A natural alternative to antidepressants?

Around 11 percent of all Americans over the age of 12 are taking antidepressants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While antidepressants can work wonders, they can also cause serious side effects, such as insomnia, nausea, fatigue and memory loss. Due to these complications, researchers at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas are studying a more natural alternative to treat depression: a medicinal powder called curcumin.

The compound curcumin is found in turmeric, a spice commonly used in the Indian curry. It’s packed with antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation and free radicals in the body, and now it may help to ease depression symptoms as well.

To test the effects of curcumin, researchers at Baylor studied 60 people, dividing them into three groups.  One group received only curcumin supplements, another group receive a generic version of Prozac, and the final group received a combination of both curcumin and Prozac.

"People received 500 milligrams twice a day, (of) curcumin for six weeks, and what we saw at the end of six weeks (was) that curcumin was almost as affective as the standard-of-care drug," said Ajay Goel, a researcher at Baylor University Medical Center.

According to Goel, the researchers used a very specific form of curcumin called BCM95, which has been shown to be more absorptive than generic forms of the compound.

People can experience the benefits of curcumin by eating turmeric, but a person would have to eat it several times a day to get the effects.  Goel recommended that patients check with a doctor before taking a curcumin supplement.