Groundbreaking Study Finds Turmeric Extract May Be Superior to Prozac for Depression

turmeric extract

By Sayer Ji

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research has confirmed for the first time in a randomized, controlled clinical trial that the primary polyphenol in turmeric – known as curcumin – is both safe and effective in treating serious states of depression.[1]

The research was performed at the Department of Pharmacology, Government Medical College, Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India, and involved patients already diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD). The objective of the trial was to compare the efficacy and safety of curcumin with fluoxetine (Prozac) in 60 patients diagnosed with MDD. Subjects were randomized to receive either a six week treatment with fluoxetine (20”‰mg) and curcumin (1000”‰mg), individually or in combination.

Success of the treatment was evaluated using the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D17). The results were reported as follows:

“We observed that curcumin was well tolerated by all the patients. The proportion of responders as measured by the HAM-D17 scale was higher in the combination group (77.8%) than in the fluoxetine [Prozac] (64.7%) and the curcumin (62.5%) groups; however, these data were not statistically significant (P”‰=”‰0.58).

“Interestingly, the mean change in HAM-D17 score at the end of six weeks was comparable in all three groups (P”‰=”‰0.77). This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders.”


If the results of this relatively small trial are applicable to a wider population, this is truly groundbreaking news. There was already a rather sizable body of preclinical research indicating that curcumin is an effective antidepressant in the animal model,[2] but this was not enough to sway most physicians who practice so-called “evidence based medicine” into actually suggesting it to patients as a Prozac or antidepressant alternative.

And this is understandable, as the lack of solid human clinical evidence supporting the use of a natural substance is no small matter from a legal-regulatory perspective. Unless a substance has passed through the approximately 800 million dollar financial gauntlet of phase I, II, and III clinical trials required to apply for FDA drug approval, and has actually received that approval, there is scant legal protection for those who use natural medicines to prevent or treat disease, and who might face a lawsuit (frivolous or genuine) as a result of a claim of injury.

Curcumin, of course, is extremely safe, with a 2010 phase I safety study finding that oral doses as high as 8 grams a day were well tolerated.[3] Fluoxetine, on the other hand, is highly controversial due to its well-known toxicity, and its laundry list of side effects, which include suicidal ideation (not a good side effect for someone already depressed!).

Also, even though it would appear the study found that curcumin and Prozac were equivalent in effectiveness, the fact that curcumin comes “… without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders,” clearly proves its superiority over Prozac. There are also a wide range of additional side benefits that come with using curcumin, including its powerful neuroprotective properties. You will find no less than 109 studies on GreenMedInfo’s database documenting curcumin’s ability to protect, and in some cases restore brain function. [see research here: curcumin’s neuroprotective properties]

Studies like this are greatly encouraging as they confirm the timeless wisdom of plant, mineral and nutrient-based medical interventions which were once the norm before pharmaceutical medicine, only recently, attempted to dominate the spectrum of alternatives available to the public.

Some final details that may be of assistance are: (1) curcumin is approximately 3-4% of the whole root powder by weight. (2) curcumin is poorly bioavailable, as it is alcohol and not water or fat soluble, so must be taken in higher quantities, or in combination with either carrier molecules such as the phospholipid phosphatidyl choline or bioavailability enhancers such as black pepper, or the primary compound responsible for increased absorption in black pepper: piperine.

For additional information on the topics covered here read: 600 Reasons Turmeric May Be The World’s Most Important Herb

[1] Jayesh Sanmukhani, Vimal Satodia, Jaladhi Trivedi, Tejas Patel, Deepak Tiwari, Bharat Panchal, Ajay Goel, Chandra Bhanu Tripathi. Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Phytother Res. 2013 Jul 6. Epub 2013 Jul 6. PMID: 23832433

[2], Animal Research on Curcumin’s Anti-Depressive Properties

[3] Masashi Kanai, Kenichi Yoshimura, Masanori Asada, Atsushi Imaizumi, Chihiro Suzuki, Shigemi Matsumoto, Takafumi Nishimura, Yukiko Mori, Toshihiko Masui, Yoshiya Kawaguchi, Kazuhiro Yanagihara, Shujiro Yazumi, Tsutomu Chiba, Sushovan Guha, Bharat B Aggarwal. A phase I/II study of gemcitabine-based chemotherapy plus curcumin for patients with gemcitabine-resistant pancreatic cancer. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2010 Sep 22. Epub 2010 Sep 22. PMID: 20859741

Further articles by Sayer Ji

About the author:
Sayer-JiSayer Ji is the founder and director of and an advisory board member at the National Health Federation, an international nonprofit, consumer-education, health-freedom organization.

He co-authored the book Cancer Killers: The Cause Is The Cure, and is currently co-authoring another book with Tania Melkonian entitled EATomology: An Edible Philosophy of Food.

Check out Sayer Ji’s new collaborative project EATomology.

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  • Sandra Richardson

    I have taken Prozac for 20 years and am one of the fortunate people who has no negative side effects. I went off of it one time and the depressive symptoms returned.
    after a few months the emotional pain led me back to the Prozac. If turmeric brings this much relief to some people, I am glad for them. From personal experience I know turmeric is a key ingredient in dill pickles!

  • Jeremy

    …treatment in patients with MDD without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders.” to me indicates that the patient is experiencing no psychosis and no suicidal ideation despite having MDD, not that the curcumin does not cause these. I think the phraseology in the original is potentially misleading.

  • beetrootofdestiny

    Hmmm. I suffer from bipolar disorder, so this may be a little different, but I can’t help but wonder whether my daily inclusion of a hot drink made of water, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, and honey a year or so ago may have contributed to a very mentally healthy period in my life. For 3 whole months I felt no depression at all. (Yes, yes; I know what you’re thinking: this is not always unusual in BD; people can go months without any symptoms….but not me. I’m a rapid cycler; I barely get a week or so of “normality” before the extreme lows or hyper highs come back. So 3 months to me is HUGE.)

    In a moment of clarity ( on one of my “normal” days) , and as a new-year’s-resolution “health-kick”, I decided to ditch caffeine, alcohol, dairy products ( I was already vegetarian) and cane sugar. Pharmaceutical medications had done little- if anything- for me over the 17 years of trying just about every one. I wasn’t expecting a dietary change to work miracles, but I thought that being physically healthy would – if anything- HAVE to help.

    Anyway, I’d heard that apple cider vinegar was good for the immune system, and that turmeric was healthy for a bunch of different reasons, so decided to take them EVERY day. I took them together. As mentioned above, I made them into a sort of tea, with hot water, and honey ( so I could actually stomach it!).

    Without jumping to conclusions, (as I’m certain that all the other dietary alterations were a contributing factor! ) I know that after a few weeks, I felt and looked better than I had done in years. People commented on how well I was looking, and how exuberant I seemed. Could turmeric have been one of the key ingredients in this transformation?? ( I was eating it in curries a lot too..) Or was this just a bizarre break in my BD patterns? Just a “high” period that was longer lasting and not as extreme as usual?? ( It saddens me to think that it may have been merely a cruel trick of my mind like that, but…it does happen 🙁 )

    Unfortunately, some shitty events tempted me back into sugar, wine, and eventually, dairy. ( No caffeine though, so I guess that’s something..) .After that, same old crap; through the ringer mentally & emotionally. Reading this today makes me wonder though. I think it’d be worth trying the health kick again. I do absolutely believe in food as medicine.

    Does anyone else have any turmeric/ curcumin success stories? I’d be very interested to know!