For many years, researchers believed that depression was primarily a condition of chemical imbalance. These days, there is a much more nuanced picture of depression, and most scientists and therapists would agree that brain chemistry and inflammation, in addition to life events and environmental factors and their effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, can all contribute to various types of depressive disorders. One of the keys to fighting depression is finding a safe, effective, and ideally, natural solution that works along many of these fronts.
This review found that curcumin, an active, key compound from turmeric (Curcuma longa) is one of them. The researchers reported that curcumin added to standard treatments, significantly reduced depression and anxiety symptoms, very likely due its ability to reduce systemic inflammation.
One thing to note is that curcumin can be difficult for the body to absorb, so finding a form that is combined with turmeric essential oil for enhanced absorption and blood retention may be best for getting results. It more readily gets into the bloodstream and continues to circulate there for longer-lasting effects.
While prescriptions can be helpful, they aren’t the only option. In fact, clinical research increasingly shows that time-tested natural medicines, like curcumin, can be just as effective, but without causing side effects.
Fusar-Poli L, Vozza L, Gabbiadini A, et al. Curcumin for depression: a meta-analysis. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(15):2643-2653.
Curcumin is the principal curcuminoid found in turmeric (Curcuma longa), a spice frequently used in Asian countries. Given its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it has been hypothesized that curcumin might be effective in treating symptoms of a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as depression. We conducted a systematic review following the PRISMA guidelines. In August 2019, we screened 930 articles, of which 9 were eligible for the meta-analysis. In 7 articles, participants were affected by major depressive disorder (MDD), while in other two they suffered from depression secondary to a medical condition. We found an overall significant effect of curcumin on depressive (10 studies, 531 participants, Hedge's g = -0.75, 95% CI -1.11 to -0.39, p < 0.001) and anxiety symptoms (5 studies, 284 participants, Hedge's g = -2.62, 95% CI -4.06 to -1.17, p < 0.001), with large effect size. Curcumin was generally well-tolerated by patients. Our findings suggest that curcumin, if added to standard care, might improve depressive and anxiety symptoms in people with depression. However, given the small sample size, our results should be cautiously interpreted. Further trials should be implemented, particularly in Western countries, where curcumin does not represent a usual component of dietary regimens.
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