I didn’t do any research or write a post yesterday after returning home from work because one of the fingers on my right hand had swelled up to the size of a small eggplant. Quite painful, too, I admit. An infected finger, something I haven’t had since I began taking curcumin. In Italian it’s called giradito or patereccio; in English I found the translation “whitlow.” If you are interested, more info can be had on this BBC health page:


Well, in the pre-curcumin era I had always successfully treated these bloated objects with my family doctor’s simple home remedy, so I knew what to do. I wrapped my finger in an alcohol-soaked bit of cotton and waited. But the remedy didn’t work this time…I must have caught a resistant sort of super-germ. My finger continued to hurt and swell. So I went on Internet, painstakingly using my left hand (I am right-handed, so manoeuvring my mouse with my left hand took quite a bit of patience…), and found an Italian “grandmother’s remedies” website. The remedy for giradito that made the most sense to me was to dip the injured finger in boiling, salted water. Just like pasta.


So that’s what I did. OUCH!


The only result was that the germs inside my finger angrily gnashed their little teeth and increased the pain in my finger (actually, I think this remedy does work, but perhaps the water doesn’t need to be so bloody hot…!). My whole hand began to throb at that point, and my formerly-normal thumb also started to hurt and turn red. Not a good sign. When Stefano got home from work, we even considered going to Careggi hospital’s emergency room, but it’s August (most of Italy is on holiday) and it was late at night by then, so we quickly nixed that idea.


Stefano looked through the medicine cabinet and found an antibiotic that I had taken last September for my bronchitis. Bronchitis, not giradito. But the directions said that it would work also against generic “bacterial infections.” Good enough. I took a pill.


I then smeared my finger with Polysporin, an antibiotic ointment, Stefano bandaged it loosely but carefully, and we went to sleep. This morning my finger was much less swollen and less red. It still feels a bit like an alien appendage, but the pain is gone. Yeah!


By the way, just as a precaution, this morning I called my doctor, who interrupted me halfway through my story with the statement: “you need to take an antibiotic.” He was pleased to hear that I had gone ahead and done just that. I mention this because I think it’s a good idea to get in touch with your doctor when things like this happen—infections are no laughing matter!


So how did I get this germ? Well, after work I usually stop to do some shopping at a large nearby farmers’ cooperative. I stopped there yesterday, too. I got a shopping cart, wheeled it inside the store and strolled over to the fruit and vegetable area where I put on plastic disposable gloves, the kind that you use to avoid touching produce with your bare hands. I felt the first prick of pain in my finger right after I had slipped on the right-hand glove. How odd, I thought. But I ignored my finger until I got home…


At any rate, it would seem that I had been attacked by a super-germ. And the only thing that I had touched until that first stab of pain had been the shopping cart. And here we get to the main reason I wrote this post, that is, to warn you to be more careful than I was. Germs are everywhere, and particularly those of us with compromised immune systems must be a tad more cautious than others. Under certain circumstances, perhaps it is not a bad idea to wear disposable gloves (perhaps brought from home!).


We shouldn’t go overboard, of course. Not all germs are harmful, so, when you go shopping, chances are that all you will need to do is keep your hands away from your face and then wash them carefully with soap and warm water when you get home.


This reminded me of a show on germs that I watched years ago on U.S. television. All sorts of objects, including supermarket carts, were swabbed and analyzed. A scary finding was that flesh-eating bacteria were found on shopping cart handles. Makes you think, eh? And have a look at this 2006 ABC news report: 1,100 germ colonies? Yikes! And if you thought that your office desk was safe, read this: Mamma mia! But, as I said, there are good germs and bad germs. 


Well, at least I can type now. And I still have all of my flesh. That’s two good things that have happened today…


  1. That is disturbing. Could there have been a bug in the glove? I recommend lemon juice on stuff like that…….. In Arizona, they have wipes inside every store to clean the carts and I like that!

  2. I haven’t heard of a whitlow for years but I know them to be
    nasty infections; and of course we always use our fingers.
    Sorry to read of your bad luck, Margaret.
    Have you tried garlic? Crush 3 or 4 raw cloves to a pulp and
    wrap it in a bandage around the finger. You should feel the
    effect by next day at the latest.Garlic is wonderful stuff but
    it must be raw.I had bad toothache some years ago so I cut
    a sliver of garlic and stuffed it in the cavity.It stung a bit to
    start with but the excruciating pain subsided quickly and was
    almost gone after a while. Next day I had an extraction.
    Garlic is a grear panacea and well worth a little research.
    Old Bill
    ps better than boiling water 🙂

  3. According to the below article, curcumin is immunosuppressive…
    my question is: is it only theoretical?or people taking
    curcumin are getting some effect on the immune system?

    Clin Exp Immunol. 2007 January; 147(1): 155–163.
    doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2006.03257.x. PMCID: PMC1810449

    Copyright © 2006 British Society for Immunology
    Resveratrol and curcumin suppress immune response through CD28/CTLA-4 and CD80 co-stimulatory pathway
    S Sharma,* K Chopra,* S K Kulkarni,* and J N Agrewala†
    †Immunology Laboratory, Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh, India
    *Pharmacology Division, University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India
    Correspondence: Dr Javed N. Agrewala, Immunology Laboratory, Institute of Microbial Technology, Sector-39 A, Chandigarh-160036, India. E-mail:
    Accepted October 16, 2006.
    References AbstractThe role of resveratrol and curcumin is well documented in cancer, inflammation, diabetes and various other diseases. However, their immunosuppressive action on T cells, B cells and macrophages is not well documented. In the present study, we have ascertained the effect of resveratrol and curcumin on T and B cells and macrophages. The most striking findings were that both resveratrol and curcumin suppressed the activity of T and B cells and macrophages, as evidenced by significant inhibition in proliferation, antibody production and lymphokine secretion. Interestingly, curcumin imparted immunosuppression by mainly down-regulating the expression of CD28 and CD80 and up-regulating CTLA-4. Resveratrol also functioned by decreasing the expression of CD28 and CD80, as well as by augmenting the production of interleukin (IL)-10.
    Keywords: CD28, CD40, CD80, CTLA-4, curcumin, IL-10, resveratrol

  4. I seem to remember Sue H saying she had a similar problem recently.
    Scarely that it can arise from next to nothing.
    Glad your finger is getting better and hope you are back to your best for your holidays.

  5. Ciao Carla,

    The abstract you cite is not new to me, indeed I thought I even had the full study in my possession, but I looked for it among my million files and couldn’t find it. Pazienza.

    So I cannot answer your very good question except to say that since taking curcumin I have NOT had that many infections, except for a few upper respiratory ones, compared to the pre-curcumin period. In fact, this was my first “giradito” in ages. In the pre-curcumin era, instead, I got all sorts of infections and was much “sicker.” I am definitely “healthier” now…ironic as that may seem. I would like to read that full study…I will try to get it in the fall.

    You are right, it could just be theoretical. In vitro results do not always remain the same in vivo, as we know. For instance, some time ago Prof. Aggarwal told me that the in vitro finding that curcumin is a blood thinning agent has not been observed in vivo. But the warnings remain in the literature.

    That’s the best I can do…for now, at least!

    Ciao! E buone ferie!

    P.S. Garlic is wonderful, Old Bill. I eat tons of it now. I used to avoid it because of the after-effects, but those don’t bother me now. Onions, too. I read about another remedy, which consisted in putting your finger inside a tomato. I didn’t try that, I confess, but it might work, too. And thanks Paul. My finger today is back to its old self. 🙂

  6. Thanks margaret!
    I should like to know what tests have to be performed
    for detecting a “suppressed immune system” in a living
    patients! My husband’s oncologist did not want
    to order
    this type of testing, he said he has patients with perfect
    immune tests and advancing cancers…
    Buon Ferragosto!

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