Depression is one very common condition today.
Because of the hectic life, low social support and unhealthy lifestyle more and people today find themselves in depression.
All of us have felt depressed at some point in life due to various reasons.
What is Depression?
Depression is a brain disorder in which the level of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) becomes abnormal.
It is accompanied by a combination of symptoms such as emotions of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, frustration, anger, and loss of interest in family and friends and, physical problems like tiredness, body ache, weight loss/gain and changes in appetite and sleep pattern.
In depression, symptoms occur regularly for a longer time and make daily life tough.
While emotional support plays a very important part, medications are also available to treat these conditions, especially if it becomes chronic.
According to some estimates close to 15-20% of the world’s population suffers from major depression at any particular time. This is indeed a huge number.
Use of anti-depressant drugs is very common today such as Tricyclic antidepressant, Serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, etc.
In fact, it is the most common way of tackling depression. Researchers are now investigating natural remedies for depression.
I must confess I was not aware that turmeric can also help in treating depression.
I was pleasantly surprised to know it and thanked nature for giving so many natural remedies to ensure we stay healthy (of course we have to take them!).
But first, a bit about turmeric.
Turmeric – miracle spice
Yellow colored Indian spice- ‘Turmeric’ is the powdered rhizome of the plant, Curcuma longa.
Turmeric has been a part of the native Southeast Asian food.
It is also a herb known to possess a number of healing properties which can be exploited to develop to modern medicines for the treatment of a broad range of ailments.
Ayurveda contains years of documented scientific studies that prove therapeutic properties of turmeric such as anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, antifungal, antibacterial, antidepressant, pain reliever, anticoagulant, antifertility, anti-diabetic etc.
The medicinal properties of turmeric are primarily due to the curcuminoid content in it.
Curcuminoids give a yellow colour to turmeric and generally make up 5% of turmeric composition. Mainly, three types of curcuminoids are there: curcumin (65–80%), demethoxycurcumin (15–25%), and bisdemethoxycurcumin (5–15%).
Table of Contents
- What is Depression?
- Turmeric – miracle spice
- 10 Benefits of Turmeric In Depression
- 1. It reduces inflammation
- 2. It promotes antioxidant defences
- 3. It regulates vital protein levels in the brain
- 4. It regulates neurotransmitters
- 5. It has a gastroprotective effect
- 6. It attenuates anxiety and stress
- 7. It ameliorates sleep deprivation
- 8. It has brain protective property
- 9. It protects cognition and memory
- 10. It improves the effect of antidepressants
- Does turmeric really help in depression clinically?
- Curcumin brings rapid relief in depression
- Curcumin as good as Prozac
- Curcumin benefits in atypical depression
- Curcumin improves depression biomarkers
- Curcuminoid enhances the therapeutic effect of antidepressants
- Curcumin reduces anxiety in obesity
- Meta-analysis study proves curcumin is beneficial in depression
- Curcumin & saffron benefits in atypical depression
- Can turmeric help in other psychiatric conditions?
- Turmeric ameliorates symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
- Turmeric combats Anxiety & Stress
- Turmeric may help in PTSD
- Turmeric benefits in Obesity and depression
- Turmeric alleviates depressive symptoms during Menstruation
- Turmeric protects Memory and may prevent dementia
- Turmeric benefits in Epilepsy and seizures
- Which is better for depression: turmeric or curcumin?
- FAQS on Turmeric & Depression
- The Dosage of Turmeric For Depression
- Research Studies
10 Benefits of Turmeric In Depression
Here is what research has to say about the role of turmeric and curcumin in depression.
1. It reduces inflammation
Quite a bit of change regarding the concept of causative factors of depression is being made. One significant change that is now being acknowledged by scientists is inflammation serving as a causative factor for depression.
A study published in BMC Medicine, 2013 acknowledges the presence of inflammation in depression and address the question as to where the depression comes from.
Few of the factors that cause inflammation in depression include smoking, lack of sleep, vitamin D deficiency, poor diet, and physical inactivity.
Few surprising causes include psychosocial stressors and even dental cares. Diet, generally goes unnoticed, but modulating your diet can improve depressive symptoms.
Poor diet can hamper good bacteria in your intestine and make your intestine permeable to infection and toxins- another inflammatory pathway.
A recent observational study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2016 compares the symptoms of patients with depression and inflammation with those with depression alone.
It was found that depression with inflammation was more chronic and persistent. Also, it was found to be associated with motivation and higher BMI.
Keeping these factors in mind, curcumin can be thought of as one-stop solution for inflammation in depression. Curcumin found in turmeric and other bioactive ingredients in turmeric have potent anti-inflammatory activity.
Curcumin has unique anti-inflammatory action where it inhibits both COX and LOX enzyme- key players of inflammation. It also does not cause side effects caused by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents.
What does this mean?
Turmeric and curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory activity which helps in reducing inflammation in depression.
2. It promotes antioxidant defences
The occurrence of inflammation in depression makes the conditions conducive for oxidative stress- the imbalance between antioxidant and prooxidant agents. Also, a poor diet can contribute to reduced antioxidant defenses.
A study in university students reported that students with depression had reduced intake of dietary antioxidants.
A recent study published in BMC Psychiatry, 2015 shows that reduced antioxidant defences is a trait of depression and is unrelated to stage of depression- poor antioxidant defenses could be observed in the first episode of depression or even in major depressive disorder.
Pandya et. al supplementation with antioxidants as a viable treatment for depression and other neuropsychiatric conditions.
Curcumin consumption at a dose of 500mg daily is found to improve antioxidant defences.
Oxidative damage in depression can damage mitochondria- a powerhouse of our cells and thereby cause degeneration of the brain.
Curcumin’s antioxidant action is found to protect from such damage. Curcumin and other curcuminoids are potent antioxidants. Curcumin’s antioxidant action can help scavenge free radical species that cause oxidative stress.
Anderson et. al have identified curcumin as a promising antioxidant in the treatment of depression.
A study comparing the antioxidant effect of fluoxetine to curcumin has found fluoxetine’s antioxidant activity comparable to curcumin. (Yes, this study compares an antidepressant to curcumin, rather than vice versa!)
What does this mean?
Curcumin improves antioxidant defences and lowers oxidative stress (imbalance of prooxidant and antioxidant agents in the body) in depression.
3. It regulates vital protein levels in the brain
Neurotrophins are proteins that are vital for survival and function of brain cells or neurons.
Issues in BDNF signaling lead to the progression of neurodegenerative diseases or neuropsychiatric diseases.
In an animal model of non induced depression (depressive symptoms occurred as a result of genes and not experimentally induced) curcumin treatment was found to exert potent anti-depressant effects.
Depression causes a decrease in BDNF levels and this study shows that curcumin treatment reduces depressive symptoms by increasing BDNF levels.
Researchers concluded that curcumin is an effective and long-lasting natural antidepressant.
Apart from attenuating depressive symptoms, curcumin’s ability to promote BDNF levels helps to protect cognition and memory from deleterious effects of depression and stress.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2015 demonstrated that curcumin supplementation with existing antidepressant treatment, significantly reduced depressive symptoms and also brought about a reduction in inflammatory proteins and BDNF levels in humans.
What does this mean?
One of the mechanisms by which curcumin promotes anti-depressant effect is by increasing BDNF levels. BDNF or brain derived neurotrophic factor is a protein that is essential for survival and function of brain cells and impairment of its production or function has been strongly linked with depression.
4. It regulates neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are basically chemicals in the brain that are vital for brain function and a medium through which each brain cell communicates with each other.
There are 3 main neurotransmitter systems in the brain- monoaminergic, glutamatergic and GABAergic signaling systems. Apart from that, there is a nitric oxide and endogenous opioid signalling system that participates in brain function.
There is a hypothesis that depression results as a deficiency of certain monoamine neurotransmitters namely dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
Interestingly, various animal studies have shown that curcumin can regulate the level of these neurotransmitters and thereby alleviate depressive symptoms.
Kulkarni et. al demonstrated that curcumin with piperine (the active ingredient of black pepper) increased levels of serotonin and dopamine in an animal model of depression and inhibited monoamine oxidase enzymes.
Monoamine oxidase enzymes break down neurotransmitters and that is why MAO inhibitors are prescribed in depression to stop the breakdown of enzymes.
Interestingly this study showed that curcumin-piperine combination had a synergetic effect with certain antidepressants and alleviated depressive symptoms better.
What does this mean?
Curcumin regulates the activity of every neurotransmitter in the brain in order to re-establish the balance of neurotransmitter levels and reduce depressive symptoms.
5. It has a gastroprotective effect
Yadav et. al have documented the gastroprotective action of curcumin. By virtue of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, curcumin reduces inflammation of the gastric lining.
Excessive inflammation and poor diet can contribute to inflammation of the intestine and reduce the permeability of the intestine increasing susceptibility to infections.
Dietary curcumin is found to protect from food pathogens and its anti-inflammatory property can protect stomach health.
Animal study shows that curcumin complex can protect from stress-induced gastric ulcers and also has an antidepressant-like effect.
The gut-brain axis is the communication between the brain and the intestinal functions.
Our appetite is signalled by our brain. Similarly, the bacteria in our gut interact with our brain and disturbance of this bacterial flora indicates why depression presents with gastric symptoms.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder which indicates how emotions and stress factors affect digestion.
A study published in Metabolic Brain Disease,2015 demonstrates that curcumin regulates gut-brain axis in irritable bowel syndrome by increasing the levels of serotonin and BDNF.
A marked improvement in intestinal function and reduction in stress-related behavior was observed.
What does this mean?
Curcumin protects the stomach from stress induced ulcers and digestive difficulties occurring in depression. Curcumin regulates the gut brain axis and this can help improve gastric and digestion related symptoms in depression.
6. It attenuates anxiety and stress
Anxiety is often associated with depression and is a condition where one can’t think clearly and is in a state where worrisome thoughts or fear is experienced constantly.
High anxiety levels can even lead to panic attacks.
Curcumin mediates anti-anxiety effect by regulating neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain which are required for its functioning).
Wu et. al report that curcumin attenuates anxiety by boosting DHA levels. DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is an omega 3 fatty acid which is essential for brain function.
Animal studies also show that curcumin’s antidepressant effect also protects memory, thinking and other brain functions from side effects of anxiety and stress.
Haider et. al have shown how curcumin treatment protects from stress-induced anxiety and strengthens memory.
HPA axis is an intricate communication between three endocrine glands- hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands and this communication regulates mood, stress levels, digestion etc.
An animal study reports that curcumin alleviates depressive symptoms in chronic stress by increasing the levels of proteins required for brain function such as BDNF and CREB and this, in turn, may affect the HPA axis favorably and reduce stress.
What does this mean?
Curcumin regulates the levels of various neurotransmitters and attenuates anxiety, stress and other cognitive deficits caused by it.
7. It ameliorates sleep deprivation
Depression often presents with symptoms such as insomnia and sleep deprivation on the short term as well as long term has detrimental effects.
It affects cognition, memory, ability to focus and to a certain extent motor function.
Counteracting inflammation has been associated with improvement in sleep.
Tumor necrosis factor is a protein that plays a very important role in inflammation. A study shows that inhibiting the activity of tumor necrosis factor actually brings about improvement in sleep in depressed patients.
We have already covered in Benefit No 1. how curcumin’s anti-inflammatory action can help reduce inflammation in depression. This can also help improve sleep.
Also, this explains why readers not only experience a reduction in pain but also an improvement in sleep pattern when they consume Turmeric Milk before going to bed.
Animal study shows that curcumin protects from sleep-deprived deficits. It improved antioxidant defenses, prevented weight loss and reduced anxiety symptoms caused by sleep deprivation.
What does this mean?
Dietary turmeric can improve sleep pattern and attenuate insomnia associated with depression. Based on reader experience consuming Turmeric Milk is found to improve sleep.
8. It has brain protective property
Curcumin offers neuroprotection- it protects the brain. It’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties prevent loss of functional neurons. This has implications in neurodegenerative as well as psychiatric disorders.
Curcumin increases the level of BDNF (a protein required for survival and function of neurons) in order to exert a neuroprotective effect in depression. It protects brain cells from cell death.
Animal studies prove that curcumin, alone or with piperine, offers neuroprotection and prevents neuronal death in depression.
What does this mean?
Curcumin offers neuroprotection- it protects the brain from cognitive dysfunction as well as structural changes.
9. It protects cognition and memory
Depression, as well as antidepressant treatment, can cause cognitive deficits such as problems in thinking, difficulty in remembering things as well as learning.
A study published in BMC medicine 2016, identifies curcumin as a ‘cognitive enhancer’ or in simple terms brain food.
Authors of this paper point that conventional antidepressants may improve cognition and thinking in some individuals, while majority of patients with Major Depressive Disorder, even with antidepressants, still experience cognitive impairment.
Therefore with the help of novel agents like curcumin, one can hope for ‘cognitive remission’ or complete recovery/remission from Major Depressive Disorder.
A study on healthy older population found that curcumin supplementation improved attention and working memory within 1 hour. Chronic treatment with curcumin improved working memory, mood, and reduced fatigue.
A study published in Neurotoxicity Research, 2016 acknowledges that curcumin has an added benefit as an antidepressant; it also acts as a neuroprotectant (protects brain cells and brain function).
What does this mean?
Curcumin not only serves as an antidepressant but also protects the brain’s vital functions such as thinking, learning and memory.
10. It improves the effect of antidepressants
Generally, it is advised that curcumin should not be taken with any other antidepressants.
The thought behind this suggestion is that since curcumin also regulates neurotransmitters, the effect of curcumin and other antidepressants may be addictive and cause side effects.
There is no evidence to prove this as of yet. The reason why we recommend not taking antidepressants and turmeric supplements together is that curcumin interferes in drug metabolism.
So it may increase the level of antidepressants in the body which may have better therapeutic effects but on long term may cause side effects.
Again there is no concrete evidence with regards to this but there is no harm in maintaining a 3-4 hour gap between taking antidepressants and turmeric supplements.
Also, it is safe to consume turmeric in the diet.
Bergman et.al conducted a study where individuals suffering from depression were treated with curcumin (500mg) or placebo with standard antidepressant therapy (escitalopram or venlafaxine).
No difference in results was observed between curcumin and placebo; but there was more rapid relief in depressive symptoms with curcumin treatment.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology,2015 also investigated the effect of curcumin as add-on therapy in depression.
Individuals were asked to take 1000mg curcumin or placebo (soybean powder) in addition to standard antidepressants. A significant decrease in depressive behaviour with curcumin treatment was observed.
Also, there was a reduction in inflammatory enzymes, stress hormone levels and increase in BDNF levels ( a protein essential for good brain health) was observed with curcumin treatment.
Panahi et. al have found that curcuminoid-piperine mixture (1000mg and 10mg respectively is a safe and effective add on therapy to standard antidepressant treatment.
In an animal model Kulkarni et. al have found that curcumin acts synergistically with antidepressants-fluoxetine, venlafaxine, or bupropion. It also reduced their dosage levels required to observe a therapeutic effect.
Another study shows that curcumin potentiates the action of antidepressant-fluoxetine. Sanmukhani et. al have shown that curcumin is as effective as antidepressants- fluoxetine and imipramine but when taken in combination it does not increase their therapeutic effect.
All in all it is safe to take turmeric or curcumin on standard antidepressant therapy based on the evidence till date.
However, more research needs to be done with respect to the different type of antidepressants and curcumin’s interactions.
What does this mean?
Curcumin and turmeric are safe as add-on therapy in depression and may increase the efficacy of standard treatment. It is advisable to consult health practitioners before taking curcumin supplements.
Does turmeric really help in depression clinically?
Considering many animal studies have been quoted above, you must be wondering whether curcumin and turmeric will actually help in depression in humans.
The animal studies help identify the mechanism of action by which curcumin alleviates depression.
Let’s have a look at the various studies in humans investigating the efficacy of curcumin in depression.
Curcumin brings rapid relief in depression
A study published in Clinical Neuropharmacology, 2013 investigated the effect of adding curcumin to standard antidepressant treatment. The study lasted for 5 weeks and individuals were asked to take 500mg curcumin or placebo.
There were positive changes in both the groups but no significant differences in curcumin and placebo group.
In other words, curcumin was as good as placebo in this study. However, there was a more rapid relief in depressive symptoms in the curcumin group.
No significant adverse effects were observed in this study but scientists have identified some errors in the design of the trials which could explain why the results did not turn out in favor of curcumin.
Curcumin as good as Prozac
In 2014 came the Turmeric vs. Prozac study, Sanmukhani et. al compared the efficacy of curcumin with fluoxetine in Major Depressive Disorder.
60 patients were assigned to 3 groups to receive fluoxetine (20mg), curcumin (1000mg) or a combination.
The study last for 6 weeks. The percentage of responders was 77.8% in the combination group, 64.7% in the fluoxetine group and 62.5% curcumin group.
This was the first clinical evidence to suggest the use of curcumin in MDD and found curcumin to be as good as the standard antidepressant, Prozac/Fluoxetine.
Curcumin benefits in atypical depression
In the same year, another study identified curcumin’s antidepressant potential in humans. 56 individuals with MDD were given either 1000mg curcumin or placebo daily.
Improvements were observed as early as 4 weeks in both groups, but between 4-8 weeks curcumin showed significant improvement in mood-related symptoms.
For the first time, Lopresti et. al showed that individuals with atypical depression showed a better response to curcumin treatment.
Curcumin improves depression biomarkers
In 2015 Lopresti et.al showed that curcumin supplementation not only reduced depression in patients with the major depressive disorder but also brought about reductions in certain biomarkers.
Curcumin regulated the levels of leptin and endothelin-1 and this is of relevance to its antidepressant mechanism and heart health in depression.
Curcuminoid enhances the therapeutic effect of antidepressants
Panahi et.al demonstrated that curcuminoid-piperine combination benefits in depression.
This study compared the addition of curcuminoid(1000mg)-piperine(10mg) to standard antidepressant therapy with standard therapy alone.
It was found that curcuminoid group had a significant reduction in anxiety and depression scores and improvement in cognitive and psychological scores was also observed.
This study showed that is safe to add the curcuminoid-piperine combination to standard antidepressant therapy.
Yu et. al also demonstrated that addition of curcuminoids (1000mg) enhances the efficacy of antidepressants.
The 6-week chronic supplementation also reduced inflammatory enzymes and stress hormone levels in depressed individuals.
Curcumin reduces anxiety in obesity
A study published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, 2015 reported that curcumin supplementation has an anti-anxiety effect in obese individuals.
Meta-analysis study proves curcumin is beneficial in depression
A study published in Phytotherapy Research, 2016 reported results of the meta-analysis of clinical trials assessing the effect of curcumin in depression.
It revealed that curcumin administration caused a high reduction in depressive symptoms.
Its effect was more pronounced in middle-aged individuals, more efficacious at a higher dose and for a longer duration.
BCM-95 formulation of curcumin was found to be as effective as a standard curcumin-piperine combination.
Curcumin & saffron benefits in atypical depression
Lopresti et.al designed a study to overcome the limitations in the design of studies till date on turmeric and depression.
123 individuals with Major Depressive Disorder participated in the study and were assigned to 4 groups:
- Low dose curcumin: 500mg a day
- High dose curcumin: 1000mg a day
- Low dose curcumin and saffron: 500mg and 30mg respectively per day
The combination treatment resulted in the highest decrease in depressive symptoms. Patients with atypical depression showed a better response.
The response rate was unaffected by a high or low dose of curcumin.
Curcumin and saffron were safe and effective in reducing depression and anxiety in MDD.
What does this mean?
There is considerably good evidence in the form of human studies to show that curcumin is a safe and effective antidepressant. It takes around 4 weeks to deliver results and improvement in symptoms is observed on longer duration of treatment.
In case of Major Depressive Disorders curcumin (with piperine) works best as an add-on therapy to standard antidepressant treatment. Additionally curcumin reduces inflammation, boosts brain health and improves overall health in depressed individuals.
Can turmeric help in other psychiatric conditions?
Turmeric’s anti-depressant activity coupled with other medicinal properties such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant makes it a great option for various conditions that are related to depression
Turmeric ameliorates symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
It is found to increase the level of antioxidant enzymes and thereby can also help in reducing relapse of such depressive episodes.
Apart from that curcumin’s ability to balance neurotransmitters, reduce inflammation and improve antioxidant defenses benefits in bipolar disorder. (Read Turmeric for Bipolar Disorder)
Turmeric combats Anxiety & Stress
Various animal studies mentioned above have depicted curcumin’s efficacy in reducing stress and anxiety.
One of the principal action is regulating various neurotransmitters, followed by protecting brain cells and protecting cognition and memory.
In other words, curcumin not only works as an anxiolytic but also as a cognitive enhancer.
A study published in Phytotherapy Research, 2015 showed that adding the curcuminoid-piperine combination to standard antidepressant therapy resulted in a significant reduction in anxiety and depression in major depressive disorder.
Turmeric may help in PTSD
A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology, 2015 showed that dietary curcumin can attenuate reactivation of fear memories in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
Now, this is a significant finding, considering that individuals with PTSD experience repeated visualization of stressful, fearsome memories.
More studies need to be conducted in relation to humans, but definitely, curcumin can help protect brain health in PTSD and alleviate depression. (Read Turmeric for PTSD)
Turmeric benefits in Obesity and depression
Obesity increases the risk of depression and affects around 25% of the obese population. A study was conducted where 30 obese individuals were given curcumin (1g/day) or placebo.
Results were assessed on the basis of scores defined for depression and anxiety such as Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) scales. The study lasted for 10 weeks.
With curcumin treatment scores reduced on BAI scale but no significant changes were found on BDI scale. Researchers concluded that curcumin has an anti-anxiety effect in obese individuals.
Also, turmeric can accelerate weight loss outcomes of exercise and diet. (Read Turmeric for Obesity)
Turmeric alleviates depressive symptoms during Menstruation
Premenstrual syndrome is a group of symptoms women experiences prior to menstrual cycles.
One of the symptoms is mood-related changes and depressive feelings.
However Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe condition that affects many women and has disabling form of premenstrual syndrome symptoms involving severe mood disruption, depression etc.
This may require help for psychiatrists and psychologists.
A study was published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2015 regarding the therapeutic efficacy of curcumin in premenstrual syndrome. 70 individuals were recruited in this study.
35 received curcumin while 35 received placebo. Curcumin treatment consisted of 2 capsules a day 7 days prior to menstruation and 3 days after menstruation and this routine was followed for 3 successive cycles.
A 58% decrease in PMS score was observed with curcumin treatment while only 13.6% reduction in score was observed in placebo group.
This effect was attributed to curcumin’s anti-inflammatory property and ability to regulate neurotransmitter levels.
Further, the same group investigated the role of curcumin specifically on mood-related changes in PMS. They found that curcumin treatment, in all 3 cycles, increased the levels of BDNF ( a protein in the brain required for survival and development of brain cells) and a parallel decrease in PMS severity score was observed.
This highlights that curcumin can potentially boost brain health and alleviate mood-related changes in PMS or PMDD. (Read 8 Benefits of Turmeric in Menstruation)
Turmeric protects Memory and may prevent dementia
Curcumin’s ability to protect and improve memory has been successfully proven in animal models of aging, heavy metal toxicity, neurodegenerative diseases and stress.
Cox et. al conducted a study to assess the effect of curcumin supplementation on age-related decline in memory. The treatment was as follows:
- Acute: 1 and 3 hours after a single dose
- Chronic: Treatment was continued for 4 weeks
- Acute on chronic: 1 and 3 hours after single dose after chronic treatment
60 healthy individuals of the age 60-85 were enrolled in the study and curcumin supplement used was Longvida (400mg).
1 hour after consuming curcumin, an improvement in attention and working memory was observed. Chronic treatment brought about an improvement in working memory, mood, and reduced fatigue.
Acute on chronic treatment significantly improved alertness and contentedness. Curcumin also reduced cholesterol levels.
Turmeric benefits in Epilepsy and seizures
Epilepsy and seizures on a long term can present with depression. Curcumin and turmeric oil have anti-seizure and anti-epileptic properties.
Also, they can help reduce side effects and dosage of epilepsy medications and treat depression associated with it. (Read Turmeric for Epilepsy and seizures)
What does this mean?
Turmeric’s antidepressant property benefits in various conditions like bipolar disorder, PTSD, premenstrual dysmorphic disorder, dementia etc.
Which is better for depression: turmeric or curcumin?
Now, this is a pretty difficult question to answer in terms of research. Most of the research on the anti-depressant properties of turmeric has been focussed on the activity of curcumin alone, in the animal as well as human studies.
But it is important to note that turmeric has much more to offer than curcumin. Turmeric oil also has anti-depressant activity.
Certain animal studies acknowledge the antidepressant activity of alcohol and aqueous extracts of turmeric; the mechanism of action involved is regulating neurotransmitter levels and HPA axis.
So for mild to moderate depression dietary turmeric in the form of Golden Paste can help.
In case of Major Depressive Disorder, one may require a combination of dietary turmeric and turmeric supplements. Opt for turmeric supplements only after consulting a health practitioner.
What does this mean?
For mild to moderate depression, dietary turmeric or turmeric tincture can help. For Major Depressive Disorder, turmeric supplements may be required for a pronounced effect. It is best to consult a health practitioner before taking turmeric supplements.
FAQS on Turmeric & Depression
Here are few frequently asked questions with answers in relation to turmeric’s therapeutic efficacy in depression.
1. Will turmeric help in depression?
Turmeric and its active ingredient have significant antidepressant properties. Dietary turmeric can benefit in mild to moderate depression while turmeric supplements can serve as add-on therapy in Major Depressive Disorder.
2. Can turmeric relive anxiety and stress?
Curcumin found in turmeric has an anti-anxiety effect. It helps relieve stress and anxiety and also protects cognitive functions from stress-related damage
3. Can turmeric improve sleep?
Turmeric can attenuate sleep deprived deficits. Readers have found Turmeric Milk helpful in improving sleep.
4. Can turmeric improve memory and thinking?
Yes, turmeric serves as a neuroprotector and cognitive enhancer. It helps protect and improve vital functions such as memory, learning and thinking in depression.
5. Does turmeric cause acid reflux?
Turmeric if taken at high doses or on empty stomach may cause acid reflux. Also in some individuals, it may trigger acid reflux like symptoms. To avoid this, it is best to take small amounts of turmeric in divided doses and to avoid taking it on an empty stomach.
6. Does turmeric/curcumin have withdrawal symptoms?
Interestingly there has been no report regarding turmeric or curcumin’s withdrawal symptoms. It is not addictive in nature and some studies report that it can actually attenuate side effects and withdrawal symptoms of opioid painkillers.
7. What dose of turmeric should I take for depression?
This depends on the form of turmeric you take. The details have been highlighted in the Dosage section below.
8. Should I take whole turmeric or curcumin for depression?
We recommend whole turmeric or turmeric powder for mild to moderate depression over curcumin as it contains curcumin as well as other therapeutic compounds and also essential oils which have anti-depressant activity. For Major Depressive Disorder, one may have to consider turmeric supplements.
9. Is it safe to take turmeric/Golden Paste with turmeric supplements in depression?
Yes, it is safe to take Golden Paste or turmeric in the diet when taking supplements; however it is advisable to limit to low doses say 1-2 teaspoon in a day to avoid gastric discomfort.
10. What herbs can I take with turmeric for depression?
Some herbs that benefit in depression include ashwagandha, St.John’s wort, green tea catechins, saffron etc. Omega3s are also recommended. Consult a herbalist or health practitioner before you take supplements.
11. Can I take turmeric with anti-depressants medications?
Yes, it is safe to take turmeric in the diet when taking antidepressants. Benefit No 15. stated above shows that curcumin supplements are safe as add-on therapy to standard anti-depressants.
However, it is best to discuss this with your doctor first.
If taking Golden Paste or turmeric supplements avoid taking it close to the time of taking other medicines.
12. Can I discontinue anti-depressant medications by taking turmeric?
Turmeric is not meant to replace professional medical advice and treatment. We recommend seeking your doctor’s advice on this. Antidepressants require tapering and this is possible with appropriate medical advice.
13. How long does it take for turmeric to benefit in depression?
This depends on the individual, severity of the disorder, dosage as well as a form of turmeric you are taking. Most studies depict a significant reduction in symptoms within 4-6 weeks on turmeric supplements.
14. I have taken turmeric for a month or more but I still see no improvement in depressions?
If its been a month since you have taken Golden Paste at a dose of 1-2 tsp 2-3 times a day then here are a few things you could do:
• Check whether you are using good quality organic turmeric powder. (For help click here)
• Up the dose.
Lastly, you can seek help from a health practitioner about turmeric supplements. Read Taking Turmeric But See No Benefits
15. Are there any side effects or precautions to note about turmeric?
Turmeric, when taken in the diet in moderate doses, is safe. However, there are certain precautions that you should be aware of and these have been discussed below in the Precautions section.
16. Should turmeric be avoided in gout?
Low doses of turmeric in diet can be used in gout but for a therapeutic purpose, it is preferable to take turmeric supplements. Please read the Precautions section.
17. I am taking a blood thinner, can I take turmeric?
Turmeric in small amounts in a diet is safe but turmeric supplements should be avoided in case of bleeding/clotting disorder. It is advisable to discuss this with your doctor.
The Dosage of Turmeric For Depression
The best way to take turmeric to boost brain health is to include it in diet and cooking. You can find some great recipes here.
Turmeric has low bioavailability and needs to be taken with black pepper and/or fats to improve absorption. The Golden Paste recipe combines these elements.
You can start with a dose of ¼ -1/2 tsp a day and if you observe no side effects you can increase the dose by ¼ tsp gradually every week. An ideal dose would be 1-2 tsp of Golden Paste 2-3 times a day.
However, the ideal dose differs with every individual; it could be more or less. Avoid taking it on an empty stomach and close to the time of taking other medicines.
Do make sure you buy a good brand of turmeric to get its benefits. If you are confused about good turmeric brands, you can find our recommendations of the brands here>
If opting for supplements, consult a health practitioner about this. The dosage for turmeric supplements for depression is 500-1000mg curcumin a day as per studies.
Start with a low dose of 250mg and increase gradually if no side effects are observed.
Standardized 95% curcumin with piperine can help. Other formulations found to be efficacious is BCM-95 and Longvida.
Avoid taking turmeric supplements on an empty stomach and maintain a 3-4 hour gap between taking turmeric supplements and antidepressants.
It is advisable to include ½-1 tsp of turmeric in diet or as Golden Paste even when taking turmeric supplements for depression so as to improve overall health.
Study 1: Curcumin & Saffron Treats Atypical Depression
Atypical depression is a condition in which ‘mood brightens in response to positive events.’ This is different from depressive episodes or major depressive disorder where the persistent feeling of sadness makes it difficult to cope with life.
The word ‘atypical’ means rare but atypical depression is the most common form of depression identified by clinics. It is four times more common in women than in men.
Atypical depression has been linked with bipolar disorder.
Other symptoms of atypical depression included increased appetite, increased sleep, and a heavy feeling in limbs and these symptoms are persistent for 2 weeks or more.
Symptoms of atypical depression has early age of onset compared to atypical depression and also the worst outcomes.
Symptoms of atypical depression are prevalent at least two years prior to a depressive episode or prior to occurrence of major depressive disorder.
As far as pharmacotherapy is concerned, SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors- a type of antidepressant) is found to be a safe option for treatment of atypical depression.
However, it depends on each individual as to which antidepressant suits them.
A study soon to be published in Journal of Affective Disorders,2017 revealed that curcumin/saffron combination was effective in treating depression.
This study was carried out by Dr. Adrian Lopresti and Dr. Peter Drummond, two scientists who have been actively researching the anti-depressant properties of curcumin.
What happened in the study?
123 individuals with a major depressive disorder were enrolled in the study. Four groups were made:
- Group 1: received low dose curcumin extract (250mg twice a day)
- Group 2: received high dose curcumin extract (500mg twice a day)
- Group 3: received low dose curcumin (250mg twice a day) and saffron(15mg twice a day)
- Group 4: received placebo
The curcumin extract used was BCM-95. BCM-95 is a formulation of turmeric supplement which contains curcumin and ar-tumerone, an active ingredient of turmeric oil. It is developed by Arjuna Natural Extracts and Dolcas Biotech LLC.
BCM-95 contains 86% curcuminoids and 7-9% essential oils and it has better bioavailability than other formulations of curcumin.
BCM-95 was chosen for this study on the premise that it had turmeric essential oils for increasing absorption of curcumin rather than artificial agents found in other formulations.
The study lasted for 12 weeks. Outcomes were measured based on self-reported questionnaires: Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology and Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).
What were the results?
The combination treatment resulted in significant improvement in depressive symptoms compared to placebo and significant improvement in scores of questionnaires was observed.
There was no significant difference in response in high dose and low dose curcumin or even curcumin/saffron combination.
This demonstrated that curcumin was the key ingredient in reducing depressive symptoms and BCM-95 formulation delivered results even at low doses.
The response rate was more pronounced in those with atypical depression; 65% response rate was observed compared to 35% in patients without atypical depression.
Reduction in anxiety symptoms was observed in curcumin-treated groups. The effect of treatment was observed as early as 4 weeks and sustained over 12 weeks.
A few limitations of the study is small sample size, small population of individuals suffering from atypical depression involved in the study as noted by scientists.
Other factors that need to be considered is a comparison with conventional treatment instead of placebo.
How did this occur?
Various studies have identified curcumin’s anti-depressant activity which involves :
- Reduction of inflammation
- Improving antioxidant defences
- Regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine etc.
- Ameliorating gastric symptoms
- Reducing anxiety and insomnia
Atypical depression is found to be linked with inflammation of the brain and curcumin is one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatory agents. This could possibly explain why the response rate was higher in individuals suffering from atypical depression.
Earlier studies by the same group of researchers find that curcumin can serve as add-on therapy for depression delivering results by 4-8 weeks of treatment in major depressive disorder.
A study by the same researchers published in European Neuropsychopharmacology, 2015 shows that curcumin acts on various hormones and enzymes in the body in order to mediate anti-depressant action.
This indicates curcumin acts via various multiple pathways and has a wholesome approach towards fighting depression.
The study has found curcumin to act better than anti-depressant fluoxetine and considering its good safety profile it can be considered as a viable treatment for depression.
Apart from curcumin, turmeric has other molecules that have anti-depressant action. A study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015 shows that turmerone, an active ingredient of turmeric oil, has anti-depressant action which it mediates by regulating neurotransmitters.
This explains why even low doses of curcumin extract, BCM-95 delivered results in this study. BCM-95, as mentioned previously, contains curcuminoids and turmeric essential oils for increased absorption.
Lopresti et. al have also investigated the anti-depressant effect of saffron. Few of the mechanism identified are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, brain protective and saffron may also boost serotonin levels.
A recent study published in Pharmacopsychiatry, 2016 demonstrates that saffron may be as effective as antidepressant fluoxetine(studied in relation to postpartum depression) but this study has a couple of limitations.
Research till date shows that saffron may be of help in mild to moderate depression.
All in all, based on current research, curcumin and turmeric can serve as effective palliative therapy in depression and related disorders.
What does this mean?
Researchers concluded that treatments comprising curcumin and curcumin/saffron treatment are effective in reducing depressive and anxiety symptoms in major depressive disorder.
As per the results, a significant improvement with curcumin treatment was observed in atypical depression.
Curcumin, stand-alone or with saffron, is effective in treating depression in major depressive disorder and atypical depression.
Read the paper here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27723543
Study 2: Scientists Identify New Anti-Depressant Compound In Turmeric Oil
The scientists had conducted a study for 6 weeks to determine the effectiveness of curcumin (a bioactive curcuminoid of turmeric) in curing MDD.
The study involved 60 patients suffering from MDD who were administered doses of either Fluoxetine (Prozac) or curcumin or a combination of both.
It was reported that the effectiveness was highest in the combination of curcumin with Prozac.
It was also observed that curcumin has anti-depressant properties which maintains the high serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain and is also non-toxic and considered safe.
Compared to Fluoxetine (Prozac), the combination of curcumin with Prozac was highly effective in providing relief and easier to tolerate. A number of clinical trials have demonstrated a positive effect of curcumin in depression.
After the success with curcumin, the scientists are trying to study the antidepressant-like properties in turmeric oils components like Turmerone and its effectiveness in curing depression in animal models.
Turmerone is the major component of turmeric oil. It comprises of alpha (α), beta (β) and aromatic (ar) turmerone which consists of several therapeutic properties like anti-inflammatory, chemopreventive, anti-oxidant, anti-tumor and anti-proliferative activities.
What happened in the study?
A study was conducted to determine the anti-depressant properties of turmerone after administrating it for one week using mouse forced swimming test (FST) and tail suspension test (TST).
In the study, the mice were organized into 4 groups and were administered turmerone in 3 doses (1.25, 2.5, 5.0 milligrams per kilograms) for a one-week duration.
The pharmacological effectiveness of the anti-depressant properties of turmerone was investigated by measuring the monoamine-oxidase A (enzyme which causes oxidation of monoamines and is involved in brain functioning) activity, corticosterone (a hormone that maintains energy, immune reactions and stress responses) levels in the blood along with the levels of monoamines (neurotransmitter) in the animal brain.
What were the results?
It was observed that turmerone in doses of 2.5 and 5.0 mg/kg respectively, had significantly reduced the immobility time of the mice in cases of FST and TST.
But it did not have a significant effect on the ambulatory (adapted to walking) and total movement of the mice.
Turmerone also helped in reducing the levels of corticosterone in the blood and increased the levels of monoamines in different parts of the brain.
It also increased the levels of NE (Norepinephrine which is a hormone and brain chemical) in and DOPAC (a by-product of dopamine hormone) and 5-HT (serotonin- the brain chemical that is required for healthy brain function) in the brain.
Turmerone also reduced the monoamine-oxidase-A (MAO-A) activity (excessive activity of this enzyme can inhibit the activity of brain chemicals and impair brain function) in the mouse brain.
How does this occur?
The FST and TST refer to behavioral tests which are useful in understanding the pathological mechanisms of depression and also checking the effectiveness of the anti-depressant drugs.
Reduced immobility or increased movement in these tests is representative of antidepressant activity.
Upon administrating turmerone to mice for a week, the results showed a reduction in the immobility time in FST and TST.
This indicated that turmerone may consist of an effective and significant anti-depressant property.
However, turmerone did not have an effective impact on the total and ambulatory movement in and this helped to distinguish it from nervous system stimulants and established its antidepressant effect.
The four brain regions of mice such as frontal cortex, striatum, hippocampus and hypothalamus along with their hormonal and neurotransmitter levels were studied for their involvement in important behavioral functions like emotion, memory, motivation, and learning.
Turmerone effectively increased the serotonin and dopamine hormonal levels by increasing the levels of monoamine neurotransmitter in the four regions of the mouse brain. The monoamine hypothesis of depression suggests that the production and activity of monoamine neurotransmitters or brain chemicals.
Turmerone reduced the activity of MAO-A enzyme which is responsible for controlling the metabolism of a wide range of monoamine neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Inhibition of this enzyme is effective for treating depression.
Also, turmerone reduced the corticosterone or stress hormone levels thereby demonstrating that it acts via multiple pathways to exert its antidepressant activity.
What does this mean?
The animal study demonstrated that turmerone mediates its antidepressant effect by increasing the level of good brain chemicals, lowering stress hormone levels and inhibiting the activity of enzymes that breakdown of brain chemicals thus reducing supply to the brain.
This suggests that apart from curcumin, other turmeric compounds like turmerone exert antidepressant effect and to obtain a cumulative effect of all these compounds all you have to do is add turmeric to your diet or take The Golden Paste.
Read paper: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24176021
Study 3: Pathbreaking Study Indicates Turmeric Maybe Better than Prozac for Depression
Fluoxetine (Prozac) is commonly used for the treatment of depression. It is undoubtedly highly effective but also produces a number of side effects.
We, here, are going to discuss how curcumin, a bioactive compound present in turmeric rhizomes can help in alleviating major depressive disorder.
It is already known that it has a potential of increasing serotonin levels in the brain.
Hence, scientists tried to test its effectiveness in curing MDD and compare its activity with Prozac.
The study involved 60 patients suffering from MDD and randomly divided them into three groups. They received the following treatment for 6 weeks-
- Group1-20 mg Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Group2- 1000 mg Curcumin
- Group3- a combination of fluoxetine and curcumin treatments.
The depression levels were measured after 6 weeks using Hamilton Depression rating scale (HAM-D17).
It was found that the response was highest in the combination group (77.8%) as compared to group 1 and 2. But if the results for the other two were close – fluoxetine (64.7%) and the curcumin (62.5%).
The average variation in HAM-D17 scores was almost the same in all three groups.
No side effects of curcumin consumption were reported. This is what makes curcumin stand out as compared to the drug.
Considering the high safety levels of curcumin and adverse effects that anti-depressant drug like fluoxetine cause, it would not be wrong to say that curcumin is a potent anti-depressant and can be used (after trials, approvals etc.) as an alternative of commercially available drugs.
When compared with the activity of commercially available drugs like fluoxetine (Prozac), it was found that curcumin-Prozac combination is highly effective in providing relief and individually as effective as Prozac.
Curcumin’s easier tolerance and non-toxicity as compared to fluoxetine prove that it can be used as a (better) alternative remedy for major depressive disorder.
Study 4: Curcumin improves mood and cognition in the elderly
Healthy adults of age 60-85 years were involved in this study.
This study examined acute (effects observed immediately after administration), chronic treatment (effects observed after long term treatment) and a combination of the two.
They were given a single dose 400mg of curcumin and lipid complex (brand name Longivida).
Effects on thinking mood and blood-related parameters were observed.
What were the results?
Within 1 hr of administration, improvement in attention and working memory was observed. General fatigue, calmness, and fatigue caused by stress improved after chronic treatment.
A combination of treatments brought about significant improvement in alertness and satisfaction. Curcumin also reduced cholesterol levels.
How did this occur?
Curcumin is proven to influence brain chemicals which are responsible for mood and thinking. This is why it is used to treat anxiety like disorders.
Curcumin can normalize brain chemicals which in turn improve mood, increases attention and memory.
This is of use to age-related memory decline and cognition.
Additionally, curcumin offers neuroprotective properties thus protecting from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s’ and like diseases. This study also showed that curcumin reduced cholesterol levels with its antioxidant property.
What does this mean?
Curcumin can prevent age-related neurological decline and improve memory, mood, and cognition in the healthy elderly population.
It is not necessary to opt for supplements you can also include turmeric paste or turmeric in the diet daily.
Read paper here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25277322[/su_expand]
Dietary turmeric has no side effects as such. However, it is best to introduce it gradually in diet and take small to moderate doses to avoid stomach-related side effects.
Turmeric supplements should be avoided in pregnancy and lactation. If suffering from a bleeding disorder or taking blood thinners consult a doctor before taking turmeric and turmeric supplements should be avoided in this case.
Limit intake of turmeric as a spice in gout or kidney stones. Turmeric supplements may affect drug metabolism and hence should not be taken at the same time as other medicines.
Consult a health practitioner before taking turmeric supplements.
Science has proven multiple properties by which turmeric serves as an antidepressant property.
It works as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, regulates neurotransmitters, protects stomach health and even helps to protect brain cells and functions.
Perhaps its low bioavailability limits its efficacy as an antidepressant alone but as add-on therapy to standard antidepressants, one can expect rapid relief in depressive symptoms, the significant reduction in inflammatory parameters, improvement in brain-related parameters and a positive response in overall health.
We definitely recommend dietary turmeric for brain health and turmeric as well as curcumin for depression. If you have tried turmeric for depression please share your experience for the benefit of others.