Are you one of the millions of people who have been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder? Have you been told that pharmaceutical drugs are your only viable option to overcoming depression? Well, here is some surprisingly good news.
Researchers in India have suggested performing clinical trials on humans to explore turmeric’s efficacy as a novel antidepressant. Researchers are finding mounting evidence that an anti-inflammatory compound in a common kitchen spice might help reduce symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD). Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, the Indian spice that imparts the yellow coloring to foods like curry, butter, mustard, and cheese. It has long been a mainstay of Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for various ailments.
How does turmeric help depression?
There is mounting evidence from animal models, in vitro, and human studies that elucidate mechanisms of curcumin’s sophisticated effects which include anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immuno-modulatory, anti-cancer, and neuroprotective. Turmeric is a reactive oxygen scavenger, meaning that it turns on antioxidant producing genes (NRF2) and supports glutathione synthesis, inhibits inflammatory enzymes, and supports liver detox. Inflammation leads to changes in the brain’s ability to properly regulate hormones, and to changes in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, as well as to changes in plasticity or the ability to regenerate brain cells.
Research shows that curcumin influences many factors involved in anxiety and depression. Curcumin can help balance serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and noradrenaline. Further, curcumin may benefit brain chemicals, and it can enhance the production of glutathione, an essential antioxidant for brain health.
Curcumin can heal damage caused by heavy metal toxins. Research also suggests that curcumin is beneficial to hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis functioning, and it protects against oxidative damage. Interestingly, curcumin may also help with leptin resistance and intestinal permeability.
People who took 1000 mg of curcumin for 6 weeks showed lower blood levels of inflammatory cytokines interleukin-1β and TNF-α, as well as lower salivary cortisol. This is an important finding since inflammation is linked to many psychiatric disorders. These people also showed higher levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) following curcumin supplementation.
Researchers show the truth
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. A recent observational study published in International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2016 compares the symptoms of patients with depression and inflammation with those with depression alone.
A study published in Journal of Clinical Psychophamacology,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.
The study observed here found statistically valuable results when subjects used 500 mg, twice daily of curcumin extract for major depressive disorder. Not any curcumin will do however. It’s important when supplementing to use a standardized, bioavailable source to ensure maximum absorption.
To improve absorption, be sure to take curcumin with a dose of healthy fats like, avocado, coconut or olive oil and, if you can, try to use fermented turmeric – in a high acid base – for the highest possible absorption rate.
If you want to try turmeric or curcumin supplements to see if they help improve mood, look for products standardized for 95% curcuminoids that also contain piperine or black pepper extract. Follow the dosage instructions on labels. You can take turmeric or curcumin indefinitely and combine them with antidepressant drugs or with natural remedies.