Turmeric is a super star in the health food and supplement world. We’ve only recently discovered its benefits in the West, when in fact, it has played a long part in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.
Lucky for us, we now all have ample access to this valuable root today.
Used in cooking, turmeric gives a beautiful yellow color to food. That same color (imparted by curcumin) is responsible for its medicinal benefits.
So far, research studies show curcumin is beneficial in many compelling ways, but a new study has given it a really interesting twist, showing curcumin has anti-depressant properties similar to Prozac (fluoxetine).
A group of 60 participants were included in the study. They were assigned to one of three groups for 6 weeks: 1000 mg of BCMTM curcumin daily, fluoxetine 20 mg daily, or a combination of both. A standardized test called a Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression was used to assess the results.
Improvements were seen in all groups (fluoxetine 64.7% and curcumin 62.5%), with the greatest improvement seen in the combination group (77.8%). The differences, though, were not significant across the groups. The researchers found the curcumin to be as effective as the fluoxetine.
This is the first human study to find an anti-depressant effect for curcumin, although previous animal studies have shown mood-boosting effects.
It is thought that curcumin works similarly to conventional anti-depressants, in that it supports the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are often imbalanced in depression.
But it also works in unique ways: It alleviates brain inflammation, and it stimulates neurogenesis, the formation of new brain cells. These two factors are now believed to play a role in depression.
It was formerly believed that the human brain could not form new neurons into adulthood. However, new research has since disproven this idea. Adults can develop neurons in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, where memories are stored.
This renewal of brain cells not only gives the brain plasticity, it also seems to protect it from stress and may even prevent depression. In one study, mice who received treatments that inhibited neurogenesis exhibited signs of depression.
The results of this latest study are definitely meaningful. Many people simply don’t respond to conventional anti-depressants, and this new research brings something critical to the table —hope.
Should you discard your anti-depressants for curcumin? Not quite yet – more research is needed. That being said, curcumin does offer a myriad of other benefits, so it’s probably not a bad idea to give it a try anyway.
By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN