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Turmeric – the New Prozac?

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What if a common spice was as effective as prescription drugs without the cost and dangerous side effects? A recent study found that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, may be as effective as fluoxetine (Prozac) in treating depression.

A cousin of ginger, this rhizome has a long history of use in herbal remedies, particularly in China, India and Indonesia. Turmeric is what puts the yellow color in curry. Many current studies are looking into turmeric to treat a whole host of health problems. Turmeric has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, anticancer, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiparasitic and neuroprotective activities.

Turmeric as an Anti-inflammatory

Turmeric’s role as an anti-inflammatory is well known. Curcuminoids in turmeric influence more than 700 genes, and can inhibit both the activity and the synthesis of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2) and 5-lipooxygenase (5-LOX), as well as other enzymes linked to inflammation. Turmeric has been used successfully as an anti-inflammatory in humans as well as dogs, horses, and other animals. As we know, chronic inflammation has negative affects on many aspects of your health. Inflammation can also play a role in depression. In a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers found that people with clinical depression had a 30 percent increase in brain inflammation, also referred to as neuroinflammation.

Turmeric as an Antidepressant

Another recent study, Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial, was done to compare the efficacy and safety of curcumin with fluoxetine in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). In this study, 60 patients with MDD were divided into 3 groups of 20. One group was given 20 mg of fluoxetine (Prozac), one group was given 1000 mg of curcumin, and one group was given both fluoxetine and curcumin each day for 6 weeks. There was slightly more improvement in the group receiving both fluoxetine and curcumin. The group given the curcumin alone fared as well as the group given the Prozac. All groups showed improvement and there were no significant differences in the results of the three groups. According to the researchers, “This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD [major depressive disorder] without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders.”

The researchers indicate that the effectiveness of curcumin stems from its ability to inhibit monoamine oxidase, an enzyme which is linked to depression if found in the brain in high levels.  Turmeric also raises the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, two neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of happiness, curbing depression and anxiety, and increasing overall emotional well-being.

Numerous studies, including one published in the journal, “Brain Research,” examined the effects of curcumin administration to laboratory rats after exposure to a chronic stress protocol. The study found that curcumin supplementation had a beneficial effect on reducing stress-related depressive symptoms.

Turmeric Decreases Anxiety

An exciting new study from the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center found that the curcumin in turmeric enhances the synthesis of omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from its precursor, α-linolenic acid (ALA). Dietary deficiency of DHA is linked to the neuropathology of several cognitive disorders, including anxiety. DHA is typically lacking in the Western Diet because the primary source is fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, trout, and tuna. Grass fed meat and wild game are also good sources of DHA. ALA is found in plants and some ALA is converted to DHA but the conversion efficiency is low. The UCLA study found that when curcumin and ALA were taken together, curcumin enhances DHA synthesis, resulting in elevated brain DHA content. These findings have important implications for human health and the prevention of cognitive disease, particularly for populations eating a plant-based diet or who do not consume fish.

How to Add Turmeric to Your Diet

Curcumin in turmeric is more bioavailable and better absorbed when heated and when consumed with oil or fat and black pepper. Be sure to get turmeric that has not been irradiated and does not contain fillers. Also, check the percentage of curcumin it contains. The curcumin content typically ranges from 1%-4%. I like the Frontier brand because it has no fillers and is 5% curcumin.

Golden milk

There are many ways to make Golden Milk but this is my favorite.

1 cup canned coconut milk

2 cups almond milk

1-2 teaspoons raw honey

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon cinnamon

small piece of ginger root or ¼ tsp ground ginger

small pinch of black pepper

Blend all ingredients in a blender on high speed for 20-30 seconds. Pour into a small saucepan and heat for 3-5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly, until hot but not boiling. Enjoy!

Turmeric tea

To make turmeric tea add 1 teaspoon of turmeric to 4 cups of boiling water. Allow to steep for 10 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer before drinking. Ginger can be added to this as well. Sweeten with honey if desired.

This tea will be most beneficial if it is combined with food containing some type of fat and black pepper.

Add to rice, eggs, vegetables, and soups

Turmeric is mild flavored and adds a beautiful golden color to rice and other dishes. Sprinkle it on vegetables for roasting and add to soups and stews. It also adds a complimentary flavor to eggs, omelets, and quiches.

Use as a rub on chicken or other meat

Turmeric can be used alone or added to other rubs and marinades for meat and fish. Sprinkle on meat for grilling, roasting, or frying.

Add to smoothies

Green smoothies as well as fruit smoothies get a super boost with added turmeric. Be sure to include a tiny pinch of black pepper (you won’t know it’s there) and ¼-1/2 teaspoon of turmeric. Start slow with the turmeric and increase the amount as you get used to the taste.

 

8 Responses to “Turmeric – the New Prozac?”

  1. Dena says:

    I look forward to receiving and reading these “power punch” articles! Brief, research based, and practical, useful applications. Perfect for my needs. Thanks!

  2. admin says:

    You’re welcome! I’d love to hear how other people are using turmeric too.

  3. Anne Baack says:

    I am checking my herbs and planning to find the frontier brand and make a purchase if I can.

  4. Phoebe says:

    I just started doing the golden milk a few days ago and my post partum anxiety has pretty much completely disappeared! I feel so even keeled. Hope it’s safe for breastfeeding!

  5. There is obviously a bundle to know about this.
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