According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 Americans report symptoms of depression.
Certainly, the causes of this condition can be as varied as the individuals reporting them.1
Unfortunately, many of the current therapeutic drugs for depression are only effective and safe in the short term. But, because of the cyclical and chronic nature of depression and other dysthymic illnesses, these medications are often required to be taken long term.
This is when the worst aspects of conventional prescription drugs emerge. They may cause sedation, weight gain, or physical sensations of numbness or pain. Others—in a frightening reversal of their intended use—can cause greater feelings of hopelessness and suicidal ideation.
Finding an effective, long-term, and natural therapeutic agent—whether as a standalone or add-on therapy—has been difficult for practitioners and patients alike.
While St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) has solid studies supporting its use in cases of mild and moderate depression, it hasn’t been proven effective for those with major depressive disorder.2-8
But current research and traditional practices point to an effective alternative botanical compound: a specialized, high-absorption curcumin blended with turmeric essential oils. And these results have only been seen with this particular extract, which allows for enhanced bioavailability.
A history of healing
Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric (Curcuma longa), is a well- noted anti-inflammatory. Turmeric, and by extension curcumin, has a long history in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. It has been used to treat stress, mania, and other depression-like conditions for centuries.9-11
Curcumin reverses the physical effects of stress and depression. It reduces inflammatory markers in the bloodstream that travel to the brain, and it supports healthy levels of serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine. In addition, laboratory research shows that curcumin promotes neurogenesis.12-14
Recently, the results of a clinical study using curcumin with individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) was published in the journal Phytotherapy Research. This randomized, controlled clinical trial compared the efficacy and safety of small particle-size curcumin blended with turmeric essential oils versus the prescription anti-depressant fluoxetine (alone or in combination). The goal was to determine whether curcumin is a viable therapeutic treatment for patients with MDD.15
To qualify for inclusion, patients were required to be 18 years or older, diagnosed with MDD, and score more than seven on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-17), a standard diagnostic tool used for screening patients with possible depression. The greatest response, measured by the HAMD-17, was in the group using the combination of fluoxetine and high- absorption curcumin at 78 percent.
Interestingly, the single-therapy groups scored almost the same, with fluoxetine at 65 percent and curcumin at 63 percent—a difference not statistically significant.
Two important conclusions surfaced from the results of this study. First, curcumin worked as well as the prescription drug fluoxetine in terms of the measurable changes in the HAMD-17 score from baseline to six weeks of treatment. Second, this study provides the first human clinical indication that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe treatment for patients with MDD without causing concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders.
Curcumin in its plain extract form can be difficult for the body to absorb and use. But improvements and enhancements in curcumin extracts extend the reach of the compound beyond that seen in standard 95-percent extracts. One of the most highly regarded is a specialized, high-absorption curcumin (used in the aforementioned studies).
Because it combines a curcumin extract ground to a very small particle size with turmeric essential oils, it has up to 10 times the absorption and greater blood retention time than standard 95-percent curcumin extracts.16-18 That is why this specific bioavailable curcumin was chosen in laboratory models of depression and in this recent clinical study of MDD.11-15
Depression is a worldwide health issue with treatment options that vary in effectiveness and safety. While prescription medications can be therapeutic, new evidence shows that this specific curcumin extract may hold the key to a more holistic and risk-free form of intervention.19
Terry Lemerond is a natural health expert with more than 40 year’s experience. He has owned health food stores, founded dietary supplement companies, and formulated more than 400 products. A published author, he appears on radio, television, and is a frequent guest speaker. He can be contacted through europharmausa.com.
1 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Depression.” www.cdc.gov/features/dsdepression. Accessed February 12, 2013. 2 Lawvere S, Mahoney MC. St. John’s wort. Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(11):2249-54.
3 Linde K. St. John’s wort – an overview. Forsch Komplementmed. 2009;16(3):146-55.
4 Thomson Healthcare. (2007). “St. John’s Wort.” PDR for Herbal Medicines. (4th ed., pp. 797-811). New York, NY: Thomson Reuters.
5 Singer A, Schmidt M, Hauke W, Stade K. Duration of response after treatment of mild to moderate depression with Hypericum extract STW 3-VI, citalopram and placebo: A reanalysis of data from a controlled clinical trial. Phytomedicine. 2011;18(8-9):739-42.
6 Monograph. “Hypericum perforatum.” Altern Med Rev. 2004;9(3):318-25.
7 Overstreet DH, Keung WM, Rezvani AH, Massi M, Lee DY. Herbal remedies for alcoholism: promises and possible pitfalls. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2003;27(2):177-85.
8 Brockmöller J, Reum T, Bauer S, et al. Hypericin and pseudohypericin: pharmacokinetics and effects on photosensitivity in humans. Pharmacopsychiatry. 1997;30 Suppl 2:94-101.
9 Goel A, Kunnumakkara AB, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin as “Curecumin”: from kitchen to clinic. Biochem Pharmacol. 2008;75(4):787-809.
10 Hatcher H, Planalp R, Cho J, et al. Curcumin: from ancient medicine to current clinical trials. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2008;65:1631-1652.
11 Kulkarni S, Dhir A, Akula KK. Potentials of curcumin as an antidepressant. Scientific World Journal. 2009;9:1233-41.
12 Xu Y, Ku BS, Yao HY, et al. Antidepressant effects of curcumin in the forced swim test and olfactory bulbectomy models of depression in rats. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2005;82(1):200-6.
13 Li YC, Wang FM, Pan Y, et al. Antidepressant-like effects of curcumin on serotonergic receptor-coupled AC-cAMP pathway in chronic unpredictable mild stress of rats. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2009;33(3):435-49.
14 Sanmukhani J, Anovadiya A, Tripathi CB. Evaluation of antidepressant like activity of curcumin and its combination with fluoxetine and imipramine: an acute and chronic study. Acta Pol Pharm. 2011;68(5):769-75.
15 Sanmukhani J, Satodia V, Trivedi J, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Phytother Res. 2014;28(4):579-8.
16 Goel A, Kunnumakkara AB, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin as “Curecumin”: from kitchen to clinic. Biochem Pharmacol. 2008;75(4):787-809.
17 Antony B, Merina B, Iyer VS, et al. A Pilot Cross-Over Study to Evaluate Human Oral Bioavailability of BCM-95CG (Biocurcumax), A Novel Bioenhanced Preparation of Curcumin. Ind J Pharm Sci. 2008;70(4):445-9.
18 Benny B, Antony B. Bioavailability of Biocurcumax (BCM-95). Spice India. 2006;19:11-15.
19 “Depression Study Published on BCM-95 Curcumin.” PR Newswire. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/depression-study-published- on-bcm-95-curcumin-215101301.html. Published July 11, 2013. Accessed September 6, 2013.