According to a statistical analysis performed by Natural News, curcumin (one of the active chemical constituents in turmeric) is the most widely-studied phytochemical in modern science. Existing research suggests that curcumin offers the following biochemical activities:
- Antioxidant Activity
- Anti-inflammatory Activity
- Glutathione Synthesis
- Effects on Biotransformation Enzymes Involved in Carcinogen Metabolism
- Induction of Cell Cycle Arrest and Apoptosis
- Inhibition of Tumor Invasion and Angiogenesis
As the graphic at the top shows, curcumin activates/deactivates many of the same molecular targets as pharmaceuticals. Here is another graphic showing the classes of targets and specific molecular targets:
Via Collective Evolution, there is new research suggesting that curcumin is as effective as Prozac in treating depression (major depressive disorder). To my knowledge, this was the first study to show this result. But I was wrong - a Google Scholar search turned up several easily accessed studies that examined curcumin as a treatment for depression,
- Kulkarni, SK, and Chir, A. (2010, Mar-Apr). An Overview of Curcumin in Neurological Disorders. Indian Journal of Pharmacology Science, 72(2): 149–154. doi: 10.4103/0250-474X.65012
- Kulkarni, SK, Dhir, A, and Akula, KK. (2009). Potentials of Curcumin as an Antidepressant. The Scientific World Journal, 9, 1233–1241. doi: 10.1100/tsw.2009.137
- Lopresti AL, Hood SD, Drummond PD. (2012, Oct 3). Multiple antidepressant potential modes of action of curcumin: A review of its anti-inflammatory, monoaminergic, antioxidant, immune-modulating and neuroprotective effects. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 26(12):1512-24. doi: 10.1177/0269881112458732
- Kulkarni SK, Bhutani MK, Bishnoi M. (2008, Dec). Antidepressant activity of curcumin: Involvement of serotonin and dopamine system. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 201(3): 435-42. doi: 10.1007/s00213-008-1300-y
- Xu Y, Ku BS, Yao HY, Lin YH, Ma X, Zhang YH, Li XJ. (2005, Jul 25). The effects of curcumin on depressive-like behaviors in mice. European Journal of Pharmacology, 518(1):40-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2005.06.002
July 31, 2013 by Joe Martino
Researchers with the Department of Pharmacology of Government Medical College in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India performed a study comparing the effects of turmeric (curcumin) and Prozac (fluoxetine). The randomized and controlled clinical study determined turmeric was as effective as Prozac in treating major depressive disorder. Turmeric treatment was also absent of dangerous side effects often found in Prozac use.
The objectives of the trial was to compare the efficacy and safety of curcumin with fluoxetine (Prozac) in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). The study observed 60 patients diagnosed with MDD. Patients were randomized in a 1:1:1 ratio for six weeks in an observer-masked treatment using fluoxetine (20 mg) and curcumin (1000 mg) both individually or in combination. To determine the efficacy of each treatment, the main variable used was response rates according to the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, 17-item version (HAM-D17 ). They also employed a second efficacy variable which examined the mean change in HAM-D17 rating after the six week observation period.
Turmeric is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family. The average person may best recognize turmeric as a spice commonly used in Indian cuisine. The active compound curcumin is known to have a wide range of medicinal benefits including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumour, antibacterial, and antiviral activities. In India, turmeric has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for stomach and liver ailments. Turmeric can also be used topically to heal sores due to its antimicrobial properties.
According to the study:
We observed that curcumin was well tolerated by all the patients. The proportion of responders as measured by the HAM-D17 scale was higher in the combination group (77.8%) than in the fluoxetine (64.7%) and the curcumin (62.5%) groups; however, these data were not statistically significant (P = 0.58). Interestingly, the mean change in HAM-D17 score at the end of six weeks was comparable in all three groups (P = 0.77). This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders.This marks the first published study using a randomized and controlled clinical trial which indicates the efficacy of turmeric (curcumin) in treating serious depression. Results show that turmeric is just as effective as Prozac and possibly more effective than other depression drugs on the market. It is important to note the study does not account for the negative effects (side effects) that come with Prozac. Prozac is known to cause suicidal ideation and/or other psychotic disorders, however, these are not present when treating with turmeric. The use of turmeric as a treatment for depression is safer and less taxing on the body when compared to treatment with pharmaceutical drugs. These results are not surprising given the comparison of synthetic treatments vs natural.
The anti-depressant market reaches annual profits of about $12 billion. This number is expected to increase to $13.5 billion by 2018. These medications do not help cure depressions but instead mask symptoms and create a life long reliance on them. Utilizing natural treatments coupled with a holistic approach of assessing lifestyle, diet and the root cause of depression is an approach that is much more effective both in cost and curing patients. It is important to keep in mind that the pharmaceutical industry is a business before anything else. We are seeing a growing body of evidence to suggest natural treatments are much safer and effective when treating a variety of diseases, disorders and illnesses. It’s time they get more attention.
Sanmukhani J, Satodia V, Trivedi J, Patel T, Tiwari D, Panchal B, Goel A, Tripathi CB. (2013, Jul 6). Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Phytotherapy Research, doi: 10.1002/ptr.5025. [Epub ahead of print]
Sanmukhani J, Satodia V, Trivedi J, Patel T, Tiwari D, Panchal B, Goel A, Tripathi CB.
Department of Pharmacology, Government Medical College, Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India.
Curcumin, an active ingredient of Curcuma longa Linn (Zingiberaceae), has shown potential antidepressant-like activity in animal studies. The objectives of this trial were to compare the efficacy and safety of curcumin with fluoxetine in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). Herein, 60 patients diagnosed with MDD were randomized in a 1:1:1 ratio for six weeks observer-masked treatment with fluoxetine (20 mg) and curcumin (1000 mg) individually or their combination. The primary efficacy variable was response rates according to Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, 17-item version (HAM-D17 ). The secondary efficacy variable was the mean change in HAM-D17 score after six weeks. We observed that curcumin was well tolerated by all the patients. The proportion of responders as measured by the HAM-D17 scale was higher in the combination group (77.8%) than in the fluoxetine (64.7%) and the curcumin (62.5%) groups; however, these data were not statistically significant (P = 0.58). Interestingly, the mean change in HAM-D17 score at the end of six weeks was comparable in all three groups (P = 0.77). This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders.