Turmeric can cure not only acne, but also malaria

Herbal life

But it isn’t the turmeric on the kitchen shelf that is to be used for treatment of the disease, but a medically pure form of the herb’s main component—curcumin—which has antimalarial properties.

Curcumin’s utility in infection control and wound healing is known for centuries. But now, Indian scientists have shown it is also good for treating malaria.

Scientists at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi claim to have obtained promising result by using curcumin nano particles in killing malaria parasites in mice. A single nano particle is 40,000 times smaller than the width of an average human hair.

“Nano curcumin has 10 times more bio-availability than regular curcumin given orally,” Santosh Kar, leader of the JNU team, told Deccan Herald.

In animal experiments, the researchers found nano curcumin remains in blood for 240 minutes, enough time to kill the parasite. Moreover, it does not have any toxic side effects.

The JNU team has applied for Indian and global patent on nano curcumin. Its mechanism of action was the same as the anti-malaria drug chloroquinine. Kar said he would start human trial with nano curcumin by next year in Orissa where malaria killed thousands every year.

A separate human trial on the use of regular curcumin as an antimalarial is currently going on under the supervision of G Padmanabhan, former director of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, who first exploited the use of curcumin as an anti-malarial in 2005.

That experiment was a partial success as only one-third of mice were protected by oral curcumin. But taking the research forward, Padmanabhan and his colleagues later proposed using a combination of arteether, a known anti-malarial drug, and curcumin as a new combination therapy in malaria treatment. The trial will take another two years to complete.

“It would be really great if curcumin alone would give 100 per cent protection against malaria. Curcumin is cheap and no resistance is known. We could get only partial protection with native curcumin alone, but if nano curcumin does the job because of greater bioavailability, it is a real advancement,” Padmanabhan said, commenting on the university work.

With scientists globally looking for a drug to be used in combination with arteether to address the issue of drug resistance, new results suggest that curcumin is ideally placed to meet this requirement.

“This discovery sets an excellent example for researchers to explore our ancient knowledge system through approaches of modern science,” another malaria researcher, Utpal Tatu from the IISc, said.

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