Few dietary supplements have the notoriety of turmeric. Thousands of clinical studies performed over the years allude to the numerous medicinal uses of turmeric. Extracted from the dried-up roots of the Curcuma longa plant, this golden spice contains a remarkable antioxidant called curcumin.
It’s the curcuminoids that we can thank for the wide range of health benefits with very few health risks. But, can turmeric help with asthma and allergy symptoms, and does it behave like an antihistamine within the body?
Turmeric for Asthma & Allergies
Several studies have shown that turmeric can be extremely beneficial for arthritis and joint pain, weight loss, and blood pressure. Curcumin has even demonstrated significant potential in the treatment of chronic conditions such as cancer and diabetes.
New evidence suggests that oral curcumin supplementation may be able to reduce the symptoms associated with allergies and asthma. Researchers believe turmeric can relieve the airway obstruction and suppress allergic reactions by stabilizing the immune system’s response. (1)
To better understand how turmeric can help, let’s discuss allergies and asthma in a bit more detail.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disorder with recurrent inflammation that causes airways in the lungs to swell and narrow. This effect leads to shortness of breath (dyspnea), chest tightness, wheezing, coughing, and in general, makes breathing very difficult.
There is no cure for asthma, but it’s possible to control symptoms, which usually begin to appear in early childhood. For some people, asthma is a minor problem. But for others, asthma attacks are a frequent occurrence that causes disturbances in day to day living.
Here are some of the most likely situations to generate an asthma flare-up:
- Physical activity: While exercise is always a good thing, it can be a struggle if you have asthma. It may also worsen when exercising in an environment with dry and cold air.
- Work-related conditions: Workplace irritants such as gases, chemical fumes, or dust particles can cause difficulty breathing.
- Seasonal allergies: Airborne substances such as mold spores, skin particles, pollen, and pet dander can initiate allergic reactions and trigger asthma.
Severe bouts of asthma can be life-threatening. Thus, it's critical to understand your specific situation, keep your symptoms under control, and live safely within your means. (2)
What are Allergies?
When your immune system responds to a foreign substance, an allergic reaction may occur. As mentioned above, this could be pollen, pet dander, or any number of airborne substances.
As a result, the body’s response to allergens may include overactive sinuses, obstructed airways, digestive problems, or inflamed skin, which can lead to eczema.
Here are a few essential terms to understand before moving on:
- Antibodies: These substances, also known as immunoglobulin E (IgE), are bound to mast cells and released to counteract antigens (foreign substances) that the body identifies as alien.
- Histamine: When antibodies interact with antigens, histamine release occurs, which is a central process in the body’s inflammatory response. Histamine triggers allergy symptoms, hence the name “antihistamine,” given to allergy medications.
- Hay Fever: Allergies that primarily block nasal passages leading to cold-like symptoms.
- Anaphylaxis: Refers to a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction that puts the body into a state of shock.
Allergies and asthma often co-occur. Therefore, if you have asthma, it’s imperative to find something that controls allergy-related symptoms to prevent flare-ups. (3)
Why Turmeric Curcumin?
Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant with a variety of beneficial effects on boosting immunity. This property has led many researchers to believe that curcumin can help reduce the systemic oxidative stress linked to the increase in allergic reactions and asthma attacks.
Curcumin is also one of the best natural anti-inflammatory agents in existence. Studies show that it may be able to target the recurrent inflammation associated with histamine release.
In today’s post, we will cover the science and research behind curcumin’s ability to relieve asthma and allergy symptoms.
Turmeric for Asthma & Allergy Relief: Is Curcumin an Antihistamine?
In the past decade, we’ve witnessed a significant increase in asthma and allergies in developed countries. One study analyzed the immunomodulatory effects of curcumin on subjects with allergies. Immunomodulation refers to the alteration of the immune response back to normal levels.
Individuals treated with curcumin experienced antiallergic effects inhibiting the release of histamine from mast cells. Further animal research also demonstrated marked inhibition of the allergic response using turmeric. These findings suggest curcumin may have an antihistamine-like effect. (4)
A second trial conducted evaluated the efficacy of turmeric against chronic inflammatory disease, bronchial asthma. The study contained a total of 77 patients with mild to moderate symptoms. Each subject received a total of 1,000 mg of curcumin per day, split into two 500 mg doses for a 30-day treatment period.
The study’s results showed that the curcumin group saw significant improvements in airway obstruction. This benefit likely occurred due to turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effect leading to increased lung function. The researchers concluded that curcumin is a safe add-on therapy for bronchial asthma treatment. (5)
Another trial tested turmeric’s effects on airflow and nasal symptoms in patients with allergic rhinitis (AR). The study was double-blind, randomized, and contained 241 patients. Each participant received either an oral curcumin supplement or a placebo for a 2-month treatment period.
The results of this trial showed that curcumin possessed significant therapeutic effects for individuals with allergies. Turmeric reduced nasal airflow resistance and alleviated nasal symptoms such as congestion and sneezing. This conclusion demonstrates a positive modulation of the immune response in AR patients. (6)
Further research assessed curcumin’s potential to suppress mast cell activation and IgE-mediated allergic reaction in a group of mice. The turmeric supplementation successfully inhibited antigen-mediated mast cell activation. In other words, its antiallergic activity suppressed histamine release and reduced allergy-related inflammation. (7)
Researchers performed another animal study testing curcumin’s immunomodulatory activity on mice with a latex allergy. Similar to past results, turmeric successfully reduced lung inflammation and antigen-presenting cells in the treated mice. This conclusion is further evidence that curcumin may be able to control allergic responses. (8)
Curcumin administration has shown significant potential as an add-on treatment for both asthma and allergies. In several mice models, turmeric substantially improved lung function, inflammatory response, and lowered airway obstruction. Curcumin may even be able to attenuate food allergy symptoms. (9, 10)
Final Thoughts on Turmeric for Asthma & Allergy Symptoms
Can turmeric help reduce symptoms of allergies and asthma? The answer appears to be, yes. Current evidence suggests curcumin may be able to inhibit mast cell activation, limit histamine release, and fight the body’s inflammatory response linked to asthma attacks and allergies.
Remember, turmeric is not a cure for asthma or allergies. However, it may be an excellent complementary supplement to help control and reduce symptomology and allergic reactions. Always consult a doctor or primary care physician when adding new dietary supplements to your daily regimen.