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Studies show turmeric may be more effective against depression than Prozac

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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 may even be more effective than Prozac.

Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is 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 also used for thousands of years in treating a multitude of health conditions.

Some of the studies linking turmeric (curcumin) to the treatment of depression include:

  • A 2013 study published in Phytotherapy Research says that not only is turmeric effective at treating depression, it may even be more effective than some of the most common anti-depressant drugs currently on the market.
  • A 2009 review published in Scientific World Journal hypothesizes that curcumin 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 depressive symptoms.
  • A 2008 study in Psychopharmacology showed that curcumin increased serotonin production and had an antidepressant effect on laboratory mice exposed to several lab tests.
  • A 2011 study in Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica found that the antidepressant effects of curcumin were equal to those of Prozac and Tofrinil in stressed mice.

In the most recent study, researchers wrote:

Curcumin, an active ingredient of Curcuma longa Linn (Zingiberaceae), has shown potential antidepressant-like activity in animal studies. The objectives of this trial were to compare the efficacy and safety of curcumin with fluoxetine in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). Herein, 60 patients diagnosed with MDD were randomized in a 1:1:1 ratio for six weeks observer-masked treatment with fluoxetine (20 mg) and curcumin (1000 mg) individually or their combination.

They concluded:

We observed that curcumin was well tolerated by all the patients. The proportion of responders as measured by the HAM-D17 scale was higher in the combination group (77.8%) than in the fluoxetine (64.7%) and the curcumin (62.5%) groups; however, these data were not statistically significant (P = 0.58). Interestingly, the mean change in HAM-D17 score at the end of six weeks was comparable in all three groups (P = 0.77). 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.

Note that the participants took 1000 mg of curcumin. Supplements tend to come in 500 or 1000 mg doses and are fairly inexpensive. Curcumin is widely available in drug stores, mass market stores and online. It does not require a prescription.

Be sure to consult your medical care professional before starting any supplements. Turmeric can cause interactions with anti-platelet and anti-coagulant drugs, as well as drugs that are used to treat diabetes and to control stomach acid.

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