The Indian spice turmeric can help treat major depressive disorder, research finds.
Curcumin — the active ingredient in turmeric — was given to half of 56 participants who were experiencing major depression.
Two doses of 500mg daily was enough to improve several symptoms of depression after one month.
The supplement had the greatest effect on people who also had problems with weight gain, appetite and daytime sleepiness.
Dr Adrian Lopresti, the study’s first author, said:
“In animal-based studies curcumin has been consistently shown to have antidepressant effects and it has been hypothesised that curcumin would have antidepressant effects in people with major depression.
There have been a few positive human-based studies investigating the effects of curcumin in depression.
However, this is the first randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled study and over the longest duration.”
Curcumin is thought to be beneficial because it reduces inflammation, which is linked to depression.
Dr Lopresti said:
“The findings from this study suggest that depression can be treated with an agent that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Our findings support consistent research that depression is associated with increased inflammation.
Despite what has been previously believed, depression is not all about brain chemicals such as serotonin.
This could be why there were particularly good results in the subgroup of volunteers with atypical depression because this condition is often associated with higher levels of inflammatory proteins.”
Dr Lopresti continued:
“It would be useful to investigate whether a higher dose of curcumin will have a greater and more rapid antidepressant effect.
But although curcumin has several potential health benefits, I would not recommend it as a first line of treatment for depression yet. More research is required.”
→ Explore PsyBlog’s ebooks, all written by Dr Jeremy Dean:
The study was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders (Lopresti et al., 2014).