By Sheridan Genrich, ND, CGP
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide according to mental health organisation, Beyond Blue. In Australia, it’s estimated that nearly half of the population will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression, and over 2 million have anxiety. In 2014, Australia’s suicide rate rose to 12 per 100,000 people, according to the Bureau of Statistics. With the drastic increase in the prevalence of such conditions, research is finally advancing in natural treatments using interventions like probiotics, nutritional supplements and the thousand year old remedies of herbal medicine.
Turmeric is one such herb that has so many healing properties that there are well over 9000 peer-reviewed articles referencing the benefit of this spice’s most active compound - curcumin.
While its benefits for controlling inflammation and manage pain throughout the entire body are well-known, the effectiveness of curcumin in managing depression without the side-affects of medication.
This makes sense when numerous studies, included one published in 2015 in the journal, Psychiatry link increased inflammation to depression and oxidative stress.
Curcumin raises the expression of antioxidants in the genome by targeting the core energy of a cell (very useful for those with genetic variations seen in their DNA tests), which reduces free radical damage but the benefits don’t stop there. Turmeric also increases growth of brain cells in the hippocampus and fights various degenerative processes in the brain. The hippocampus is the decision-making, memory and mood-regulation zone of the brain. So it’s very important enhance as this area, as it shrinks in states of severe stress and imbalance.
One of the main drivers of the process of mental resilience is a type of growth hormone in the brain called the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
Many common brain disorders have been linked to decreased levels of this hormone. This includes depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
Interestingly, curcumin can increase brain levels of BDNF.
By doing this, there is the possibility it could help improve memory and make you smarter.
Turmeric may also be effective at delaying or even reversing many brain diseases and age-related decreases in brain function.
While adding turmeric to your diet is a sure way to boost your mood and overall health, there are a few things you need to know as well.
Most of the curcumin that is ingested gets metabolized before it can get absorbed.
Also, according to a study, published in Planta Medica, taking turmeric in combination with black pepper improves turmeric absorbability throughout the entire body. Piperine is the key active chemical in black pepper and is similar to capsaicin a chemical in chili with many health benefits. They added 20mg of piperine to 2 grams Turmeric, and it increased the bioavailability of Turmeric 154 percent!
Turmeric is also fat-soluble and you want to be able to absorb as much of it as possible to experience all of the health benefits it has to offer.
When something is fat-soluble, that means it dissolves in fat. Without fat, the active component in turmeric, curcumin, has a difficult time making it past the stomach, into the small intestine, and into the blood where it can offer the greatest benefits.
Turmeric, black pepper and coconut are a wonderful combination to fight high cholesterol levels, obesity and diabetes.
But if you’re not into eating curries a lot, how do you take this often enough to have any therapeutic affect?
Well, thankfully some passionate foodies have produced a surprisingly delicious drink to have as a hot drink or smoothie!
It’s called “Golden Turmeric Blend” and has added cinnamon & ginger which makes it even more tasty and health-enhancing by supporting digestion and balancing blood sugar.
When I first tried the powdered blend - of nearly 50% high grade turmeric, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne and coconut - I was amazed at how hot water and a little coconut milk made it so easy to drink. Since then I’ve had it mixed into cold smoothies and hot chocolate drinks.
Normally, I would never consume this much turmeric in a day. But this ingenious little blend is neatly packaged and can be carried around in my handbag, making it very easy to consume at least 6 grams (2 serves a day), getting at least 3 grams of pure absorbable turmeric in.
I highly recommend taking this often - very helpful for stabilising mood, balancing blood sugar, lowering inflammation and enjoying a boost in metabolism.