Add to a growing literature exploring the efficacy of curcumin, an active polyphenol in the Indian spice, turmeric, comes a study entitled Curcumin for the treatment of major depression: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. This intervention, while still made in patients uncontrolled for active medication treatment, brings therapeutic relevance to the model of depression as a heterogeneous syndrome with multiple causes including hormonal, inflammatory, and energetic. Curcumin is simultaneously a potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective agent, hormonal and neurochemical modulator, and as a food, it is one that interacts with our genome in a modulatory fashion rather than the more hijacking nature of a pharmaceutical.
This study found that, at 4-8 weeks, curcumin separated from placebo on anxiety and depression parameters, and particularly for those with a more “atypical depression” characterized by overeating, sleeping, and interpersonal sensitivity. This subtype of depression is considered to be less responsive to standard treatment, and more inflammatory in nature. They state:
The current study therefore adds to the aforementioned ones as the length of treatment was extended to 8 weeks, double-blind placebo controlled conditions were included, and curcumin was used a standalone treatment or was used in patients undergoing pre-existing, stabilised antidepressant or psychological therapies.
The treatment group was offered 1g (500mg twice daily), despite curcumin’s safety profile at dosages 18 times this amount. I would love to see a future study that looks at first episode depressive patients, offers them a treatment such as this along with other lifestyle changes including diet, exercise, and meditation instruction. The response rate would likely double that of any available medication. In the meantime, having a benign treatment that separates from placebo at four weeks is a start, and certainly a place to focus while we attempt to extricate our population from the grips of psychotropics.