Used as both a food and medicine for nearly 4,000 years, turmeric–the spice that gives curry its golden hue–may have mood-boosting effects comparable to those of prescription medication–without the adverse effects, a study published in Phytotherapy Research suggests.
Sixty patients suffering from major depressive mood disorder were randomly divided into three groups. One group received the antidepressant fluoxetine (a generic form of Prozac), the second group was given curcumin (a turmeric compound), and the third group got both therapies.
After six weeks, all three groups had similar improvements in mood and depressive symptoms. Study co-author Ajay Goel of the Baylor Research Institute said that the findings demonstrate “a novel and surprising application” for the curcumin product used in the research, since the study is the first to show such effects in people.
Curcumin has previously shown promise as an antidepressant in animal studies, but large, long-term studies are needed to rigorously evaluate if it’s an effective therapy for people. Check with your medical provider before taking curcumin or turmeric supplements, since they can interact with some medications and may not be appropriate if you have certain disorders.
However, turmeric in food, such as curries, is safe, healthy and extremely tasty! What’s more, eating even curry even occasionally is linked to superior brain health and cognitive function, according to a study of more than 1,000 older adults, compared to people who ate it rarely or never.
The spice’s potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are believed to account for its brain-boosting benefits. There’s also some evidence that curcumin may help ward off dementia, by reducing formation of the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.