According to a recent global report, the world has seen an “alarming” decline in mental health over the last few years, with English-speaking populations reporting the lowest mental well-being. Within the US alone, roughly 41.5% of adults showed signs of anxiety or depression in 2021. Worldwide, 7 out of 10 adults report struggling with their mental health.
When symptoms of depression or anxiety arise, it’s important to alert your doctor straight away. Conventional treatment is generally effective for psychiatric disorders, but many seek additional natural or alternative relief for extra support. Researchers alike are pursuing novel treatment avenues for mental health conditions, with recent studies showing curcumin (the active compound in turmeric) may benefit those who struggle with anxiety or depression.
Can Turmeric (Curcumin) help with Anxiety?
Curcumin is the bright yellow bioactive compound found in turmeric (Curcuma longa). Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for some 4000 years to improve gut health. Although best known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties, it also contains antioxidant, antifungal, and antitumor activities.
Curcumin has recently been found to relieve intestinal inflammation in cases of IBD and may also help relieve symptoms of IBS like abdominal pain and stomach bloating. And through the same mechanisms, it may also alleviate mental health symptoms that stem from inflammation. Studies show that inflammatory markers are elevated in patients with depression and generalized anxiety disorder compared to healthy controls. Not only does curcumin target this inflammation, but it may even be able to reverse the damage of stress and depression on the body.
How Inflammation Impacts Mental Health
The impact of inflammation on mood and brain function is still not yet entirely understood, but here’s what we do know. When we’re sick, our immune cells produce pro-inflammatory cytokines that affect the brain and our behavior through metabolic and molecular pathways that influence neurotransmitter systems. These systems can impact neurocircuits that regulate behavior, mainly through decreased motivation, avoidance, and alarm (anxiety).
During an unabated immune response, the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) begin to reduce the availability of serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. These neurotransmitters are especially important for our mood regulation, playing an important role in anxiety modulation.
Can Turmeric (Curcumin) Help?
In 2008, a trial found that the combination of curcumin and certain antidepressant medications actually resulted in a synergistic increase in serotonin. It turns out curcumin can alleviate anxiety by regulating the release of both serotonin and dopamine.
Researchers in Australia conducted a randomized trial on curcumin for depression and anxiety. Both conditions improved after curcumin treatment compared to placebo, with particularly high efficacy for anxiety and atypical depression. And in Prior animal studies on curcumin for anxiety had also shown promising results. In 2006, researchers subjected rats to stressful conditions which resulted in physiological changes and ‘performance deficits’, then administered curcumin to observe the changes. The physiological and behavioral changes were reversed after curcumin treatment.
A 2018 animal study on curcumin investigated the neuronal mechanisms and pathways through which inflammation impacts neuron deterioration in depressed rats. They found that chronic mild stress caused microglia activation and “overexpression” of inflammatory cytokines IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α in the medial prefrontal cortex. Treatment with curcumin resulted in antidepressant-like actions and inhibited the inflammatory response and the neuronal structural changes caused by stress.
Another trial in 2018 tested curcumin in an animal study focused on PTSD, especially the symptom of anxiety. Curcumin had an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect, leading the researchers to suggest curcumin as a ‘useful agent to alleviate or treat psychiatric disorders’ similar to those observed in cases of PTSD.
Finding the Right Curcumin for You
Curcumin for anxiety needs to contain high bioavailability, so look out for products that include piperine. Piperine inhibits drug metabolism and stops the enzymes from removing curcumin from the bloodstream, therefore boosting absorption throughout the body.
Curcumin Dosage Recommendations for Anxiety or Depression
The recommended dosage of curcumin for depression and anxiety is between 150-250 mg of curcumin per dose, which is usually 2 capsules. Start with this dose once per day and watch out for any changes or effects before taking more.
Taking Curcumin with Antidepressants
If you choose to take curcumin for mental health conditions, it’s highly advised to consult your doctor first. Curcumin does have some impact on the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, so it’s important to discuss with a healthcare professional. We never recommend taking herbal products in place of a prescribed medication without your doctor’s approval, especially in cases of depression, which needs to be properly treated under medical guidance.
How long will curcumin take to work for anxiety or depression?
The effects of curcumin can take up to 4-8 weeks to feel, under consistent dosing. If you have any concerns at all, consult your doctor or reach out to our clinic at firstname.lastname@example.org, and one of our medical experts will be in touch.