Activation of immune-inflammatory and oxidative-nitrosative (IO&NS) stress pathways plays a role in major depression (MDD). Evidence suggests that curcumin (500-1000 mg/day), a polyphenol with strong anti-IO&NS properties, may have efficacy either as monotherapy or as an adjunctive treatment for depression. Further controlled trials with extended treatment periods (> 8 weeks) and higher curcumin doses are warranted. This 12-week study was carried out to examine the effects of adjunctive curcumin for the treatment of MDD. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 65 participants with MDD were randomized to receive either adjunctive curcumin (increasing dose from 500 to 1500 mg/day) or placebo for 12 weeks. Four weeks after the active treatment phase, a follow-up visit was conducted at week 16. Assessments of the primary, i.e., the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), and secondary, i.e., the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A), outcome measures were rated at baseline and 2, 4, 8, 12, and 16 weeks later. Curcumin was more efficacious than placebo in improving MADRS scores with significant differences between curcumin and placebo emerging at weeks 12 and 16. The effects of curcumin were more pronounced in males compared to females. There were no statistically significant treatment-emerging adverse effects and no significant effects of curcumin on blood chemistry and ECG measurements. Adjunctive curcumin has significant antidepressant effects in participants with MDD as evidenced by significant benefits occurring 12 and 16 weeks after treatment initiation. Curcumin administration was safe and well-tolerated even when combined with antidepressants. Future trials should include treatment-by-sex interactions to examine putative antidepressant effects of immune-modifying compounds.
Keywords: Depression; Immune; Inflammation; Oxidative and nitrosative stress.