Curcumin reduces latex allergy

The recent worldwide increase in allergy has led to the exploration of novel alternative therapies. One team from Wisconsin, US, has recently turned the research spotlight on curcumin, the brilliant yellow ingredient responsible for the taste, colour and biological properties of turmeric.

Curcumin has a long and distinguished history as a medicinal spice in traditional Asian medicine, and animal studies have already demonstrated its ability to protect the liver, inhibit tumours, reduce inflammation and fight some infections. However, this was the first scientific evaluation of the spice's effectiveness in the treatment of asthma and allergy.

The Wisconsin study looked at mice in which latex allergy had been deliberately induced, and measured their immunological and inflammatory responses to subsequent treatment with curcumin. The results showed that the spice is capable of reducing or suppressing the allergic response in sensitised mice when exposed to latex allergens and, therefore, that it has a potential therapeutic value in treating latex allergy.

Further studies are now needed to ascertain the precise mechanism(s) involved. Click here for the full text of this research.

With the potential therapeutic value of curcumin demonstrated and, given the spice's impeccable safety record, patients with latex allergy may not want to wait for further trials to establish efficacy in humans and determine an optimum dose. In this case, it will be necessary to take supplemental curcumin, as even the liberal use of the spice in food is unlikely to provide a high enough intake for therapeutic purposes.

In one recent study, researchers at the Washington University Medical Center in the US gave patients up to 3 grams of curcumin daily - more than 50 times the amount in a single portion of curry. Elsewhere, patients with arthritis, asthma, and eczema, as well as heart disease and cancer, have been recommended to take one capsule of 400-600 mg of standardised curcumin powder three times per day. Up to eight capsules daily have been taken with good results.

Curcumin supplements are best taken with food; the spice can cause nausea if too much is taken on an empty stomach. The spice should not be taken by anyone who has had their gall bladder removed or is taking blood-thinning medications such as Warfarin and Heparin.

First published in Ocrober 2007

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