GMHC Treatment Issues 1996 Feb 1; 10(2): 7
Curcumin, a component of the spice turmeric and popular
herbal medicine, has no anti-HIV activity in people according
to a study presented by the Community Research Initiative of
New England (CRINE) at the Retrovirus Conference (abstract
140). The report stands in contrast to an earlier, smaller
study by the Search Alliance (now the AIDS ReSearch Alliance)
of Los Angeles which observed a reduction in viral load.
Interest in curcumin increased when Search Alliance announced
that 2,500 mg per day of curcumin produced a "modest"
reduction in viral load over twenty weeks.
Researchers at CRINE attempted to reproduce these results by
enrolling 40 people in an eight-week trial. Two doses were
used, 2,700 mg/day and 4,800 mg/day, and enrollees were
allowed to take concurrent antiviral drugs.
The results were nil for both doses. Viral load (an average
of 61,000 copies/ml at baseline) did not change significantly
over the eight weeks, nor did CD4 count (baseline average of
It is not clear why the two community-based research
organizations came to such different conclusions. Ten of the
eighteen Search volunteers received flu shots during the
trial, which probably distorted the viral load data. The
accuracy of the Search trial's viral load testing also has
been questioned. (See AIDS Treatment News, May 6, 1994, pages
The reason for curcumin's lack of activity may be that it is
very poorly absorbed by the digestive tract, according to
animal studies. Levels of curcumin in the blood were not
measured in either study. CRINE plans to do this shortly.