But turmeric, or the root of the Curcuma longa plant, has another useful form: turmeric essential oil. Owing to its many biological properties, which include antioxidant, anti-allergic, antibacterial and anti-fungal activities, turmeric essential oil is often used in skincare products, especially those formulated to fight the signs of aging.
In a recent study, Iranian researchers explored yet another use for turmeric essential oil -- this time, as a natural scolicidal agent. Scolicidal agents are used to sterilize hydatid cysts -- fluid-filled sacs formed when dog tapeworm larvae lodge themselves in various body sites -- and prevent dissemination of the parasite during surgery.
The researchers tested the efficacy and safety of turmeric essential oil on freshly collected protoscoleces, which are the spherical larva of Echinococcus granulosus, also known as the dog tapeworm. The researchers reported their findings in an article published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
E. granulosus is a zoonotic parasite that can be transferred to humans by infected dogs. In humans, this parasite causes hydatid disease -- sometimes called cystic echinococcosis -- a potentially fatal condition caused by hydatid cysts forming in various organs, such as the bones, muscles, lungs and liver.
Surgical removal of hydatid cysts is the recommended treatment for hydatid disease. However, modern drugs used during surgery to avoid complications have been found to cause adverse effects, such as sclerosing cholangitis. Sclerosing cholangitis is a disease of the bile ducts that can eventually cause serious liver damage.
Because of the toxicity of currently available protoscolicidal agents, scientists are now searching for much safer alternatives. Emphasis has been placed on getting these new agents from natural sources to minimize any adverse effects. The researchers chose turmeric essential oil because of its abundance of bioactive components. (Related: Turmeric: 6 Medicinal benefits and home remedies.)
For their experiment, the researchers collected protoscoleces from fertile hydatid cysts and exposed them to different concentrations of turmeric essential oil (50 to 200 microliters (ul)/milliliter (mL)) for five to 30 minutes both in vitro and ex vivo. They also used 48 male mice to examine the safety of various concentrations of turmeric essential oil.
The researchers found that turmeric essential oil at 200 ul/mL completely killed all protoscoleces within five minutes. At a lower concentration of 100 ul/mL, turmeric essential oil killed 100 percent of protoscoleces within 10 minutes. Lower doses of the essential oil, on the other hand, showed delayed activity.
While turmeric essential oil at 50 and 100 ul/mL did not exhibit a similar effect ex vivo, at 200 ul/mL, the essential oil killed approximately 100 percent of protoscoleces in hydatid cysts within five minutes.
Meanwhile, injection of different concentrations of turmeric essential oil for 14 days in mice did not cause any toxic effects, although some blood and biochemical parameters noticeably changed.
Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that turmeric essential oil is a promising natural scolicidal agent that can decrease the threat of protoscoleces discharge during hydatid cyst surgery.