Curcumin and COVID-19 Studies: 2022 Review

Curcumin is the major biologically active polyphenolic compound of turmeric and gives the spice its yellow color. Recent research shows the biological activity of curcumin reduces the severity of COVID-19.

Turmeric is a perennial plant in the ginger family and found native to southern India and Indonesia.2 Like ginger, it is the underground rhizome that is used in cooking and for medicinal purposes. Traditionally, it was used in Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine.3

The cosmetic and fabric industry has also found uses for turmeric, having been used to dye fabric for more than 2,000 years.4 According to Linus Pauling Institute,5 evidence continues to mount showing that curcumin can exert antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective activities.

Clinical trials are underway to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the compound as an adjuvant or as a treatment for patients with several types of cancer, including pancreatic, lung, prostate and colorectal cancers. The variety of positive health benefits found with curcumin may be a result of its highly pleiotropic capability, or ability of interacting with a variety of molecular targets.6

In the current environment, researchers have been studying anti-inflammatory compounds in an effort to reduce the severity of COVID-19. After multiple studies, curcumin outranks zinc, quercetin, melatonin and remdesivir, which ranked 24 out of the 25 substances.7

Curcumin Studies

In one study,8 researchers engaged 41 patients who met the inclusion criteria of mild to moderate COVID-19. There were 21 in the group who received nanocurcumin and 20 received a placebo.

The researchers monitored symptoms and laboratory data, finding that symptoms in the intervention group resolved significantly faster and patients’ oxygen saturation was higher after just two days of treatment. It remained higher than the control group through 14 days. Researchers also found it noteworthy that none of the patients who received the nanocurcumin deteriorated during the 14-day follow-up period, but 40% of the control group did.

Another study9 using nanocurcumin recruited 40 patients with COVID-19 to look at inflammatory cytokine expression. They were divided into 20 patients who received nanocurcumin and 20 who received a placebo. The researchers measured cytokine secretion of interleukin-1 beta (IL-1B), IL-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and IL-18. They concluded that the data demonstrated nanocurcumin modulates:

“… the increased rate of inflammatory cytokines especially IL-1β and IL-6 mRNA expression and cytokine secretion in COVID-19 patients, which may cause an improvement in clinical manifestation and overall recovery.”

Another study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology10 in early 2021 measured the differences in mortality between a control group and intervention group, each of which included 70 patients. The control and intervention groups received conventional COVID-19 treatment.

In addition, those in the intervention group received curcumin with piperine twice a day and those in the control group received probiotics twice a day. The researchers found patients who had mild, moderate and severe symptoms in the intervention group showed early symptomatic recovery and less deterioration.

Overall, they had better clinical outcomes and a lower death rate than the control group. Based on their results the researchers also concluded that curcumin may be a therapeutic option to prevent post COVID thromboembolic events.

In one study14 evaluating the ability of three polyphenols to suppress SARS-CoV-2 viral penetration into human cells, researchers found that curcumin treatments decreased the TMPRSS2 activity by up to 50%. This is similar to the mechanism demonstrated by proxalutamide in the recent studies.

Curcumin Alone Has Poor Bioavailability

Turmeric and curcumin have been challenging to study since curcumin has a low bioavailability when taken orally, which researchers attribute to the body's limited ability to absorb the compound, as well as rapid metabolism and elimination.15 However, researchers have found there are different compounds, that when taken with curcumin, can raise bioavailability and therefore enhance the multiple health benefits attributed to curcumin.

For example, piperine is an alkaloid found in black pepper, which is responsible for the distinct taste. On its own, it has several health benefits, including anti-inflammatory effects and insulin resistance properties.16 When scientists combine it with curcumin it can raise the bioavailability of curcumin by up to 2,000%17 by blocking the metabolic pathway,18 thus increasing the amount available in the body.

One study published in the journal Medicine19 in 2021 addressed the issues of bioavailability of curcumin as it relates to conflicting dosing strategies and the ability to compare research data. The writers described clinical trials in which purified curcumin was given in relatively large doses, up to 12 grams per day, without achieving measurable plasma levels.20

In addition to combining curcumin with piperine to raise bioavailability, the writers acknowledge manipulating curcumin in other ways can also enhance bioavailability, such as reduced particle size, emulsions, essential oil complexes or the addition of whey protein or surfactants.

At the completion of one study, 17 healthy men between 18 years and 45 years participated in the double-blind, randomized crossover study.23 People who were using any products or food with turmeric within the 14 days before the study started were excluded. The researchers used several serum measurements to determine bioavailability, including the bioactive metabolite, tetrahydrocurcumin. 

They found individuals taking curcumin had 39 times higher the amount of free curcumin, 31 times higher the amount of tetrahydrocurcumin, 49.5 times the amount of total curcumin and 52.5 times the amount of total curcuminoids over the compared standard curcumin reference product.24

Although curcumin is generally recognized as safe (GRAS),39 it has been found to increase the risk of bleeding in people taking medications that affect platelet aggregation, such as Lovenox, heparin or warfarin. People who are on chemotherapy should consult with their physician before including curcumin as it has inhibited chemotherapy-induced apoptosis in the lab.40

Additionally, curcumin may interfere with the metabolism of some drugs used in the U.S. and piperine, sometimes included with curcumin to increase bioavailability, may also affect the elimination and bioavailability of certain drugs.

As of July 2022, there are 19 published studies of curcumin for treatment and prevention of COVID-19 ( 

Protocols Using Curcumin

The FLCCC recommends curcumin as part of their I-PREVENT and I-CARE protocols:

Curcumin (turmeric): 500 mg twice a day. Curcumin has low solubility in water and is poorly absorbed by the body; consequently, it is traditionally taken with full fat milk and black pepper, which enhance its absorption. 

Sources and References



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