Rationale: Curcumin is a major active principle of Curcuma longa, one of the widely used preparations in the Indian system of medicine. It is known for its diverse biological actions.
Objective: The present study was designed to investigate the involvement of monoaminergic system(s) in the antidepressant activity of curcumin and the effect of piperine, a bioavailability enhancer, on the bioavailability and biological effects of curcumin.
Methods and observations: Behavioral (forced swim test), biochemical (monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzyme inhibitory activity), and neurochemical (neurotransmitter levels estimation) tests were carried out. Curcumin (10-80 mg/kg, i.p.) dose dependently inhibited the immobility period, increased serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) as well as dopamine levels (at higher doses), and inhibited the monoamine oxidase enzymes (both MAO-A and MAO-B, higher doses) in mice. Curcumin (20 mg/kg, i.p.) enhanced the anti-immobility effect of subthreshold doses of various antidepressant drugs like fluoxetine, venlafaxine, or bupropion. However, no significant change in the anti-immobility effect of imipramine and desipramine was observed. Furthermore, combination of subthreshold dose of curcumin and various antidepressant drugs resulted in synergistic increase in serotonin (5-HT) levels as compared to their effect per se. There was no change in the norepinephrine levels. The coadministration of piperine (2.5 mg/kg, i.p.), a bioavailability enhancing agent, with curcumin (20 and 40 mg/kg, i.p.) resulted in potentiation of pharmacological, biochemical, and neurochemical activities.
Conclusion: The study provides evidences for mechanism-based antidepressant actions of curcumin. The coadministration of curcumin along with piperine may prove to be a useful and potent natural antidepressant approach in the management of depression.