Super Herb: Ten Reasons to Use Curcumin
While the GreenMedInfo.com database contains evidence for the potential therapeutic use of curcumin in over 700 conditions, these ten are some of the most compelling applications.
People suffering from major depressive disorder were given 1g of curcumin or placebo for 8 weeks in a double-blind study. The curcumin was significantly more effective than placebo. Curcumin was also effective for the serious and difficult to treat atypical depression (J Affect Disord 2014;167:368-75).
A 6 week study gave 1g of curcumin (standardized for 88% curcuminoids), 20mg of Prozac or both to 45 people suffering from major depressive disorder. The difference between the 3 groups was not significant, but the combination worked slightly better than either treatment alone. 62.5% of the curcumin group and 64.7% of the Prozac group responded. 77.8% responded when they were combined. There was no significant difference between the treatments in improvement on the Hamilton Depression Scale (HAMD): the Prozac group improved by 12.6 points, the curcumin group by a slightly better 14 points and the combination group by 14.8 points. Patients’ treatment ratings were not significantly different, but the herb did better than the drug: 70.5% of those on Prozac said their treatment was good or excellent compared to 75% on curcumin and 83.3% on the combination (Phytother Res 2014;28:579-85).
Other recent research shows that curcumin improves the efficacy of antidepressants. When 108 adults added 1g of curcumin or placebo to their meds for 6 weeks, the curcumin significantly improved the antidepressant effect (J Clin Psychopharmacol 2015;35:406-10).
A meta-analysis of curcumin and depression included 6 studies that added curcumin or placebo to therapy. There was a significant reduction in symptoms of depression in the curcumin group compared to the placebo group. Curcumin had to be taken for at least 6 weeks at a dose of 1g. It worked better on middle-aged people than on older people, and it worked better for longer durations (Phytother Res 2016;30:175-183).
Curcumin lowers pain scores significantly better than placebo: 60% of people on placebo still have to take NSAIDs, while only 32% of people on curcumin do (J Orthop Sci 2014;19:933-9). A second study compared 1500mg of curcuminoids to placebo. The curcuminoids significantly reduced osteoarthritis scores, including scores for pain and stiffness. The curcuminoid group reduced the need for painkillers by 84% compared to 19% in the placebo group (Phytother Res 2014;28:1625-31).
Curcumin is also superior to pain killing drugs. When people with osteoarthritis were given turmeric extract or ibuprofen, 91% of those taking curcumin reported moderate to high satisfaction versus 80.4% taking ibuprofen (J Altern Comp Med 2009;15:891-897). And in another ibuprofen comparison, scores improved significantly in both groups, but the curcumin was safer (Clin Intrerv Aging 2014;9:451-8). A third controlled study also found curcumin to be more effective than ibuprofen. Improvements in pain scores were greater on curcumin, and 91% of those on curcumin reported moderate to high satisfaction compared to 80.4% of those on ibuprofen (Arthritis Rheum 2001;44:2531-8).
When researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of all randomized controlled studies of turmeric extracts and curcumin for osteoarthritis, they found that about 1g of turmeric/curcumin a day significantly reduced pain and significantly improved WOMAC osteoarthritis scores. Turmeric/curcumin was as effective as pain meds (J Food Med 2016;19(8):717-29).
A recent review included 15 studies: 13 of the studies were randomized. Among the randomized studies, 5 compared curcumin to placebo, and 4 compared it to NSAIDs. Others compared it to “best treatment,” chondroitin or glucosamine. People using curcumin had improvements in pain, physical function and quality of life. They also were able to take fewer pharmaceutical painkillers and experienced reduced side effects from drug treatment. The curcumin seemed to work in part by preventing the death of chondrocytes, which prevents loss of cartilage, and by reducing inflammation and free radical damage (Drug Des Devel Ther 2016;10:3029–3042).
For rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin is as effective as the powerful NSAID phenylbutazone (Indian J Med Res 1980;71:632-4). When curcumin was compared to the NSAID diclofenac sodium for rheumatoid arthritis, the herb was significantly more effective and safer (Phytother Res 2012;26:1719-25).
In perhaps one of the most amazing diabetes studies, 237 prediabetics were given either curcumin (containing 750mg curcuminoids) or placebo twice a day for 9 months in a double-blind study. 16.4% of prediabetics on placebo went on to develop type 2 diabetes. 0% of those on curcumin did! The curcumin group had significantly better insulin producing beta-cell function and significantly less insulin resistance. So, curcumin may actually stop the development of diabetes (Diabetes Care 2012;35:2121-7). A review of the literature on curcumin and diabetes/prediabetes shows that curcumin lowers glucose and improves beta cell function (Int J Endocrinol Metab 2014; 12: e18081).