In one study, those taking curcumin for brain health reported an average of a 52% reduction in anxiety levels, compared to an average of a 16% reduction in a control group
There has been recent research into the use of curcumin (an extract from turmeric) supplements to help improve mood disorders – specifically depression, anxiety, stress, and curcumin for brain health. Curcumin appears to do this by working along some of the same anti-inflammatory pathways that have made it such a popular supplement to help protect the immune system against COVID-19, and to address mental health issues.2
There’s no question about the link between mental health issues and the COVID pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of anxiety and depression among adults in the U.S. were significantly higher during April-June of 2020, than during the same time period in 2019.1
Furthermore, almost 41% of adults reported at least one adverse mental health condition for the week of June 24-30, 2020. Such conditions included symptoms of anxiety or depression (reported by almost 31%), or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD, reported by 26.3%) as a result of the pandemic.1
Inflammation, gastrointestinal issues, and mental health
Curcumin has well-established anti-inflammatory properties for any number of chronic health conditions. A 2013 article in Biofactors suggests that curcumin works by suppressing the mechanisms of action that lead to chronic inflammation.3
This anti-inflammatory ability could make curcumin particularly useful for those disorders that affect the gut biome. A 2017 review article in the journal Clinics and Practice elaborated on this concept of a link between gut biome and inflammation by exploring the concept of the gut-brain axis.4
There are several chronic, gastrointestinal issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s disease, which can flare up during times of stress. At the same time, there are several mental health issues, such as schizophrenia and autism, which also appear to be related to the gut biome.
Curcumin for brain health
A study from earlier this year, in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, examined the effects of a curcumin supplement on inflammation-related digestive issues (reflux, abdominal pain, indigestion, diarrhea, and constipation) and symptoms of anxiety.5 A total of 78 patients were randomized to receive either 500 mg of a curcumin supplement or a placebo for eight weeks.
At the end of the study, those test subjects taking curcumin reported an average of a 28% reduction in digestive complaints, compared to an average of an 18% reduction in the control group.5 Those taking curcumin also reported an average of a 52% reduction in anxiety levels, compared to an average of a 16% reduction in the control group.
Interestingly, examination of bacterial makeup for all subjects showed no significant changes in gut biome. The researchers hypothesized that the reduction in digestive issues may be via a different route than gut biome, thereby warranting further study.5
The main take-away seems to be that recommending curcumin supplements to patients during this pandemic is an excellent idea for several reasons. Curcumin helps boost the immune system against COVID-19, reduces systemic inflammation of several chronic conditions and lowers levels of anxiety and stress.
- Czeisler MÉ, Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2020;69:1049-1057.
- Manoharan Y, Haridas V, Vasanthakumar KC, et al. Curcumin: A wonder drug as a preventive measure for COVID-19 management. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry. 2020 Jul; 35(3): 373-375.
- Shehzad A, Rehman G, Lee YS. Curcumin in inflammatory diseases. Biofactors. 2013 Jan-Feb;39(1):69-77.
- Clapp M, Aurora N, Herrera L, et al. Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clinics and Practice. 2017;7(4):987.
- Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Rea A, Michel S. Efficacy of a curcumin extract (Curcugen™) on gastrointestinal symptoms and intestinal microbiota in adults with self-reported digestive complaints: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. 2021;21(1):40.