While love is one obvious theme of February, it’s not everybody’s favourite month.  Even though the days are getting a little longer and we’re seeing more sunshine, it can seem as if winter will never end, making this month the most difficult for some of us.  If this applies to you, I have some information that I’m sure you’ll find helpful.  Please read on.

   If You’re Feeling Blue....

If you’re feeling blue, then I’ve got some useful information for you.  If, on the other hand, you’re feeling really down, truly depressed, then you would need to take steps to see a health professional as soon as possible.  I can help you, using one or more of several different strategies, depending on your situation (see contact information below).  However, if you think you need prescription antidepressants, then you need to see a psychiatrist or family doctor.

   Best Natural Antidepressants

There are two natural antidepressants that I recommend highly for cases of mild to moderate depression, and in the case of curcumin, even severe depression as long as there is no suicide ideation or other psychotic disorder. 

You may remember that I recently discussed curcumin as a natural analgesic (see the November 2013 newsletter).  Curcumin has many beneficial effects, and a very important one is as an antidepressant.

Earlier studies have demonstrated the benefits of curcumin in treating mood in animals.  For example, as a follow-up to earlier successful studies of mice, curcumin was examined in rats, and has been shown to reverse the effects of chronic stress on their behaviour.  This led to speculation that curcumin could be effective in treating depression in humans.

Last year, results of a randomized controlled trial (of humans) were published showing that curcumin was as effective as Prozac (fluoxetine) in treating major depression. While this study was not large (60 patients participated) it is nevertheless very encouraging.  This is the first study involving humans but the similarly encouraging results that have been obtained in animal experiments (including a biological mechanism by which curcumin is believed to work) give this study increased credibility.

One third of the patients took 20 mg of fluoxetine per day, one third took 1,000 mg of curcumin/day and one third took both fluoxetine and curcumin for 6 weeks.  The observers were blinded as to which treatment each patient was receiving.  The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, 17 item version was used to measure the patients’ level of depression at the beginning and end of the treatment.  The mean change in the Hamilton Depression Scale over the 6 week period was measured.

While a slightly higher percentage of people receiving both treatments (77.8%) responded to the treatment (improved over the 6 week period) than those receiving just fluoxetine (64.7%) or curcumin (62.5%), these differences were not statistically significantly different.  In other words, all three groups did equally well.  This means that curcumin alone is just as effective for treating major depressive disorder (without suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders) as Prozac or Prozac combined with curcumin.

Of course, the adverse side effects of Prozac are well-known and serious, whereas there were no adverse side effects to taking curcumin.

One caveat to taking curcumin is that there can be difficulty with its absorption.  It is fat-soluble, so taking it with food containing some fat should help with its absorption.

Other beneficial effects of curcumin

  • Curcumin has demonstrated that it can prevent type 2 diabetes in a prediabetic population, and preserve pancreatic functioning. 
  • Nitric oxide:  80mg of a bioavailability enhanced curcumin supplement has been reported to increase nitric oxide in serum by 40%, which is significantly larger than many other dietary supplements.
  • Pain:  There appear to be decreases in pain associated with curcumin at higher doses (400-500mg) which extend to post-operative, arthritic, and general pain symptoms. This seems comparable to 2g acetominophen in potency.
  • Symptoms of osteoarthritis:  There have been significant reductions in symptoms of osteoarthritis, with the largest decrease noted occurring after eight months of supplementation and reaching 41% of baseline (more than a halving of symptoms).

While several other beneficial effects of curcumin have been reported, many have only been based on animal studies so far, and research is needed involving humans.

Nature’s Sunshine’s Cure-Q-Min contains a standardized extract of turmeric rhizome (root) that provides 400 mg of curcuminoids per capsule. /store/#!/~/product/id=21211310

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
Some small studies indicate that 5-HTP may work as well as certain antidepressant drugs to treat people with mild to moderate depression.  Like the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which includes Prozac (fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline), 5-HTP increases levels of serotonin in the brain.  One study compared the effects of 5-HTP to fluvoxamine (Luvox) in 63 people and found that those who were given 5-HTP did just as well as those who received Luvox.  They also had fewer side effects than the Luvox group.  However, more research, including larger studies, is needed.5

Ray Sahelian, MD, published a book on 5-HTP6 in 1998 which has stood the test of time very well.  He explains a number of interesting points, and documents taking 5-HTP himself.  For example, he notes that he has been asked why people don’t take serotonin instead of 5-HTP.  The answer is that serotonin cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, whereas 5-HTP can.

Tryptophan is a precursor of 5-HTP, and some people may prefer to take it; however, a higher dose of tryptophan is needed to produce the same effect.  Also, tryptophan has not been readily available since the unfortunate distribution of contaminated tryptophan that caused a number of cases of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome.  It was believed for some time that it had been the tryptophan that had caused the disease, but investigations proved this was not the case.

When Dr. Sahelian took 5-HTP, he noticed a positive effect on his mood, i.e. it worked for him as an antidepressant.  He also noticed that he felt drowsy, although it depended on the dose, was not entirely consistent, and didn’t make him feel nearly as drowsy after he had developed tolerance for 5-HTP.   He also noticed that his appetite was suppressed.  All of these reactions have been borne out in studies.  One drawback of 5-HTP is nausea at higher doses.

It seems that 5-HTP influences more than just serotonin.  It can apparently enter certain brain cells and influence the release of dopamine and norepinephrine.  Dr. Sahelian noted that he had noticed a slight increase in visual and auditory clarity when he took 5-HTP, which would be consistent with this theory.

5-HTP is also helpful in the treatment of anxiety, a close cousin of depression.  While anxiety is complicated, and should be evaluated by a health professional, this is something you can keep in mind should you (ever) have a problem with anxiety.

Another condition that has responded well to 5-HTP is pain due to fibromyalgia.  While fibromyalgia is difficult to treat, and generally multiple treatments are more effective, 5-HTP has shown promise in double blind clinical trials.

You can purchase Nature’s Sunshine 5-HTP directly from our office.

In summary, both curcumin and 5-HTP have been shown to be effective in alleviating the symptoms of depression, and both are also very useful in treating other problems.  Please contact me if you would like any additional information about these supplements or other strategies to treat depression or just feeling blue.

For additional information, please email; or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment.  Please continue letting friends and family know about this newsletter.  Also on our website, please see back issues of this newsletter, additional information about products, order products, and see information about our Clinic.

  1. Xu Y, Ku B, Tie, L et al. Curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the HPA axis, BDNF expression and phosphorylation of CREB. Brain Res 2006;1122:56-64.
  2. Sanmukhani J, Satodia V, Trivedi J, et al. Efficacy and safety of curcumin in major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Phytother Res 2013 July 6. Doi: 10. 1002/ptr.5025. (Epub ahead of print).
  3. Curcumin similar efficacy to Prozac in depression.  Accessed February 4, 2014.
  4. Curcumin.  Accessed February 11, 2014.
The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.

These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.


Ramila Padiachy
Ramila's Healing Arts Clinic