Could Curcumin Be An Alternative Treatment For Depression?


Previously, I told you about a recent Australian study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, which found that supplementing with curcumin helped to improve symptoms of both depression and anxiety.

By now, you should be familiar with curcumin — the pigment that gives the curry spice turmeric its bright yellow-orange colour. In recent years it has been making waves for its ability to help alleviate arthritis pain, putting the lid on diabetes and even showing potential in treating heart disease and stroke. But it’s curcumin’s potent neuroprotective properties that keep breaking new ground.

For overall brain and mental health

One of the reasons why curcumin appears to be so powerful when it comes to brain and mental health is because it has the ability to cross your blood-brain barrier, which is also why it is being investigated as a treatment for neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease.

A recent major meta-analysis of six short-term, placebo-controlled clinical trials, showed that curcumin “appears to be safe, well-tolerated and efficacious among depressed patients”, and could serve as a “novel antidepressant”.

A separate scientific review, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, also assessed curcumin’s beneficial effects on depression and other psychiatric disorders and the researchers concluded: “In vitro, animal and human studies investigating curcumin as a treatment for neuropsychiatric disorders such as major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder and autism have been reviewed… It is concluded that curcumin is a promising, natural agent for many of these conditions…”

According to the researchers, one of the main reasons why curcumin has such a positive impact on neuropsychiatric disorders is because of its ability to reduce inflammation, which can wreak havoc on your mental health.

At least one previous study has suggested that chronic low-grade inflammation may be the root cause of depression. The study was published in the International Breastfeeding Journal, and the researchers stated that while it was previously thought that inflammation was simply one of many risk factors for depression, advances in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) have shown that physical and psychological stressors actually increase inflammation. The researchers concluded that inflammation is not simply a risk factor of depression but that it is the risk factor that underlies all the others.

In fact, the anti-inflammatory properties are so powerful that it has shown to be as effective as blockbuster antidepressant drugs. In one randomised controlled trial, curcumin’s efficacy was compared against fluoxetine (Prozac) in patients who were diagnosed with major depressive disorder. For this study, 60 patients were given one of three treatment protocols:

  • 20mg fluoxetine
  • 1,000mg curcumin (500mg standardised curcumin extract taken twice a day)
  • Combination of fluoxetine and curcumin

The researchers concluded: “This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with [major depressive disorder] without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders.”

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