur if and when the virus mutates again and starts to spread human to human. What's even more worrisome is that H1N1 and H5N1 are already resistant to some antiviral drugs. Other strains of bird and swine flu that infect humans have also surfaced, including H7N7, H9N2, and H3N2. (v.49-50)
How Can Turmeric Help Prevent or Treat Bird and Swine Flu?
Turmeric Anti-Influenza Mechanisms Similar to Antiviral Drugs
Conventional antiviral drugs and flu vaccines disable 2 proteins on the surface of the virus. These 2 proteins, hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, are essential to the flu virus life cycle. Recent lab studies show that turmeric's curcuminoids also interfere with both of these proteins, and could help prevent flu infection. (v.44, 48, 51)
Turmeric Compounds May Be Natural Neuraminidase Inhibitors
These research results are even more important because substances that inhibit neuraminidase are especially needed. In one study, 13 different curcuminoids from turmeric all showed strong activity against neuraminidase proteins. Three curcuminoid compounds even blocked neuraminidase proteins from treatment resistant types of H1N1 flu. (v.45, 48)
Turmeric Regulates the Immune System Response
According to medical experts, controlling the massive inflammatory immune system response triggered by bird and swine flu can prevent the most serious symptoms. The more dangerous and potentially fatal strains of bird flu show higher levels of inflammatory proteins. (v.45)
- Inhibit inflammatory cytokine proteins.
- Block the transcription factor proteins that signal genes to make these cytokines.
- Stimulate other transcription factors that block inflammatory proteins.
An effective therapy that doesn't elicit resistance by the virus and could treat already resistant strains would be even better. Research indicates that turmeric compounds such as curcumin does all of these things—and in proteins specifically involved in bird and swine flu. (v.44-45, 48, 52-55)
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