Asian and Indian cooking often use turmeric as a spice to flavor the food. Scientific studies suggest that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric has many health benefits including depression.
Others have suggested that it might help to elevate mood and reducing symptoms of depression.
Indeed the body of current research literatures seem to point to the positive benefits of curcumin in treating major depression.
Read on to see reviews of clinical research studies showing the benefits of using turmeric in the treatment of depression...
I just need to clarify one thing first and that is the relationship between turmeric and curcumin before we continue. Curcumin is believed to be the active ingredient found in turmeric. Most turmeric contains between 2 to 5 percent of curcumin.
You can take turmeric or better, than curcumin. This will ensure you know exactly how much of the active ingredient you are actually paying for and getting in each capsule.
Further details on this equivalency is detailed in the article entitled Turmeric to Curcumin Equivalence Guide.
In one study completed in 2014, 56 volunteers suffering from major depression were randomly assigned to either take 500 mg of curcumin twice daily or a matching placebo (look-a-like sugar pill) for 8 weeks.
To quantify the severity of the depression, the researchers used a standardized rating scale (Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology self-rated version). A secondary scale was also used.
Here are some of the key results from this study.
Between 4 and 8 weeks of the study, the volunteers taking curcumin show significant improvement in depressive symptoms compared to the placebo group
Also of significance, the volunteers suffering from atypical depression benefited more from curcumin.
For sure, this is a small study and a larger and longer one will need to be carried out to confirm this initial finding. However, it is reassuring that there is at least some clinical evidence of benefit in taking curcumin for treating major depression.
Here's the reference to this study.
In another study published on August 2015, another group of researchers came to a similar conclusion about the benefits of using curcumin for reducing depression.
Specifically, they wanted to know if curcumin could enhance the effects of conventional prescription antidepressant medications.
They recruited 108 males aged 31 to 59 at the Tianjin Anding Hospital to participate in this study lasting 6 weeks.
The volunteers were randomly assigned to either take 2,000 mg daily of curcumin or a matching placebo capsule (filled with soybean powder) based on their current antidepressant medication.
In measuring their levels of depression, the research group used the Chinese version of a depression rating scale.
Here's what they uncovered.
The group taking the curcumin capsules showed a significant improvement in depression behaviours.
The group taking the curcumin also have some improved blood chemistry values that are directly and indirectly related to an improved health (i.e. salivary cortisol levels, tumor necrosis factor alpha, etc...)
Indeed, the researchers reported in their conclusion that there is an inherent benefit in combining curcumin with antidepressants treatment for reversing depression.
Here's the reference to this published research study.
What about compiling all the studies related to using curcumin for treating depression? This type of study is called a meta-analysis. It combines results from all related studies of an established quality in an attempt to get closer to the truth.
One such study is available indeed. Published in February 2016, Al-Karawi and associates searched all published work related to curcumin up to August 2015. They found six studies that met their established standard of quality to be included in their analysis.
What they found was that the use of curcumin was highly significantly in reducing symptoms of major depression.
A further analysis showed that curcumin worked better in middle-aged patients, in those taking it for longer periods of time and with a higher dose.
This meta-analysis gives me further confidence in recommending trying curcumin for depression.
Here's the reference to this published study.
Does it make sense to trying taking turmeric to help reduce depression?
Yes, it appears to be worth trying out since the evidence seems to suggest that it works.
It is important that if you are going to try turmeric, take a standardized preparation (so that the curcumin content is consistent and known) and for a minimum length of 8 weeks. As the meta-analysis showed, it seem to work better in middle-age individuals, and if taken for longer period of time and at a higher dose.
A suitable starting dose would be 500 mg of curcumin twice daily for at least 6 to 8 weeks. Dosages as high as 2,000 mg have been used in clinical studies.
If you are also taking a prescription antidepressant medication, it is important not to discontinue it without discussing this with your family doctor. Indeed, it is essential to let your family doctor know what you are trying to do.
See the article Health Benefits of Turmeric for the complete list of the uses of this herb.
Keep in mind that, although turmeric is shown to be useful in managing depression, there are many other natural remedies that also works for reducing depression.
It would be wise to see what they are so that you have a full picture of what's available.
Revised: January 14, 2017