Can Turmeric Cure H Pylori Infections?
Over half of the world's population is infected with Helicobacter pylori bacteria, or H. pylori (previously named Campylobacter pylori). H. pylori, which lives in the upper gastrointestinal track of the infected people, can cause serious damage to the body and ultimately lead to peptic ulcers or even stomach cancer. Today, H. pylori infections can usually be effectively cured with antibiotics; however, as H. pylori strains are growing increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatments, researchers are trying to find alternative cures for infections caused by these strains.
Turmeric root (Curcuma longa or Curcuma domestica) is an ancient culinary plant and herbal medicine that has been used in Asian countries, particularly India, to treat a wide range of health problems, including gastrointestinal complaints such as gastritis and gastric ulcers. In recent years, also Western scientists have begun to show interest in the potential health benefits of turmeric root. The potential of turmeric to treat gastrointestinal problems, in particular, has received a lot attention from the scientific community. In this article, we present recent studies that have been carried out to investigate the effects of turmeric, and its active component curcumin, on the growth of H pylori.
Turmeric Highly Effective at Killing H Pylori in Test Tubes
In one study, researchers investigated the anti-bacterial and anti-adhesive effects of extracts from over twenty plants, including turmeric, against several strains of H. pylori in test tubes. Of all the tested plants, eight showed no anti-bacterial effects against the tested strains of H. pylori after the 60-minute incubation time. Nine plants – including many common herbs and spices such as parsley, tarragon, nutmeg, sage, and cinnamon – had some anti-bacterial activities against H. pylori but were not capable of killing the bacteria.
Eight of the tested plants killed H. pylori (i.e. they completely inhibited the growth of H pylori colonies). Among these plants, turmeric was found to be the most effective, killing all H pylori bacteria within 15 minutes. Here's a complete list of the plants that were found to kill H pylori in this study, including the time needed by each plant to kill all the H pylori strains.
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa), 15min
- Cumin (Cuminum cyminum), 30 min
- Ginger root (Zingiber officinale), 30 min
- Chilli pepper (Capsicum anunum), 30 min
- Borage flower (Borago officinalis), 60 min
- Black caraway (Nigella sativa), 60 min
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare), 60 min
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra apofos), 60 min
Furthermore, three of the tested plants – namely turmeric, borage, and parsley – were also capable of inhibiting the adhesion of H pylori strains to stomach cells. This in vitro study appeared in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2005.
In Vivo Studies Have Been Less Convincing
The results of the above-described study, in addition to a number of other studies, provide convincing evidence that turmeric is highly effective at killing H pylori in test tubes. However, the results of in vivo studies conducted in humans have been less promising. In one study, patients were randomly assigned to receive either a combination drug consisting of Omeprazole, Amoxicillin and Metronidazole (OAM) or a course of curcumin. The eradication rate of H. pylori in the patients that were treated with OAM was significantly higher than in the patients that received curcumin (78.9% versus 5.9%). The researchers concluded that curcumin alone may have limited anti-bacterial activity against H. pylori, but that further studies should be carried out to investigate the effectiveness of curcumin in combination with other treatments.