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Curcumin in Lyme disease by Marty Ross MD image

About Curcumin 

Curcumin is an essential support herb that may

  • decrease pain
  • limit and improve Herxheimer die-off reactions,
  • boost the immune system by lowering inflammation cytokines,
  • decrease brain injury and damage, and
  • may aid in killing Lyme and co-infection germs.

Curcumin is a wonderful herbal nutritional support in most of chronic Lyme disease treatments. It is a component of turmeric, a seasoning derived from Curcuma longa that is commonly found in Indian food. It is a useful support for a variety of problems that occur in chronic Lyme and associated diseases.

Laboratory experiments suggest curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory, a strong anti-oxidant, and an effective anti-microbial against bacteria, viruses, yeast, and even parasites. It can decrease pain, limit Herxheimer Die-off reactions, decrease brain injury and damage, and may kill Lyme and co-infection germs. It may boost the immune system by lowering excess inflammation cytokines that occur in Lyme disease.


As an anti-oxidant curcumin may limit and decrease brain injury. Chronic Lyme infection increases a chemical in the brain called quinolinic acid. Quinolinic acid is elevated in numerous disorders like Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's. It is an agent that causes brain dysfunction and injury. Curcumin lowers quinolinic acid through its anti-oxidant effect. It also appears that curcumin raises a potent anti-oxidant called glutathione that is found in all of our cells. Glutathione prevents and repairs nerve injury. Curcumin may be helpful for anyone who has cognition problems with poor memory or difficulty processing information.


Curcumin has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-parasite actions in laboratory experiments. Although there are no studies that show benefit in using curcumin to treat Lyme and the co-infections, it may be useful as an anti-microbial.

Method of Action for Pain and Herxheimer Die-Off Reaction

According to Aggarwal et al.

Numerous lines of evidence suggest that curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. First, curcumin suppresses the activation of the transcription factor NF–kB, which regulates the expression of pro-inflammatory gene products. Second, curcumin downregulates the expression of COX-2, an enzyme linked with most types of inflammations. Third, curcumin inhibits the expression of another pro-inflammatory enzyme: 5-LOX. Additionally, curcumin has been shown to bind to the active site of 5-LOX and inhibit its activity. Fourth, curcumin downregulates the expression of various cell surface adhesion molecules that have been linked with inflammation. Fifth, curcumin downregulates the expression of various inflammatory cytokines, including TNF, IL-1, IL-6, IL-8, and chemokines. Sixth, curcumin has been shown to inhibit the action of TNF, one of the most pro-inflammatory of the cytokines. Seventh, curcumin is a potent antioxidant, which might contribute to its anti-inflammatory action.<>


Use a liposomal source of curcumin which is encapsulated to increase absorption. Generally curcumin is poorly absorbed into the blood stream. One way to increase the absorption is to microscopically wrap it in fat. This is called liposomal crucumin.


As an herbal support for pain, Herxheimer die-off reactions, and brain injury/cognitive impairment use curcumin 500 mg 1 pills 3 times a day. If this does not help, then try curcumin 500mg 2 pills 3 times a day. As an added benefit curcumin may have anti-microbial action too against bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungae.


Curcumin has been shown to reduce the therapeutic efficacy of cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) in animal studies. In vitro research revealed that curcumin decreased camptothecin-induced death of cultured breast cancer cells. Curcumin might also interfere with the absorption and efficacy of the chemotherapy drug irinotecan, used to treat colon cancer. The concurrent use of curcumin with these agents should be avoided.


The ideas and recommendations on this website and in this article are for informational purposes only. For more information about this, see the sitewide Terms & Conditions.


View Citations

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  2. Butler T. (2017). The jarisch-herxheimer reaction after antibiotic treatment of spirochetal infections: a review of recent cases and our understanding of pathogenesis. Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 96:46–52. 10.4269/ajtmh.16-0434
  3. Gulcubuk A, et al. Effects of curcumin on proinflammatory cytokines and tissue injury in the early and late phases of experimental acute pancreatitis.. Pancreatology. 13(4):347-354.
  4. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. Curcumin. Micronutrient Information Center; Phytochemicals website. Accessed August 18, 2018.
  5. Peacock BN, Gherezghiher TB, Hilario JD. et al. New insights into Lyme disease. Redox Biol. 2015;5:66–70.
  6. Pound MW, May DB. Proposed mechanisms and preventative options of Jarisch-Herxheimer reactions. J. Clin. Pharm. Ther. 2005;30:291–295. 10.1111/j.1365-2710.2005.00631.x
  7. Shachar I, Karin N. The dual roles of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines in the regulation of autoimmune diseases and their clinical implications. J Leukoc Biol. 2013;93(1):51–61. doi: 10.1189/jlb.0612293.
  8. Strle K , Drouin EE, Shen S, El Khoury J, McHugh G, Ruzic-Sabljic E, Strle F, Steere AC. Borrelia burgdorferi stimulates macrophages to secrete higher levels of cytokines and chemokines than Borrelia afzelii or Borrelia garinii. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2009;200(12):1936–1943,
  9. Strle K, Sulka KB, Pianta A, Crowley JT, Arvikar SL, Anselmo A, Sadreyev R, Steere, AC. T-Helper 17 cell cytokine responses in Lyme disease correlate with Borrelia burgdorferi antibodies during early Infection and with autoantibodies late in the illness in patients with antibiotic-refractory Lyme srthritis, Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2017;64(7):930–938.
  10. Zhao F, Gong Y, Hu Y, Lu, M, Wang J, Dong J, Qiu F. Curcumin and its major metabolites inhibit the inflammatory response induced by lipopolysaccharide: Translocation of nuclear factor-κB as potential target. Molecular Medicine Reports. 2015;11:3087-3093.
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About The Author

Marty Ross, MD is a passionate Lyme disease educator and clinical expert. He helps Lyme sufferers and their physicians see what really works based on his review of the science and extensive real-world experience. Dr. Ross is licensed to practice medicine in Washington State (License: MD00033296) where he has treated thousands of Lyme disease patients in his Seattle practice.

Marty Ross, MD is a graduate of Indiana University School of Medicine and Georgetown University Family Medicine Residency. He is a member of the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The Institute for Functional Medicine, and The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M).

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