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Depression and the role of curcumin

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A growing body of research has demonstrated the effectiveness of curcumin in the treatment of depression by acting on numerous underlying targets.

Curcumin is a modulator of various neurotransmitters, in part, by inhibiting monoamine oxidase (MAO-A and MAO-B), which is involved in catalysing the oxidation of dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin.[1]

By increasing the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), curcumin has also demonstrated a role in promoting neuronal survival and hippocampal neurogenesis.[2]

Furthermore, it has been proposed that the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin contribute to its antidepressant activity. Inflammation is known to play a major role in the pathophysiology of major depressive syndrome. Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory compound shown to inhibit cytokine-producing helper T cells (Th1 or Th2), cyclooxygenase (COX)-2, nuclear factor kappa B (NFkB) transcription[3] and nitric oxide synthase.[4]

Curcumin exhibits pharmacological safety and efficacy and has shown potential for the treatment of a wide variety of diseases. In spite of this curcumin has been limited as a treatment due to its poor bioavailability. The major reasons for the low bioavailability of curcumin are its poor water solubility and absorption, rapid metabolism, and rapid systemic elimination.


  1. Depression. Beyond Blue 2014. Viewed December 2014, http://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression
  2. Causes of depression. Black Dog Institute 2012. Viewed December 2014, http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/Causesofdepression.pdf
  3. McNally L, Bhagwagar Z, Hannestad J. Inflammation, glutamate, and glia in depression: a literature review. CNS Spectr 2008;13(6):501-510. [PDF]
  4. Lin TY, Lu CW, Wang CC, et al. Curcumin inhibits glutamate release in nerve terminals from rat prefrontal cortex: possible relevance to its antidepressant mechanism. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 2011;35(7):1785-1793. [Abstract]
  5. Raison C, Capuron L, Miller A. Cytokines sing the blues: inflammation and the pathogenesis of depression. TRENDS 2006;27(1):24-31. [Full text]

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Melissa Lee
Melissa is a designer turned nutritionist, who has combined the two modalities to create purposeful designs for various health publications and websites. Having initially studied Multimedia Systems Design, she then went on to complete a BHSc in Nutritional Medicine which led to her involvement in the integrative medicine industry and eventually to FX Medicine.