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Turmeric for Depression & Anxiety: Is Curcumin a Good Antidepressant?

Lyfe Botanicals Mar 10, 2020

The prestigious Curcuma longa root is one of the most beneficial medicinal herbs of our time. This member of the ginger family contains turmeric, a robust rhizome with numerous healing properties.

Widely used in southern Thai and Indian cuisine, turmeric is now getting recognition as more than just a kitchen spice. But, can turmeric help depression, anxiety, and stress relief?

Turmeric for Depression and Anxiety

Turmeric’s versatility as an Ayurvedic herb has shown promise for many ailments, including arthritis, weight loss, and inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

Recent studies on the benefits of turmeric allude to the possibility that it may also serve as a complementary treatment to several neurological disorders. Researchers believe curcumin can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, reduce symptoms of epilepsy, and delay the onset of other neurodegenerative conditions.

We’ve also seen evidence suggesting that turmeric can help stabilize mood and combat depression. If you’re dealing with anxiety or severe fluctuations in perceived quality of life, curcumin might be the supplement need. (1)

Before we dive into the studies and turmeric’s mechanism of action, let’s look at anxiety and depression in a bit more detail.

What is Depression?

Depression, otherwise known as clinical depression or major depressive disorder, is a common mood disorder. Its impact on daily life can be profound. It can change how you think, how you feel, how you act, as well as your ability to sleep, eat, and work.

Symptoms can vary between individuals, but for the most part, there’s a lot of overlap among depressed individuals. Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, pessimism, emptiness, a sense of being alone, and even suicidal thoughts are all severe and require immediate attention.

There are a few different types of depression to keep in mind as we proceed through the article.

  • Persistent Depressive Disorder: Otherwise known as “dysthymia,” is a depressed mood lasting a minimum of two years. Symptoms may be less severe at times, but the depression is persistent.
  • Postpartum Depression: Women who experience major depression amidst pregnancy or following the delivery. Extreme sadness, exhaustion, and anxiety often occur.
  • Psychotic Depression: Transpires during bouts of severe depression while simultaneously experiencing some form of psychosis— false fixed beliefs (delusions), hearing or seeing things (hallucinations).
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder: This type of depression arises during seasonal changes, particularly during winter months, when sunlight is less frequent. It usually dissipates during summer and spring months.

You may possess a higher risk of developing the disorder if you have a family history of depression. The odds also increase if you’ve undergone significant life changes, stress, or trauma, or if you’re dealing with illnesses or medical problems.

Severe medical conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s can all worsen when they co-occur with depression. Thus, it’s critical to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression. (2, 3)

What are Antidepressants?

Prescription antidepressants are supposed to correct the chemical imbalance in the brain responsible for depressive symptoms. Specifically, these drugs will impact the level of serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter in the brain. But there’s a catch.

Evidence suggests the majority of the positive benefits from antidepressants derive from the placebo effect. Some drugs increase the level of serotonin, while others decrease the level of serotonin. Yet, they all show similarly positive results. This fact seems to fly in the face of the chemical imbalance theory. (4)

Nevertheless, studies indicate that turmeric possesses an antidepressant effect in the brain without the plethora of side effects that accompany prescription medications. (5)

Why Turmeric Curcumin?

There is now an abundance of research suggesting that depression is an inflammatory disease that develops as a result of chronic low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress. (6, 7)

Turmeric has a well-documented status as one of the best over the counter anti-inflammatory agents. Also, curcumin’s antioxidant properties can help reduce oxidative stress, a primary cause of depressive disorders.

In this post, we’ll explore the science and research behind curcumin’s ability to stabilize our mood, reduce stress, and help major depressive disorder.

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