Turmeric extract may relieve depression

depressionCurcumin, the active compound in turmeric, may relieve symptoms of major depression—especially atypical depression, a subtype of major depression—according to a new Australian research.

“The results of this study provide partial support for the antidepressant and anxiolytic effects of curcumin in people suffering from major depressive disorder,” the study authors, led Dr Adrian Lopresti of Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia, note.

Atypical depression is a unique form of major depression. Unlike other types of major depression, such as melancholic depression, which is associated with oversleeping, loss of appetite, and lack of mood improvement even if a positive event happens, atypical depression sufferers often experience insomnia, increased appetite or weight gain, fatigue, and the ability for mood to lift if a positive event occurs. Subjects are also very sensitive to feelings of rejection. Atypical depression is quite common.

The randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled study included 56 people aged 18-65 living in the Perth metropolitan area who were randomly assigned to receive either curcumin (500mg) or placebo (cellulose). Patients were instructed to take one capsule, twice daily, for 8 weeks. 

The researchers found that for the first four weeks of treatment, both curcumin and placebo reduced depressive and anxiety symptoms. However during the second four weeks of the study, curcumin was significantly more effective than placebo in lowering self-reported depressive and anxiety symptoms.

Curcumin, the primary active component of turmeric, is a potent antioxidant and may influence a number of different mechanisms associated with major depression, including mono-aminergic activity, immune-inflammatory pathways and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.

How does curcumin work on depression? The effects are likely partially due to the curcuminoid’s anti-inflammatory properties, the researchers surmise, at least when it comes to atypical depression, which is often associated with higher levels of inflammation. Other factors might also be at play.


Lopresti et al., 2014, J. Affect. Disord. 2014;167: 368-375.