Battling depression? The remedy may be as close as your spice cabinet.
Multiple studies have now shown that the active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, is an effective treatment against clinical depression and is as effective in treating serious depression as Prozac — perhaps even more so.
Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is probably best known for its culinary uses. It is frequently used in Indian dishes and as a natural food coloring because of its distinctive yellow color. Turmeric has been also used for thousands of years in treating a multitude of health conditions.
Green Med Info, which compiles research studies on natural health products, lists over 2,000 research studies that proved benefits of turmeric ranging from treating arthritis to helping with weight loss to relieving symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, just to name a few. Hundreds of other health benefits of turmeric have also been reported.
Some of the studies linking turmeric (curcumin) to the treatment of depression include:
- A 2009 review published in Scientific World Journal hypothesizes that curcumin from turmeric may provide benefits for depression by assisting with the regulation of brain neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin and inhibiting the monoamine oxidase enzyme, which plays a role in breaking down these neurotransmitters.
- A 2006 study published in Brain Research examined the effects of curcumin administration to laboratory rats after exposure to a chronic stress protocol. Researchers found that curcumin supplementation had a beneficial effect on reducing stress-related symptoms of depression.
- A 2008 study in Psychopharmacology showed that curcumin increased serotonin production and had an antidepressant effect on laboratory mice exposed to several lab tests.
In one 2014 study published in Phytotherapy Research, scientists studied 60 patients with serious depression over a six-week trial and found that turmeric was as effective at treating depression as Prozac.
One-third of the participants in the study were given 20 mg of fluoxetine (which is sold under the prescription names Prozac and Sarafem), one-third were given 1,000 mg of curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric), and one one-third were given a combination of both.
“Curcumin, an active ingredient of Curcuma longa Linn (Zingiberaceae), has shown potential antidepressant-like activity in animal studies,” the researchers wrote. “The objectives of this trial were to compare the efficacy and safety of curcumin with fluoxetine in patients with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).”
They concluded that curcumin was “well tolerated” by all the patients. They found that the group that received both treatments had slightly better results, but it was not statistically significant. All three groups showed approximately equal improvement in their depression, whether they were taking the turmeric, the antidepressant or a combination of both.
“This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders.”
The participants took 1,000 mg of curcumin, which is not an excessive amount. Supplements tend to come in 500 or 1,000 mg doses and are fairly inexpensive. Curcumin is widely available in drug stores, mass market stores and online. It does not require a prescription.
It can also be purchased as turmeric in stores such as grocery stores, Amazon and health food stores. The benefits can also be obtained by using turmeric regularly in recipes such as curries, soups, rice dishes, and teas.
As always, be sure to consult your medical care professional before starting any supplements. Turmeric and curcumin can cause interactions with anti-platelet and anti-coagulant medications, as well as medications that are used to treat diabetes and to control stomach acid.
It is also wise to research what brand you purchase, as there have been several large recalls of turmeric in recent months. Food Safety News reports that all of the recalled brands were small spice containers produced by Gel Spice and sold at Big Lots stores nationwide, though they were distributed under various names such as Market Pantry and Spice Select.
It’s important to note that the turmeric in question was recalled because of lead contamination at the facility that repackaged it. Turmeric that is purchased in bulk from other companies would not be affected by the recall.
[Featured Image by ThamKC/Thinkstock]