Curcumin and saffron are effective for the treatment of depression and in reducing anxiety

Studies have found  many people with Depression have chronic inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medicine could be an effective treatment alternative to generally ineffective anti-depressant medications.

A recent study reported that Curcumin (from Tumeric) and/or saffron relieves the symptoms of depression including anxiety , now often experience by people suffering from depression.

Curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory properties and increase levels of BDNF  – an important  protein found in neuron cells that protects the cells from premature death and also improves their function.

But before you rush to the pharmacy or health food store to buy some Curcumin supplements consult an expert who knows about bioavailability of the supplement or see your local herbalist or Integrative heath practitioner.


Efficacy of curcumin, and a saffron/curcumin combination for the treatment of major depression: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study


Several studies have supported the antidepressant effects of curcumin (from the spice turmeric) and saffron for people with major depressive disorder. However, these studies have been hampered by poor designs, small sample sizes, short treatment duration, and similar intervention dosages. Furthermore, the antidepressant effects of combined curcumin and saffron administration are unknown.


In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 123 individuals with major depressive disorder were allocated to one of four treatment conditions, comprising placebo, low-dose curcumin extract (250 mg b.i.d.), high-dose curcumin extract (500 mg b.i.d.), or combined low-dose curcumin extract plus saffron (15 mg b.i.d.) for 12 weeks. The outcome measures were the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology self-rated version (IDS-SR30) and Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).


The active drug treatments (combined) were associated with significantly greater improvements in depressive symptoms compared to placebo (p=.031), and superior improvements in STAI-state (p<.001) and STAI-trait scores (p=.001). Active drug treatments also had greater efficacy in people with atypical depression compared to the remainder of patients (response rates of 65% versus 35% respectively, p=.012). No differences were found between the differing doses of curcumin or the curcumin/saffron combination.


Investigations with larger sample sizes are required to examine the efficacy of differing doses of curcumin and saffron/curcumin combination. Its effects in people with atypical depression also require examination in larger scale studies.


Active drug treatments comprising differing doses of curcumin and combined curcumin/saffron were effective in reducing depressive and anxiolytic symptoms in people with major depressive disorder.

New review shows a strong association between anxiety and metabolic syndrome (MetS)

A recent meta-analysis of previous studies on MetS and anxiety concluded that there is a strong association between MetS and anxiety. This is more evidence that chronic diseases often involve mood / psycho-emotional problems (

Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) is a major risk for heart disease and diabetes mellitus. MetS is also associated with systemic inflammation, which a risk factor for other chronic diseases like cancer. MetS refers to a cluster of abnormal changes in the body. MetS is diagnosed using a set of pathology tests and also clinical assessments. Lab tests include inflammatory markers (CRP), blood glucose levels, cholesterol, blood levels of triglycerides  and insulin levels. Clinical assessments of blood pressure, BMI and sometimes waist-to-hip ratio, are important indicators of those who are at risk for MetS and DBII.

It has been known for sometime depression is strongly associated with obesity and inflammation however MetS does not consider mood or psychological state as important indicators of those who are at risk of MetS or who have been diagnosed with it.  Depression is not a single disease but is a spectrum of mood / emotional and phycological symptoms that overlaps with anxiety disorders. It is common for people with depression to also feel anxious to the point it interferes with their lives. Many patients may suffer frequently from anxiety and depression and are treated for both.

Perhaps part of the reason for the lack of integration of psycho-emotional and psychical problems is that we live in a culture of specialization and reductionism. We typically  seek a psychologist for help with our mood , self-confidence or to change behaviour. We see a GP for physical problems.  In reality these compartmentalized  aspects of ourselves are not separate but one and science is beginning to reveal this with ample evidence that mind and body are an integrated system.

It is understandable people with MetS  suffer from anxiety . Anxiety is a prevalent in modern society and it can affect anyone. Being in an anxious state can drive behavior that leads to ill health. Self-medicating, excessive alcohol , lack of exercise, comfort eating , lack of sleep,  isolation are all associated with leading to one or more of the  abnormal changes that are measured for MetS.


Stress alters our gut microbiome leading to increased colonic inflammation during infections.

The mutualistic (friendly) bacteria in our gut is vital for defences against infections because it works in concert our immune system to kill and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.

For sometime it has been proposed stress can alter the populations of friendly bacteria leading to vulnerability to acute or chronic infections and inflammation. People with  Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis have significantly different bacteria populations to healthy people , but scientists are still not sure how much the alterations of gut bacteria has to do with the progression of these diseases. This study below might help find the answer.

The commensal microbiota exacerbate infectious colitis in stressor-exposed mice

• Germfree mice were colonized with microbiota from stressor-exposed or control mice.
• Newly colonized mice were infected with the colonic pathogen Citrobacter rodentium.
• Colonization with microbiota from stressed donors increased colonic inflammation.
• Stressor-induced effects on the microbiota directly affect mucosal immunity.


Study conclusion: This study demonstrates that the commensal microbiota directly contribute to excessive inflammatory responses to C. rodentium during stressor exposure, and may help to explain why gastrointestinal disorders are worsened during stressful experiences.


This study revealed the stressed mice guts did not have an important species of friendly bacteria called Bifidobacterium,  but in mice not exposed to stress there was bifidobacterium present. It is is suggest that the absence of  bifidobacterium caused a more severe inflammatory response.

Bifidobacterium coevolved with us. It is important for immunity, energy, metabolic process and mood. Studies like this help us understand the benefits of maintaining a healthy gut microbiome and perhaps they will help us develop more effective treatments for gastrointestinal complaints.

Do you think holistically about your health?

Looking at your health holistically emphasises the important of the whole body and the interdependence of its parts. This perspective changes our how we talk about ourselves. Instead of saying body and mind, we can say mind-body accepting there is no separation of these two concepts. Some might say they think holistically about their health when in fact they  still  see their  body and mind as separate. Most of us accept distress and mood affect our health, but we might overlook that the internal state of our body can affect our mind,  our feelings and behaviour. The Gut-brain-axis  is an example of the interdependency of many life-sustaining systems that are influenced  by the  constant bi-directional communication between our gut and our brain. It is a reminder we are not in control of our bodies , our bodies are often in control of our minds.

Here’s a some examples of how our body affects our mind/brain.

When you get a cold or flu , the immune system sends messages (cytokines) to the brain to tell you are sick .The brain then does numerous things to protect the body from infection including turning up  the body temperature to create a fever to kill the virus. The brain activates many immune functions  and research has shown these cause behaviours that are characteristic with feeling depressed, for example: – withdrawing from people, fatigue, irritability, and feeling flat.

There are thousands of species of bacteria in your body and some thrive on certain types of food and will perish when deprived of its favourite diet. Bacteria cause cravings for certain foods that it needs. So is it you who craves sugary drinks or your tiny friends/foes? When you change your diet your bacteria population changes and the craving for food will change. When I find some good studies on this I will share them with you.

Food and drink can make you feel anxious, restless, irritable and even depressed. Your gut is constantly communicating to your brain about how it is.  When your gut is under attack from toxic substances from processed foods or drinks it informs the brain so you are aware you have  something inside that probably shouldn’t have. This process activates the immune system and stress system to protect you from the toxic chemicals. These changes affect your mood. There is  research that up to 60% of people who are diagnosed with a gut complaint (e.g. IBS, IBD, SIBO, Gastritis) also suffer from mood disorders (anxiety, depression, OCD). This is more than coincidence. Our guts produce many hormones that influence our mood. One prime example if serotonin . An hormone associated with the brain, which is true to some extend , but serotonin is key to gut motility and most of it is produced in our gastrointestinal tract. When our gut doesn’t work well it can have a profound affect on production of serotonin and this affects our mood.

Don’t underestimate the profound influence your gastrointestinal tract has on how you feel. The reward for giving up junk food is that you are going to feel happier and have more energy.








Anxiety more common in people with diabetes

A recent study found that the incidence of anxiety disorders is almost double in people with diabetes than the general population. Diabetes, and diabetes Type II (DB II) in particular is a chronic preventable disease that has been associated with depression and obesity , but no studies have looked at associated of anxiety disorders and DBII.

What is anxiety? We feel anxious is because we anticipate a perceived threat. It is common to feel anxious about a job interview or an exam.  However feeling anxious and worrying habitually over ordinary things : – like getting to work on time, meeting people, going outside your neighbourhood , worrying about things you should have done or said. This kind of anxiety begins to interfere with our health and well-being and so our life.  In an anxious state people’s fight-flight body response is activated. This causes you heart rate to increase, your breathing may become shallow and more rapid, you become restless and hyper-vigilant. Your blood pressure increases and your liver releases glucose into you bloodstream to supply energy to your muscles in anticipation of moving away from danger. Your gut may decide to jettison its contents and this is why it is common to have diarrhea when we feel anxious.

Why is it  more common in people who also have diabetes?

When we are anxious and the flight-flight response is activated , our bodies use more stored energy. The loss of stored energy increasing craving for sugar and fats , otherwise known as comfort eating.  Anxiety may cause us to eat more processed high sugary foods, which we know if regularly eaten in excess can contribute to insulin resistance  and elevated glucose. These are both key markers of DBII. Secondly fat deposits can build up around the waist and this fat is bad for your health. It causes inflammation, insulin resistance and interferes with your metabolism. Obesity is strongly associated with DB II.

Another physiological change from chronically feeling anxious is the release of more cortisol into our bloodstream. Cortisol is hormone that activates the release of more glucose into the body for energy we need to flee. Unfortunately if cortisol is released for  repeatedly everyday for a long period this demands more and more insulin. Insulin is required everyday to get glucose into our cells, but  if our bodies are on  “full throttle” all day then eventually the functions that regulate healthy levels of insulin and glucose begin to weaken and we are at risk of developing DB II. These are two ways that chronic unresolved anxiety could be more common in people with DB II.


Results from Study

The prevalence of diabetes in patients with anxiety disorders was higher than that in the general population (11.89% vs. 5.92%, odds ratio, 1.23; 95% confidence interval, 1.17–1.28) in 2005. The average annual incidence of diabetes in patients with anxiety disorders was also higher than that in the general population (2.25% vs. 1.11%, risk ratio 1.34; 95% confidence interval, 1.28–1.41) from 2006 to 2010. Compared with the general population, patients with anxiety disorders revealed a higher incidence of diabetes in all age groups among both females and males.


The National Health Research Institute provided a database of 1,000,000 random subjects for study. We obtained a random sample aged 18 years and over 766,427 subjects in 2005. Those study subjects who had at least two primary or secondary diagnoses of anxiety disorders were identified. We compared the prevalence of diabetes in anxiety patients with the general population in 2005. Furthermore, we investigated this cohort from 2006 to 2010 to detect the incident cases of diabetes in anxiety patients compared with the general population.