According to a new study in the journal Psychotherapy Research, the ingredient curcumin shows promise in the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder, or MDD.
Researchers provided subjects with 500mg of curcumin daily and continued to monitor their progress utilizing the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D), developed in the 1960s and used to rate the severity of depression in adults by probing mood, feelings of guilt, suicide ideation, insomnia, agitation or retardation, anxiety, weight loss, and somatic symptoms.
Not only did researchers find that the use of curcumin improved subject’s ratings on the HAM-D compared to placebos, but that curcumin performed as well as prescription antidepressants:
The response rate of … curcumin (62.5%) on Hamilton depression scale observed in our study is within the known range of studies with currently prescribed antidepressants (31.6%–70.4%) and was higher than the maximum response rate expected with placebo (12.5%–51.8%).
Researchers also found a lower risk of side effects in patients using curcumin. According to the study’s authors:
[This] is the first randomized clinical trial that clearly highlights that curcumin may be an effective and safe agent when used as a modality of treatment in
patients of MDD. Curcumin … has proved to be safe even at supra-therapeutic doses [and] a combination of curcumin with other antidepressants has shown to synergistically increase the serotonin levels and enhance antidepressant-like activity.
The use of antidepressant medications is growing in the United States, as one out of nine Americans over the age of 12 are currently prescribed some form of antidepressant medication.
These medications, under the supervision of a health professional, can do tremendous good for individuals seeking help. However, between the common side effects of these drugs and the belief among some experts that antidepressants aren’t effectively treating patients, there’s reason to seek alternatives.
According to Dr. Steven Hollon, professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University:
I would say at least half the folks who are being treated with antidepressants aren’t benefiting from the active pharmacological effects of the drugs themselves but from a placebo effect. If people knew more, I think they would be a little less likely to go down the medication path than the psychosocial treatment path.
Natural alternatives for mental and cognitive health have always been on the table, but never fully confirmed through studies. That is, until recently.
Traditionally, curcumin has been known to have poor bioavailability, requiring high doses to promote health. Researchers used a specific curcumin – BCM-95 – due to its high bioavailability, which authors cited as a potential reason for the positive outcomes. In recent years, scientists have heavily researched curcumin for its neuroprotective properties and has been believed a strong candidate for the promotion of neurological health and cognitive function.
Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and support the normal uptake of amyloid-beta in the brain, supporting the brain’s memory and learning abilities as we age. Another neuroprotective property of curcumin is its ability to promote normal levels of glutathione, superoxide dismutase and catalase in the brain, helping maintain the health of neurological tissues.
To read the study in its entirety, click here.