Study Finds Turmeric Is As Effective As Prozac For Treating Depression

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turmericResearchers with the Department of Pharmacology of Government Medical College in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India performed a study comparing the effects of turmeric (curcumin) and Prozac (fluoxetine). The randomized and controlled clinical study determined turmeric was as effective as Prozac in treating major depressive disorder. Turmeric treatment was also absent of dangerous side effects often found in Prozac use.

The objectives of the trial was to compare the efficacy and safety of curcumin with fluoxetine (Prozac) in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). The study observed 60 patients diagnosed with MDD. Patients were  randomized in a 1:1:1 ratio for six weeks in an observer-masked treatment using fluoxetine (20 mg) and curcumin (1000 mg) both individually or in combination. To determine the efficacy of each treatment, the main variable used was response rates according to the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, 17-item version (HAM-D17 ). They also employed a second efficacy variable which examined the mean change in HAM-D17 rating after the six week observation period.

Turmeric is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family. The average person may best recognize turmeric as a spice commonly used in Indian cuisine. The active compound curcumin is known to have a wide range of medicinal benefits including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumour, antibacterial, and antiviral activities. In India, turmeric has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for stomach and liver ailments. Turmeric can also be used topically to heal sores due to its antimicrobial properties.

According to the study:

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 (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.

This marks the first published study using a randomized and controlled clinical trial which indicates the efficacy of turmeric (curcumin) in treating serious depression. Results show that turmeric is just as effective as Prozac and possibly more effective than other depression drugs on the market. It is important to note the study does not account for the negative effects (side effects) that come with Prozac. Prozac is known to cause suicidal ideation and/or other psychotic disorders, however, these are not present when treating with turmeric. The use of turmeric as a treatment for depression is safer and less taxing on the body when compared to treatment with pharmaceutical drugs. These results are not surprising given the comparison of synthetic treatments vs natural.

The anti-depressant market reaches annual profits of about $12 billion. This number is expected to increase to $13.5 billion by 2018. These medications do not help cure depressions but instead mask symptoms and create a life long reliance on them. Utilizing natural treatments coupled with a holistic approach of assessing lifestyle, diet and the root cause of depression is an approach that is much more effective both in cost and curing patients. It is important to keep in mind that the pharmaceutical industry is a business before anything else. We are seeing a growing body of evidence to suggest natural treatments are much safer and effective when treating a variety of diseases, disorders and illnesses. It’s time they get more attention.


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  1. This post is incorrectly using turmeric and curcumin interchangeably. Curcumin is the compound used in the study. It is only one of the 100’s of components found in turmeric.

  2. August

    What was the dosage amount of Turmeric? Prozac?

  3. Seth

    While I would agree that Indian food has the ability to elevate mood and may be the better choice in some cases, I think there are some problems with this study:

    (1) It is well known by psychiatrists that many antidepressants begin with a “side effect” period that can last several weeks. The medications are not completely effective until at least 6-8 weeks. The study in this article looked at the first six weeks, so of course the results will not reflect when Prozac is at its full effectiveness.

    (2) Did the study account for working with a therapist to help solve the root problem? This is how medication is supposed to work. Put a bandage (medicine) to stop the bleeding (chemical imbalance) and then work at the root cause. No doctor in their right mind believes that medication is the SOLUTION, just sometimes they believe it is a helpful step toward a solution. So simply studying how this or that medication or food acts to elevate mood does not necessarily reflect the efficacy of treatment as a whole.

    • In the real world, lots of patients can get meds. but get minimal talk therapy due to insurance constraints.

    • ……That is why an MD put me on klonopin, never referred me to a therapist, and upped my dose 300% in a year. Clearly, NO doctor EVER just prescribes a medication.

      • Joseph

        Ashley thank you, the doctors could be the solution but often are the root of the problem, they need to focus on curing diseases instead of prescribing pharmaceuticals recommendations.

  4. Valerie

    GOOD Question

  5. Dion

    What is the recommended daily intake of tumeric?

    • Ashford

      I was wondering the same thing.

  6. Without a placebo arm, this study showed exactly squat.

    • Sue

      And the article does not tell us how many people were in the study. Also, fluoxetine is dirt cheap so it’s probably not a huge percentage of the cost of antidepressants.

  7. ma

    As an indian, a baby with cold that westernmed does not ease is given turmeric pwd in milk. An everyday some turmeric like a tsp is added to our cooking. Not curcumin but turmeric as nature created (did not hve need to separate the electron from the proton n serve the nucleus – sorry no sarcasm intended ) . Hve tendency to rush to store to try idea to heal naturally. But born a indian reading n learning n realising life is a gift n how my feelings help if i do things with a touch of respect n thnx for all that is natural. Not easy but practise as other kind of thoughts r of no help. Tired of medications. Threw most away. Life has given many a wringers but hope is one i refuse to let those i do not know – creators of pill take it away. Choice n moderate. Going thru some sad time but people simple n real down to earth helps. Sad is the feeling after reading all the post n argument – turmeric is revered by us indians. After baby is born olden times new mothers wld rub turmeric paste over whole body n hve bath. It is to keep them warm n not go thru post natal depression. No clinical trials recorded. Just a practise grandma, ma, relatives etc. So called modernisation shamed us to think walking out covered in yellow pigment is tribal practise. But it was a simple practise for women to not fall into depression. As asian who used turmeric – it can b drying on skin.

    • Davide Dondi

      Very interesting, I can’t even imagine the connection with life most Indians (and other people around the world) must have! Especially I do agree with your statement “No clinical trials recorded”. If experience shows you that a certain practice helps, why do you need a scientific study to prove it? Not to mention all the studies paid by drug manufacturers… or all the studies that are proven wrong by future studies… Science is modern man’s new dogmatic religion, we feel the need for everything to be proved by science, and don’t trust our deep inner wisdom to choose the better for ourselves. If a depressed man feels Prozac is better for him, well… good luck and I hope he’ll feel better (not momentarily).

  8. research isn’t always what it seems, Some limitations of the study I can see are 1/ a relatively small study in India (n=60) AND the results were “may be as effective as prozac” 2/ the study excluded suicidal patients or these with psychotic features 3/ so that excludes many of the depressed mental health patients I have seen in the last few years

  9. I’ve just started pinch of turmeric with warm milk twice a day! Hope it can cure my mild depression!

    • I hope thats not store bought cow milk?

    • Dion

      Would like to hear if it has worked for you . . .

  10. Thomas

    After it was suggested by a friend who praised it’s positive benefits, I have recently been taking small pieces (3g) of raw organic tumeric root, peeled, and have found it yields a very noticeable shift in my clarity and seems to uplift my mood. A few other people have experienced similar things. This is definitely worth a try.

    • do you have the exactly name of it? tnx

  11. Karen

    I have been using turmeric made in to a tea concoction along with green tea, honey, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne and coconut oil for chronic, severe pain and inflammation for the past 3+ years. It does wonders for pain and inflammation as well as energy and clarity of mind. While I don’t generally suffer from depression, other than occasional bouts of fleeting blues, I definitely feel a mental boost or sense of well being after drinking the tea.

  12. Full Fat Veggie

    The thing you didn’t seem to notice is that NEITHER medication was effective. Neither prozac nor turmeric. Which is not surprising. Subjects were suffering from major depression. Turmeric was as effective as prozac…er yes, in that neither worked at all. Fluoxetine and its derivatives are pretty effective at treating mild to moderate depression. Astonished that this paper ever made peer-review never mind publication.

    • Hmm, fluoxetine and its derivatives were also demonstrated to be as effective as placebo in randomized controlled clinical trials, yet the drug companies chose not to make the public aware of this information. The takeaway from this trial is that while neither fluoxetine nor curcumin demonstrated superior efficacy in alleviating symptoms of MDD, curcumin can’t hurt and may help.


      Your reply has no references attached ‘Full Fat Veggie”, so why should believe you?

      • Dion

        *thumbs up*, jimnasium!

  13. CateL

    I’ve been taking turmeric for years, as it has an effect on melanoma cell death. Fish oil, in fairly large quantities, is reported to be helpful in depression, as is exercise. I started that years ago, and went from frequent and prolonged depressive episodes to occasional situation related sadness, until I started taking an estrogen inhibitor, Letrazole. That got me into inertia and fatigue. They gave me Effexor to help that, which it did, but now I have a big blood cot in the greater saphenous vein. Can’t win for losing!
    . If you are depressed, try the fish oil and high intensity interval training for a few weeks. Meditation is also helpful. YouTube has a wonderful selection of binaural beat meditations. Don’t stop the antidepressant cold turkey! One technique that’s really fun is imagining/visualizing a time when you were really happy. Remember everything, esp. how you felt. Really get into how it felt. Do it several times a day. Your body doesn’t know the diff between imagination and reality, and will start producing happy biochemicals!

    • JenniferB

      This is great advice, Cate! Visualization is such a powerful tool toward creating positive real-life scenarios…and even if it “doesn’t work,”at least it’s not allowing bad thoughts to run rampant. Best of luck in your journey, andbe well!

    • Lilly

      I like your comment very much. Since I believe in Energy healing, I totally believe that if you tell your body positive phrases it believes you and will start producing happy biochemicals, as you said. Thanks

  14. Candy

    P-values of less than 0.05 are used to determine a study’s statistical significance. The study notes in its abstract that curcumin was comparable to fluoxetine with P=0.77. This indicates the results of the study are statistically insignificant — that there is a 77% chance the results observed were due to chance rather than an actual effect of curcumin on depression.

    I’d be very happy to hear of a more natural depression treatment void of the side effects of the SSRIs, DNRIs, etc. Unfortunately, this study falls short.

    • CateL

      Unhappily, I have to agree with you. I’ve seen a number of sites lately posting bad science. The owners of the sites really need to run studies by someone qualified to understand statistics and methodology. Otherwise it is misleading and may cause harm.

      • I would have to say I don’t feel that based on what the study shares that curcumin would be ineffective. I know someone using it as of now and they are having results with it so that is a good sign so far. In India, this type of thing is used all the time. I feel western culture doesn’t realize it is one of the few places in the world that is very indoctrinated into the idea of synthetic medicine.

        • Kathy K

          Hi Joe,

          I am passionate about alternative and natural medicine. I feel, however, that writing misleading and patently false statements about research into natural methods of treating disease only hurts our cause. The study does not prove anything about the efficacy of curcumin as a treatment for major depression! Please remove this article or re-write with accurate statements. A P= 0.77 indicates that the differences are purely random. A “P” value of .05 or less is required to make a statement that something is significant.

          I am glad your friend is getting some good results from curcumin but I would hate for someone with major depression to try and self medicate with curcumin as the result of reading this article!

        • Jonathan E. Fisher

          Please make sure you understand what the paper is saying before you write wild claims of significance. If you had any science background you would understand how completely inaccurate your headline is. I do applaud you for including a link to the article so it may be vetted by intelligent readers.

          • Hey,

            The study clearly outlines the efficacy of Turmeric(Curcumin) in relation to Prozac when treating depression. On another note, why are we unable to discuss topics without becoming arrogant and getting emotionally involved? I am not attacking back here but instead choosing to make a statement, our world is in a time when people need to come together and be nice to one another, not hide behind computer screens and arrogantly make smart-alec comments.

          • Jonathan Fisher

            It clearly states there is no significant statistics linking the two. A P-value of 0.58 means there is a 58% chance of it all being random. In the scientific community, the highest a p-value can be is generally 0.050 or 5% chance. The overall p-value of the study is 0.77 as in 77% probability of it being due to random chance, or some other outlier. I am not trying to call you unintelligent, I am merely saying your intelligence is not in accurately analyzing statistical data. The only reason I know this information is because I have two bachelors of science degrees and took statistics. It does not “clearly outline” the benefits. The study shows benefits over Prozac were hypothesized, but the data was unable to support those claims.

          • Jonathan Fisher

            Also, it’s not arrogance with which we reply. It is frustration over claims made that have no scientific merit based on the evidence provided in the article. If there is emotion involved it is frustration with you misinterpreting facts put right in front of you, because of your lack of education in scientific analysis. I have known numerous people that quote your site as if everything you post is 100% indisputable fact.

            It scares me to think someone with Major Depressive Disorder might decide to discontinue their medication because of this article. How will you feel when someone believes you, stops taking their medication, and commits suicide or harms themselves?
            They are already in a fragile state and you are taking advantage of that with your ignorance. Ignorance that could be fixed if you just did a simple google search.

        • Kelly Lauterbach

          I’m wondering, what’s a good way to get it in your daily routine quickly not thru meals. I haven’t a clue as to what to do easily to try this, I really think it will be great! I’ve been finding better results with other health issues naturally thank you in advance for some tips!

    • Bob

      If the results are comparable, then the results would not be significant and that is exactly what the researchers stated; in other words, the means for the groups were not significantly different (i.e., were comparable). There may be problems with the study but interpreting the p-value is not one of them.

  15. Sarah Henderson

    Turmeric is not side-effect free, so I expect curcurmin is not, either. My spouse gets hot flashes from it, in mere dietary quantities, that is, eating food flavored with turmeric or with curry powder.
    But I have a serious quibble with this “study”. The abstract says it was observer-masked. This implies is was not blinded to the study participants. Why on earth not? A study that isn’t double-blinded, and that measures something hard to objectively measure (such as depression), is asking for an extra-strong placebo effect.
    Curcurmin may indeed help some people with depression – most commercial anti-depressants help some folks with depression, too. Since we don’t yet know the mechanism of its action, it is possible that curcurmin works similarly to SSRIs, or SNRIs, or even TCAs. And that implies side effects could be similar. A study of only 60 people (especially not blinded to their treatment arm of the study) doesn’t tell us much.
    Now we just need someone with motivation and funding to do some serious study of this chemical, so we can add it to the armamentarium if appropriate.

    • A brilliant summation, Sarah. I was just about to try Curcumin in place of my doctor’s RX for Lexapro (which was preceded by Prozac for 10 years). The Lexapro had little or no positive effects after 2 months, so I stopped taking it, and found that I actually felt better overall without it. Instead of trying a new drug, I’m hoping Cucurmin may give me a bit less stress and more calmness. I’ve reviewed all of the ads for Curcumin/Turmeric on line, but none have mentioned the inclusion of Mireva nor BCM 95 in the capsule, which are recommended by M.D.’s on line who recommend trying Curcumin. Any advice you have to offer will be greatly appreciated. Judy Mayer

  16. Nicola

    All incredibly interesting…. I have been depressed for the past 17 months (never before) I can verify it stinks..
    Has anyone here tried turmeric for depression, apart from the lady who said it had done nothing to help hers? I want off these anti depressants they are making me worse

    • Davide Dondi

      I suggest you to try turmeric and other calming/relaxing/grounding spices/herbs, but most of all to change your lifestyle and find your own way to manage stress or other “bad” feelings. What we eat becomes what we think, as mind and thoughts are part of our physical body. The way we eat (for example without TV!!) and the whole lot of other daily habits really influence our health. Maybe the best remedy for every mind problem is meditation, which can be related to buddhism, yoga or other ancient practices, but can also be done simply living the moment. That really seems difficult to me, but, on the other hand, we don’t have to do *anything* to simply live the moment: when we were little kids we were constantly living the moment! Past and future don’t exist: if you feel that (rather than think) just for a moment (and maybe place your attention to the nostrils and the flow of air) you’ll feel better! At least that works for me :) Yoga is great if done with consciousness to the body, cause it can help to silence the mind. But also gardening can be great. And by the way, we should develop an inner silent observer, that sees what happens in our mind but doesn’t judge it (I think judgement is strongly related to depression, or at least my yoga teacher (who also has a degree in psychologies) says so!) One last suggestion: sing a song!!!!!

  17. Shashi

    There is some doubt, mystery auro associated with these alternative things in the West. But, guys long before any of the modern medicine, these spices have been used in Indian diet regularly, on a daily basis, and not for hallucinogenic reasons, but because they really help the health.
    Turmeric can be taken daily with warm milk, just put about 1/2 teaspoon (2 pinches) in a glass of milk, add some natural sugar, stir and drink. It helps bones.
    It is a wonderful antiseptic on open wounds. People in rural India used this very often in lack of western medicines.

    Most Indians who lived traditional ways, and ate home made food, lived healthy. (Don’t compare with photos of malnourished kids you see on charity channels). Now with the new way of fast food restaurants, the new generation is leaving their traditional cooking slowly but surely, and facing lot of health issues as well.

    Don’t take 2 spoons of turmeric, that is not how it is taken. Any spice in that quantity will be bad!

  18. The study tested curcumin, which is a substance found in turmeric, not turmeric itself. 1000mg of curcumin = about 31.847g of dry turmeric powder (according to this That’s quite a lot of turmeric powder to consume.

    • Saddhara

      Curcumin is commonly isolated into supplements. It’s very easy to get 1000mg curcumin in a few capsules.

  19. david kavanagh

    If anyone is interested in this subject , I recommend the book, Cracked-why psychiatry is doing more harm than good-here you will learn the true facts about the machine that is the pharma-medical link-and how we all suffer as a result. David Kavanagh-Therapist

  20. Anonymous

    There is another consideration that is not mentioned. I witnessed a friend going thru this. She hated the way the SSRI she was taking made her feel so much that she went off it, suddenly. Within a couple of days she went crazy.

    I literally watched her chop up the kitchen counter as she chopped it with a butcher knife screaming “I can’t take it anymore, I can’t take it anymore”. This was completely out of character for her. Something she had never done before nor after.

    I remember taking the knife from her gently while speaking as calmly as I could to calm her down. Then I took the knife and hid it. It was quite uncomfortable sleeping with her that night knowing I was in bed with a seemingly raving lunatic.

    This gets me to the real point I want to make here. It is that recently there have been inexplicable “shortages” of drugs. If for some reason the millions of people on these drugs were to be suddenly cut off, this country could be confronted by a significant portion of its population suddenly entering a state where they could do significant harm to themselves as well as those around them. It is something worth thinking about.

    • Chris

      A stunning point you make! Perhaps this was part of the mock “zombie apocalypse” scenarios being played out last year in the US?

    • Wendy

      You never, ever, EVER just stop “cold turkey” medications – unless you’ve just started one and have a reaction to it. Otherwise, should be done slowly under a doctor’s care and it’s still a living nightmare. Been through effexor withdrawal and it was a very rough couple of months. And I STILL get brain “zaps” years later.

      I do take in tumeric as part of my anti-inflammatory diet. Guess I’m not taking enough in because it’s not had any effect on the chronic depression I deal with. Please before taking tumeric, especially in larger doses, check with your doctor. It can wreak havoc with diabetics including diabetic coma, can cause or worsen hypoglycemia, if you are on blood thinners it can increase the inability for blood to clot and if you need to take antacids? Tumeric will make them ineffective and can cause stomach upset, nausea and even ulcers. I love going as natural as possible, but even natural can have side effects.

    • Read deeper into all the mass shootings in the U.S. over the past 20 years. Over 85% involve shooters who recently stopped taking their SSRI’s. Those drugs are VERY dangerous if not used properly. And we all know that physicians don’t all tell their patients the proper way to use drugs. Look at anti-biotic abuse.

  21. Jackie Davidson

    In the studies quoted here how was the turmeric given. How much powdered turmeric is needed to get 1000mg? Daily? Does anyone know? Also does anyone grow turmeric? What climate and soils does it prefer?

    • Rebecca

      1000mg = 1G
      1/4 tsp = 1250mg or 1.25G

      Black pepper increases efficacy

      Not recompense if you have gallstones, bile duct issues, or are being treated for breast cancer. Speak with your care provider for additional information.

  22. waltinseattle

    probably works for similar reason that aspirin works. anti inflamatories both. as is now bring shown…mind is of the body and mind is mostly as hidden to consciousness as are all the cellular comings and goings. new age fluff aside…we are finslly understsnding what shsmans have long suspected…but western rationslism and ego have refused to countenance

  23. Linda

    It’s great for more than that too. Yum with almost anything, even baked beans, sprinkle on organic cob corn, cereal etc.

    • Joe it seems you are getting the word out as witnessed by the pharma trolls and what I refer to as indoctrinated repeaters. We live in an age where science has been replaced with what is akin to science for hire where stats can be made to say anything. Also used as fear tactics which reroute people back into mainstream medicine for maximum health damage. So much written about this one has to be asleep or part of the medical cult not to see it.Beyond the ‘science” and it’s minions we see turmeric getting great results in a variety of ways, depression being just one. It is no accident that many herbal formulas are using turmeric in their mixture.

      Joe keep up the good work. The people that need this will benefit and the pharma gestapo can pound salt. ;-)

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