The Power of Tea

Until now, there has been little hope of relief for the millions of people infected with incurable Herpes viruses. Promising new research by Biology and Microbiology Professor Sandra Adams suggests that a topical application made from readily available tea extracts could change that.

“In the United States, Herpes Simplex I, which causes cold sores, persists in 40 to 60 percent of the population,” says Adams. And more than 16 percent of Americans suffer from Herpes Simplex II, responsible for genital herpes.

For the 15 to 40 percent of people infected with these viruses who experience symptomatic, recurrent infections, relief may be on the way, based on Adams’ research.

Adams has been investigating how natural products – like black and green tea extracts and curcumin or turmeric extract – can inhibit the infection of Herpes Simplex I and II (HSV-1 and HSV-2). “Our research to date indicates that these polyphenols affect the ability of HSV-1 and HSV-2 to bind to cells, thus reducing the ability of the viruses to infect,” she explains. 

Her research is supported by Montclair State’s Science Honors Innovation Program (SHIP), and the Department of Biology and Microbiology. Selected SHIP students receive tuition funding for two years, says Adams, who works with both undergraduate and graduate students. A current SHIP student has successfully used curcumin to inhibit both HSV-1 and HSV-2 in cultured cells.

“Students in my lab make a long-term commitment to the projects and are critical to the success of the research,” she says. “One of my greatest satisfactions comes in seeing the progress that they make.”

In the past, antiviral treatments for herpes have mainly focused on limiting the replication and spread of the viruses.

Collaborating with department colleague Professor Lee Lee and others, Adams tests various formulations of green tea extracts as potential anti-Herpes topical applications. “We do not conduct in vivo assays in my lab; we assess the applicability in cell culture,” Adams says.

Adams hopes her work will ultimately provide relief to millions of herpes sufferers. Having a cup of tea never hurts, either. “Drinking green and black teas does have other health benefits due to their antioxidants,” she says.