Chester, NJ—A recent clinical trial published in Phytotherapy Research indicated that a high-absorption curcumin (BCM-95 from Dolcas Biotech, based here) had similar effects as a generic form of Prozac (fluoxetine) on depression, sans the adverse effects.

“It is a novel and surprising application for this natural medicine,” said Ajay Goel, Ph.D., Baylor Research Institute and Charles A Sammons Cancer Center, Baylor University Medical Center and study co-author. “People with depression have higher levels of inflammation in the brain. Also, people with depression have lower levels of neurogenesis in the brain, meaning they make fewer new brain cells than people with no history of depression. Curcumin is both a potent anti-inflammatory agent and a powerful stimulator for neurogenesis.”

The three-pronged study included 60 volunteers diagnosed with major depressive disorder, with 20 people taking either BCM-95 Curcumin (500 mg capsules twice daily); 20 people taking fluoxetine 20 mg daily; or 20 people taking a combination of BCM-95 Curcumin twice daily with fluoxetine once daily. Their level of depression was assessed using the clinically validated Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D17), which is used to evaluate one’s mood, feelings of guilt, feelings of suicide and other symptoms.

After six weeks, the research showed that curcumin was well tolerated by all of the subjects. The proportion of responders with improved depression symptoms was higher in the combination group (77.8%) than in the fluoxetine (64.7%) and the curcumin (62.5%) groups. However, the data also showed that BCM-95 Curcumin worked as well as fluoxetine in terms of changes in the HAM-D17 score from baseline through six weeks of treatment.

The study was the first human clinical indication that Curcumin can be used as an effective and safe treatment for patients with depression, though it cannot be considered a medical treatment at this time.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, October 2013 (online 7/24/13)