People living in North America, in general, take a lot of anti-anxiety prescription medications. So do many individuals in other developed countries as well.
And this upward trend has continued. These prescription drugs are habit-forming and are of a major concern not only to individuals but also to health care professionals as well.
Someone asked me if turmeric would work. As you may know, the active ingredient in spice turmeric is curcumin. If there is a natural supplement that is effective at reducing anxiety, I'm all for it. Any attempts to cut down on drug is welcomed. And it include non-drug measures as well such as meditation, relaxation therapy and the likes.
Curcumin is long known to have potent anti-inflammatory effects. That's why it is used by people around the world to treat conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and inflammatory bowel disease. It also possess antioxidant properties, protecting our cells against oxidative damage from free-radical molecules generated in the process of metabolism.
Now the question is this. Is there any evidence that taking curcumin helps reduce anxiety symptoms? Let's take a look at two research studies...
We will first look at one research study conducted in animals. The researchers in this study wanted to find out how curcumin might work to reduce anxiety in rodents.
It is known that a low level of a type of omega-3 fatty acid (DHA) found in fish oils seemed to make anxiety worst. These researchers found that giving curcumin to rodents boost their brain levels of DHA and reduced anxiety-like behaviours.
This finding reassures us that there is a plausible mechanism to explain how curcumin might indirectly help to reduce anxiety symptoms.
Here's the reference to this published research paper.
For curcumin to work in animals is one thing. But what I'm really interested in is does it work in humans. To answer that question, we will have to look into clinical studies.
Let us take a look at one study.
In this well-designed clinical study, the researchers wanted to find out if curcumin could be used to reduce the anxiety and depression levels in obese individuals.
Thirty volunteers were randomized to either receive curcumin (1 gram per day) or a matching placebo (look-a-like) capsule for 30 days. Then they stopped treatment for 2 weeks and then the individuals were switched over. (This is called a cross-over trial). That means that if a volunteer started with the curcumin capsule, then would then take the placebo in the second phase and vise versa.
What the researchers found was that there as a significant drop in the volunteers anxiety levels (using the Beck Anxiety Inventory scale).
Basically, what that means is that it worked.
Here's the reference to this clinical study.
Of course more studies are needed to confirm this in this initial findings and for sure, there are studies that show that it made no difference to anxiety levels whether the subject was given curcumin or not.
Once these larger clinical trials are done, we will get a better understanding as to the true effectiveness of taking curcumin to ease anxiety symptoms.
Because there is always some confusion between turmeric and curcumin, we have created an equivalence chart so that you would know how much to take.
Most reputable manufacturers will specify how much curcumin (the active ingredient) will be found in each capsules. When possible, choose standardized formulation so that you can be certain of the exact amount of curcumin per capsule.
The good news that standardized curcumin capsules are often not anymore expensive than its turmeric counterpart.
Does it make sense take curcumin to help reduce anxiety symptoms?
I know that we looked at only one clinical study. The small study showed promise.
The one research study showed that curcumin did help to lower anxiety in obese individuals. For certain, we will have to wait for further studies to verify if curcumin also works in people who are not obese, but I would suggest that it would as well.
In the meantime, for those wanting to give it a try, go for it.
When buying turmeric, I suggest sticking with either curcumin or turmeric that discloses the amount of curcumin that it actually contains. In other words they have standardized their formulation.
The amount of curcumin in turmeric various from brand to brand. That's why I've written an article entitled Turmeric to Curcumin Equivalence Guide to help you understand the relationship.
Keep in mind that there are many other natural supplements that are known to help with anxiety as well. You should not forget about these.