Herpes infections are caused by the herpes simplex virus and include HSV type 1, which commonly causes cold sores around the mouth and face, and HSV type 2, which affects the genitals, buttocks and anal area. HSV is transmitted by physical contact and can lead to serious complications in infants and immunocompromised patients. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to control the infection. Certain supplements and herbs such as turmeric may also help to treat and even prevent HSV infections. However, do not use herbal supplements without consulting a doctor.
Turmeric is a fragrant, slightly bitter, yellow powder that is obtained by boiling, drying and crushing the roots and rhizomes of the perennial Curcuma longa plant native to southern Asia. A phenolic chemical known as curcumin found in turmeric possesses significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. It has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of conditions, including indigestion, liver diseases, arthritis, irregular menstruation and wounds. Turmeric supplements are available as capsules, teas, ointments and liquid extracts. The dose may vary, however, depending on your age and overall health. Your doctor can help establish a regimen that's appropriate for you.
Curcumin may block the expression of HSV genes by inhibiting coactivator proteins such as p300, thereby preventing viral infection, according to a study published in the April 2008 issue of the journal “Virology.” The website Medical News Today also reported in August 2008 that researchers at Van Andel Institute found that cells treated with curcumin did not support the growth of HSV type 1. Hence, turmeric may potentially prevent or treat the painful cold sores caused by the virus. However, more research is needed before turmeric can replace your existing medications, say the researchers at VAI. The Palo Alto Medical Foundation also suggests that turmeric can be used topically to prevent genital herpes. You must remember that the benefits of turmeric have been demonstrated in the laboratory only, and actual clinical trials are needed to prove the efficacy of the spice conclusively.
Turmeric has been used as a spice and coloring agent for centuries, and in moderation it is safe to use. Upset stomach and gastric ulcers are the most common side effects associated with large amounts of turmeric. It may also excessively lower blood sugar levels, especially when taken along with antidiabetes medications. Turmeric supplements may also interfere with certain anticoagulant and antacid medications.
You do not need a prescription to buy turmeric or curcumin supplements at most natural food stores. However, you must talk to a doctor before using them to manage herpes infections. Remember that turmeric supplements are not regulated and have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. So ensure that the product you intend to use has been tested for safety by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention or any other recognized private laboratory.
- "Virology"; Curcumin Inhibits Herpes Simplex Virus Immediate-Early Gene Expression by a Mechanism Independent of p300/CBP Histone Acetyltransferase Activity; S. B. Kutluay et al.; April 2008
- Medical News Today: Common Spice May Offer Relief to Cold Sore Sufferers
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Turmeric