Orange-yellow cancels blue
Photographers know all too well that adding a yellow/orange filter on a lens or in front of lighting corrects bluish light, producing clean whites, greys and blacks, Also, they know that combining yellow light with blue light also produces white light. So in Physics yellow/orange cancels blue.
Now, a new clinical study has shown that the yellow/orange spices turmeric (source of curcumin) and saffron do indeed improve depression scores, especially in atypical depression :)
1000mg a day of curcumin ease the blues
This 12-week quality (randomised, double-blind & placebo-controlled) study on 123 individuals with major depressive disorder has shown that low-dose curcumin (500mg/day), high-dose curcumin (1000mg/day) or low-dose curcumin combined with 30mg/day of saffron, all reduced depressive symptoms to the same extent.
In the past "several studies have supported the antidepressant effects of curcumin (from the spice turmeric) and saffron for people with major depressive disorder, however, these studies have been hampered by poor designs, small sample sizes, short treatment duration, and similar intervention dosages", the authors of the study state.
Atypical depression and curcumin
Furthermore, the study has shown that curcumin and saffron had greater efficacy (65%) in people with atypical depression compared to the remainder of patients (35% efficacy).
"Atypical depression, or depression with atypical features, is depression that shares many of the typical symptoms of the psychiatric syndromes major depression or dysthymia but is characterized by improved mood in response to positive events. In contrast, people with melancholic depression generally do not experience an improved mood in response to normally pleasurable events. Atypical depression also features significant weight gain or an increased appetite, hypersomnia, a heavy sensation in the limbs and interpersonal rejection sensitivity that results in significant social or occupational impairment."
In a nutshell, if your depression is eased by positive events, chances are that curcumin can help. And the good news is that at doses of 500-1000mg (the typical does found in supplements today) it can not do any harm either.
If you suffer from other types of depression, trying curcumin is still a good idea, but may not be as effective.
Turmeric itself may not be enough
"Curcumin is one of the many curcuminoids, present in turmeric. Turmeric contains approximately 2% curcumin, so a teaspoon of turmeric, which weighs 2 grams, contains about 60mg curcumin."
Given that for this study 500-1000mg of curcumin per day were used, one has to consume 25-50g of turmeric powder to achieve the same results. This is a huge amount of turmeric to take every day - expect to be fed up of it in days and your teeth to become all yellow...
So by all means, keep adding turmeric to your food, but to replicate the results of this study you will most probably need a curcumin supplement.
On the other hand, given curcumin's poor bioavailability, one would have to use much less liposomal curcumin or other enhanced bioavailability curcumin form.
Saffron may not be entirely necessary
This study showed that 500mg curcumin, 1000mg curcumin and 500mg curcumin + 30mg saffron all have the same effect, which means that most probably saffron is not the main component, as curcumin by itself was equally effective to the combination of curcumin and saffron.
This study has shown that curcumin works well independent of saffron in depression, but future studies focusing on saffron may shed more light in the effectiveness of saffron against depression.
How could curcumin alleviate depression?
This study did not look into the mechanism by which curcumin alleviates depression, but in the past curcumin has also been proven potentially helpful in mental health conditions, including Alzheimers disease, by preventing nerve damage, via oxidative damage / inflammation inhibition.
Curcumin is well-known for it's anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and overall anti-ageing action, and these two properties are most probably the reasons behind it's effectiveness in alleviating depression.
- Paper: Efficacy of curcumin, and a saffron/curcumin combination for the treatment of major depression: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study
- Abstract: BACKGROUND: Several studies have supported the antidepressant effects of curcumin (from the spice turmeric) and saffron for people with major depressive disorder. However, these studies have been hampered by poor designs, small sample sizes, short treatment duration, and similar intervention dosages. Furthermore, the antidepressant effects of combined curcumin and saffron administration are unknown. METHODS: In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 123 individuals with major depressive disorder were allocated to one of four treatment conditions, comprising placebo, low-dose curcumin extract (250mg b.i.d.), high-dose curcumin extract (500mg b.i.d.), or combined low-dose curcumin extract plus saffron (15mg b.i.d.) for 12 weeks. The outcome measures were the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology self-rated version (IDS-SR30) and Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). RESULTS: The active drug treatments (combined) were associated with significantly greater improvements in depressive symptoms compared to placebo (p=.031), and superior improvements in STAI-state (p<.001) and STAI-trait scores (p=.001). Active drug treatments also had greater efficacy in people with atypical depression compared to the remainder of patients (response rates of 65% versus 35% respectively, p=.012). No differences were found between the differing doses of curcumin or the curcumin/saffron combination. LIMITATIONS: Investigations with larger sample sizes are required to examine the efficacy of differing doses of curcumin and saffron/curcumin combination. Its effects in people with atypical depression also require examination in larger scale studies. CONCLUSIONS: Active drug treatments comprising differing doses of curcumin and combined curcumin/saffron were effective in reducing depressive and anxiolytic symptoms in people with major depressive disorder.