Curcumin Tackles Depression
You may be familiar with curcumin as an effective natural remedy for digestive problems and inflammation, but there’s growing evidence that this active ingredient in the spice turmeric (Curcuma longa) can do much more. Several recent studies, including one appearing in the Journal of Affective Disorders, report that curcumin tackles depression.
Depression affects approximately 350 million people of all ages around the world. It’s the leading cause of disability and a major factor in the overall burden of disease.
Despite the availability of treatments for depression, less than half of people who suffer with this psychological condition seek treatment. Reasons cited for not getting medical treatment include lack of effectiveness of the available drugs, side effects, the stigma of having a mental health condition, and lack of insurance coverage. Some people prefer to try nondrug remedies for depression.
Curcumin for depression
Investigations into the effect of curcumin on depression and depressive behaviors is barely older than a decade. Following the traditional experiments with lab animals, a growing amount of research has been exploring use of curcumin in humans with depression.
The latest evidence comes from Murdoch University in Australia, where scientists evaluated curcumin alone and a saffron and curcumin combination for the treatment of major depression. The 123 individuals enrolled in the study were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: placebo, low-dose (250 mg twice daily) curcumin extract, high-dose (500 twice daily) curcumin extract, or low-dose curcumin plus saffron (15 mg twice daily) for 12 weeks.
Here’s what the authors found:
- All three of the treatment groups showed significant improvements in depressive symptoms compared with placebo
- No differences were observed between the three different treatment groups in terms of improvement
- Curcumin treatment resulted in greater benefit in people who had atypical depression compared with the other patients (65% vs 35%, respectively). Atypical depression is a subtype of major depression and is characterized by specific symptoms such as mood that is strongly reactive to external forces, which means individuals’ mood can improve in response to positive events
Another study whose results were published earlier in 2016 was a meta-analysis of six clinical trials. The reviewers found that taking curcumin was associated with a significantly higher reduction in depression symptoms and that the best results were seen in middle-aged individuals, people who took higher doses (e.g., 1000 mg twice daily or higher) , and those who continued taking the remedy for longer periods of time (e.g., 12 weeks).
This study also concluded that a specific formulation of curcumin known as BCM-95, which is supposed to be better absorbed and utilized by the body, did not provide significantly greater benefits than conventional curcumin-piperine (black pepper agent often combined with curcumin to increase bioavailability). Not all studies have come to the same conclusion, however, and so you may want to investigate various curcumin supplements before making your decision.
How to take curcumin
When taking curcumin for depression, you should first consult your healthcare provider. Start with a low dose recommended by your doctor and gradually increase until you find a level that works for you. Typical doses of curcumin for depression can range from 1 to 12 grams daily.
If you choose to include turmeric in your food rather than take curcumin, you should know that the percentage of curcumin in the spice is only about 2 to 5 percent. Therefore, one tablespoon of turmeric (6.8 grams) contains about 136 to 340 mg of curcumin.
Al-Karawi D et al. The role of curcumin administration in patients with major depressive disorder: mini meta-analysis of clinical trials. Phytotherapy Research 2016 Feb; 39(2): 175-83
Lopresti Al, Drummond PD. Efficacy of curcumin, and a saffron/curcumin combination for the treatment of major depression: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Journal of Affective Disorders 2016 Oct 1; 207:188-96
Mental Health Daily. Curcumin for depression: An effective treatment
World Health Organization
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