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Herbs or Drugs for Depression - What Works Best?

Antidepressants are some of the most prescribed pharmaceuticals out there. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) represented the most common medication my new patients were already taking. But most of them still had symptoms of mixed anxiety and/or depression. So why wasn't the drug fixing the problem? Probably because it wasn't treating the cause - or at least, the entire cause. 

Medicine is tricky like that. So here's how I would explain it to my patients:

Every one of you is like a custom puzzle. Some puzzles are 5 pieces, while others are 5,000. What's more, some puzzle pieces are bigger than others, making them more crucial to your case. My job is to find all the pieces and make sure they fit.

So what makes up your puzzle pieces? Your symptoms for sure, and all your biochemistry, too. Once there's a complete picture of who you are then we can assess why the drug(s) did or did not work for you. Were they a good match? Did you get better?

So that brings us back to SSRIs and Major Depression. How well do they work?

The study we'll be focusing on today is an excellent one: a six-week randomized controlled trial with three treatment groups in a patient population suffering from Major Depression. While suffering from Major Depression is bad, and my heart goes out to each of those patients, it's good for this study because it's so hard to treat.

Of the three treatment groups, one took 20mg daily of fluoxetine (one of the SSRIs), a different group took 1000mg daily of curcumin (one of the active ingredients in turmeric), and another group took BOTH the 20mg of fluoxetine AND the 1000mg curcumin. 

And guess who got the best results?

Those receiving combination therapy.

BUT - here are 3 really important takeaways worth pointing out:

  • Millions of people are already on SSRIs and many of them are not getting great results. The easiest and safest way to boost those results is to add in turmeric.
  • Curcumin alone basically performed just as well as fluoxetine alone, but without the horribly long list of possible side-effects, which can include suicidal ideation.
  • While this study was conducted in patients with diagnosed Major Depression, curcumin's mood enhancing qualities should still work for those with Mild to Moderate or Seasonal Depression.

Take a look at this infographic I put together and be sure to share it! You never know who it might help.

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