I am a huge advocate for a holistic, natural approach as a first line of defense against…well pretty much everything.
Back pain? Try a chiropractor.
Stomach ache? Reach for probiotics before Pepto.
Catch a cold or got allergies? Fill up the Neti-Pot and slug back some local honey.
My mom is a nurse, so I learned from an early age that there is a time and a place for doctors, but the medical road tends to be a slippery one. There is a medication for any ailment, and no matter how innocuous, this can inevitably start a cascade of medications, and more medications to counteract the side effects of the first, and other doctors and tests… I don’t know about you, but I would much rather take the most conservative route possible for as long as I can.
So, you can imagine my intrigue when I stumbled across this article that shows promising evidence of turmeric in treating those with depression. There is even mention that this unassuming orange spice has antidepressant properties superior to many popular antidepressants, without all of the possible negative side effects.
I’ll be honest – before reading this article, all I really knew about turmeric is that it is a major component of curry. So, I had to do a little research into how this spice could be providing these antidepressant qualities.
As it turns out, the active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, is a very powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. I found scads of studies that tested turmeric’s ability to relieve arthritis pain, and found that it does – even better than standard NSAIDs, like Celebrex.
So what does arthritis have to do with treating depression, you ask? Lots, actually.
Recent studies have shown that there is a strong link between inflammation in the brain and depression. The way this is believed to happen is an injury, illness, or stress response occurs, which triggers widespread inflammation in the body. Inflammation then signals the production of cytokines, which are cells that signal the immune system and aid in healing. But, cytokines also have a nasty habit of bringing on depressive symptoms.
Side-note: Interferon, a pro-inflammatory, cytokine-producing medication that is popular in treating a multitude of viral and chronic illness, is proven to cause depressive symptoms because of the increase in cytokines. Interesting, right?
So, how does turmeric help? Well, my thinking is that turmeric does double-duty here. The anti-inflammatory properties would reduce any widespread inflammation throughout the body. Secondly, it has been found that turmeric is able to block the production of cytokines in the body. If the production is blocked, the body then wouldn’t experience any resulting depressive symptoms. Cool, right?
Before you go running out to your local health food store, understand that this area of research is still in it’s infancy, but I certainly think it requires a further look. This could potentially explain why a good portion of individuals with depression that decide to treat with antidepressants do not experience much relief. Maybe low serotonin isn’t the underlying, causative factor after all.
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