Best supplements and nutraceuticals for COVID-19: the scientific research on curcuminoids and COVID-19

Introduction to curcuminoids

  • Curcuminoids are derived from the dietary spice turmeric. 
  • Curcuminoids are natural polyphenols and include curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin.
  • Curcuminoids seem to be most powerful when combined together, as opposed to used individually.
  • Turmeric has long been used as a traditional medicine for a range of health complaints. Indeed, modern research has demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of turmeric and turmeric extracts (specifically curcuminoids) for a range of health complaints.

 

Summary of COVID-19 and curcuminoids

As of writing (February 2022), there are 12 scientific publications regarding curcuminoid supplementation in COVID-19 patients. Remarkably, all 12 reported reduced COVID-19 severity with a period of just 6 to 21 days of curcuminoid supplementation, including:

COVID-19 and curcuminoids: Lab studies

A lab based study published in the Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics concluded that

'turmeric spice has a potential to inhibit the COVID-19 vital proteins and can be use a therapeutic or protective agent against COVID-19 via inhibiting key protein of the virus'.

 

A detailed lab study from researchers in Germany and published in the academic journals Viruses called 'Turmeric Root and Its Bioactive Ingredient Curcumin Effectively Neutralize SARS-CoV-2 In Vitro' reported that:

'curcuminoids completely neutralized SARS-CoV-2 in vitro' (in vitro meaning in a test tube)

 

A 2021 study published in the academic journal Phytomedicine screened phytonutrients (phyt meaning plant) and found that:

‘In conclusion, the present study successfully demonstrated the binding of phytochemicals such as curcumin, to Nsp15 viral protein and might play a key role in inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 replication’. 

 

A similar 2021 study, this time published in the scientific journal 'VirusDiease' screened 20 bioactives identified from medicinal plants for activity against COVID-19. This study reported that curcumin had significant binding affinity towards spike glycoprotein of the COVID-19 virus and ACE2 receptor leading the researchers to conclude that curcumin may be useful as a therapeutic and/or prophylactic agent for restricting COVID-19 virus attachment to the host cells.

 

A 2022 study in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine selected and tested 15 bioactive compounds against the main protein of COVID-19.

‘Among them, curcumin exhibited very high docking score against the main protein of COVID-19.’

 

A 2021 study published in the academic journal ‘Computers in Biology and Medicine’ used advanced computer analytics to model the effect of 7 phytonutrients (phyt meaning plant) and reported

‘curcumin was most potent at restricting COVID-19 viral entry…This result provides a significant insight about the phytonutrient role, namely curcumin as a potential therapeutic entity against mutated spike protein of COVID-19.

 

 COVID-19 and curcuminoids: Scientific reviews

Scientific reviews can be very interesting and are usually based on scientific thoughts, ideas etc.

 

One of the earliest scientific publications regarding COVID and turmeric/curcuminoids was published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology. This was a review entitled 'Potential use of turmeric in COVID-19' and suggested that turmeric and curcmuninoids could benefit COVID-19 patients but this article was based on ideas, not actually studied the effects of curcuminoids in people. 

 

A follow up review publication published in the academic journal Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology titled: 'COVID-19: Suppression of Inflammation with Curcumin?', suggested that curcuminoids could have broad anti-inflammatory effects in COVID-19.

 

Another review in the European Journal of Pharmacology was titled: 'Curcumin, a traditional spice component, can hold the promise against COVID-19?'

 

One review published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry even suggested that curcuminoids could improve mood and depression during and after COVID infection!

 

An interesting review was titled: Curcumin and Piperine in COVID-19: A Promising Duo to the Rescue? published in the journal Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology reviewed the evidence that piperine and curcumin have promising effects on COVID-19. 

 

Piperine is a major alkaloid present in black pepper. Indeed, piperine can increase the absorption and bioactivity of curcuminoids.

 

One human intervention study reported that the addition of piperine to curcuminoids increased absorption by to 2000%!!! This research used a ratio of curcuminoid to piperine of 1:1000 and was published in the academic journal Planta Medica (the Journal of Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research). It is fascinating that many traditional dishes, for example curry, are made with turmeric (the spice that contain curcuminoids) often use black pepper, which is the only dietary source of piperine. Further, there is evidence that piperine might help with COVID-19 directly by itself

 

Probably due to increased absorption, the addition of piperine to curcumin has shown synergistic effects in multiple studies.

 

Further, many studies have demonstrated that the combination of curcumin with another nutrient called quercetin is stronger than that of either individual treatment alone.

 

And finally, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine demonstrated that the combination of curcuminoids with both piperine and quercetin seems to have the greatest synergy and results in the greatest absorption and bioactivity.

 

Now, back to curcumin and COVID-19! Another review article published in the journal Food Science & Nutrition and entitled: 'Curcumin: New treatment option against COVID-19' wrote: Curcuminoids have some useful clinical effects such as antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-fatigue effects that could be effective to manage the symptoms of the infected patient with COVID-19. This review concluded: 

'Scientific evidence suggests that curcumin could have a potential role to treat COVID-19'. 

 

In fact, several scientific reviews suggest that curcuminoids have potential as a treatment for COVID-19, such as:

Curcumin as a potential treatment for COVID-19 (published in Frontiers in Pharmacology)

Potential effects of curcumin in the treatment of COVID-19 infection (published in the academic journal Phytotherapy Research)

Finally, one review even called Curcuminoids a 'wonder drug...in COVID-19 management'!!!

 

COVID-19 and curcuminoids: Human studies 

But we always want to look for human studies. Now I will introduce and summarise the 10 publications regarding curcuminoid supplementation in COVID-19 patients: 

 

Human study 1

-The first ever study investigating curuminoid supplementation in COVID-19 patients:

-December 2020

-Published in the academic journal International Immunopharmacology 

 -In this study, 40 patients with COVID-19 were given 160 milligrams of curcuminoid capsules or placebo capsules containing no curcuminoids.   

 -After only 14 days, the COVID-19 patients who consumed curcuminoids had:

  • Less inflammation in their blood
  • Decreased expression of inflammatory genes
  • Less fever
  • Less shortness of breath
  • The death rate was much lower in the curcuminoid supplementation group compared to the placebo group: 20% vs. 40%

 

Human study 2

-January 2021

-Published in the academic journal Phytotherapy Research

-Similar to the first study, there was 41 COVID-19 patients in this study and the dose was 160 milligrams of curcuminoids daily compared to no curcuminoids. 

-After only 14 days, the COVID-19 patients who consumed curcuminoids had:

  • Less fever
  • Less cough
  • Less headache
  • Less chills
  • Less muscle pains
  • Less rapid breathing
  • Better oxygen levels in the blood
  • Less need for oxygen therapy
  • Less need for hospitalisation

In addition, 40% of those who did not get curcuminoids got worse compared to 0% (zero percent!) in those who got curcuminoids 

 

Human study 3

*This study gave curcuminoids and also piperine (you can find out more about piperine and COVID-19 here)

-May 2021

-Published in the academic journal Frontiers in Pharmacology

-The larger study included 140 patients with COVID-19 and the dose was 525 milligrams of curcuminoids and 2.5 milligrams of piperine. Piperine is interesting with regards to curcuminoids as it seems to increase curcuminoid bioactivity and may even have direct effects against COVID-19 itself.

-After only 14 days, curcuminoid consumption led to:

  • Less fever
  • Less cough
  • Less sore throat
  • Less breathlessness
  • Less deterioration over the period of hospital stay
  • Better ability to maintain oxygen levels
  • Less need for oxygen therapy
  • Less intubation and mechanical ventilation
  • Less blood clotting
  • The death rate was much lower in the curcuminoid + piperine supplementation group compared to the placebo group: 3% vs. 16%

 

Human study 4

-June 2021

-Published in the academic journal Food Science & Nutrition

 -This study included 60 patients with COVID-19 and the dose was 160 milligrams of curcuminoids

-After only 14 days, curcuminoid consumption led to:

  • Less cough
  • Less chills
  • Less muscle aches
  • Improved taste and smell

10% of the COVID patients who didn't get curcuminoids got worse and were admitted to hospital...none of the patients who got curcuminoids got worse. 

 

Human study 5

-July 2021

-Published in the academic journal Life Sciences

-This study included 80 patients with COVID-19 and the dose was 160 milligrams of curcuminoids. Interestingly 40 of the COVID-19 patients had severe symptoms and were in ICU while the other 40 COVID-19 patients were hospitalised with moderate disease but weren't in ICU

-After 21 days, curcuminoid consumption led to:

  • Less cough
  • Less shortness of breath
  • Increased immune regulation cells (called Tregs)
  • increased anti-inflammatory biomarkers in the blood (IL-10, IL-35, TGF-B)
  • increased expression of anti-inflammatory genes (called FoxP3 and interleukin-10)
  • The death rate was much lower in the curcuminoid supplementation group compared to the placebo group: 2.5% vs. 15%

 

Human study 6

-July 2021

-Published in the academic journal Cellular Physiology

-This study included 80 patients with COVID-19 and the dose was 160 milligrams of curcuminoids. Interestingly 40 of the COVID-19 patients had severe symptoms and were in ICU while the other 40 COVID-19 patients were hospitalised with moderate disease but weren't in ICU

-After 21 days, curcuminoid consumption led to:

  • Less fever
  • Less cough
  • Less shortness of breath
  • decreased expression of 5 anti-inflammatory genes
  • decreased inflammatory biomarkers in the blood (IL-17)

 

Within this 21 day study:

  • 100% of the moderate COVID patients who got curcuminoids were discharged compared to only 70% in the placebo group
  • 0% of the of the moderate COVID patients who got curcuminoids passed away compared to 5% in the placebo group

 

  • 80% of the severe COVID patients who got curcuminoids were discharged compared to only 45% in the placebo group 
  • 5% of the of the moderate COVID patients who got curcuminoids passed away compared to 25% in the placebo group

 

Human study 7

-September 2021

-Published in the academic journal Phytotherapy research

-After 14 days, curcuminoid consumption led to:

  • less inflammatory biomarkers in the blood (CRP
  • decreased expression of inflammatory genes (TBX21)
  • increased expression of anti-inflammatory genes (FoxP3)

 

Human study 8

-September 2021

-Published in the academic journal Cureus

-One person with asthma was diagnosed with COVID-19 leading to chest tightness, fever, headache, nausea as well as loss of smell and taste. This person started taking medications, including steroids and antibiotics as well as supplements, including vitamin C. All symptoms improved...except smell and taste. 4 days later this person then consumed curcuminoids + piperine which led to complete improvement in smell and taste...within 3 days!!! 

-Another person with no medical history was diagnosed with COVID-19 leading to headache, muscle aches, fever, fatigue and and lost all sensation of both smell and taste. After 5 days, all symptoms disappeared - except smell and taste which did not improve until 45 days later...This person then consumed curcuminoids + piperine which led to complete improvement in smell and taste...within 10 minutes!!! 

 

Human study 9

-January 2022

-Published in the academic journal Phytotherapy research

-After just 6 days, curcuminoid consumption led to:

  • Better oxygen levels in the blood
  • Less symptoms (including chest pain, shortness of breath, and wheeze, headache, muscle ache, and fever)

 

Human study 10

-January 2022

-Also published in the academic journal Phytotherapy research

-After 7 days, curcuminoid consumption led to:

  • Less inflammation in the blood (IL-1β)
  • Less mRNA expression of inflammation (IFN-γ and TNF-α)
  • Less expression of inflammation (IFN-γ, IL-1β, and IL-6)

 

Human study 11

-January 2022

-Also published in the academic journal Phytotherapy research

-After 6 days, curcuminoid consumption led to:

  • better oxygen scores
  • respiratory symptoms
  • shorter hospital stay

This research study concluded:

'As curcminoids can be effective in increasing oxygen and reducing the severity of symptoms in COVID-19 patients, it could probably be used as a complementary agent to accelerate the recovery of patients'.

 

Human study 12

-January 2022

-Also published in the academic journal Phytotherapy research

-After 7 days, curcuminoid consumption led to:

  • decreased expression of inflammatory genes (IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6)
  • decreased inflammation in the blood (IL-1β) 

This research study concluded:

'The evidence demonstrated that curcuminoids could be implicated as a complementary medication to act as an anti-inflammatory agent and inhibit inflammatory complications'

 

Indeed, a review of all the published review to date (called a systematic review) in the academic journal Nutrients from January 2022 reported:

‘curcuminoid supplementation led to a significant decrease in symptoms, duration of hospitalization and deaths. Curcumin supplementation may offer an efficacious and safe option for improving Covid-19 outcomes'.

 

Conclusion

The use of curcuminoid supplementation for COVID is supported by:

  • scientific reviews
  • lab studies
  • 12 human studies!

Since curcuminoid supplements are widely available and safe, curcuminoid supplementation is a great strategy to improve COVID symptoms!

 

An ideal curcuminoid supplement would contain:

  • Curcminoids, not just curcumin and not plain turmeric spice
  • Piperine which can increase the absorption and bioactivity of curminoids
  • Quercetin which has synergystic effects with curcuminoids

 

In addition to curcuminoids, other supplements and nutraceuticals backed by scientific evidence to help with COVID-19 include:

 

The best scientific evidence we have suggests that regarding COVID-19 infection, earlier supplementation is better

 

*Full references list and full text manuscripts available upon request

Written by our founder, Dr. Conor Kerley

Copyright of Phytaphix 


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