We can find online several websites promoting phytotherapy, which claim that Turmeric (Curcuma) is as effective as Prozac for treating depression, and without its side effects, for example this one,

Study: Turmeric more Effective than Prozac at Treating Depression

Researchers with the Department of Pharmacology of Government Medical College in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India compared the effects of turmeric and Prozac (fluoxetine), both used together and individually, in 60 patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD).

While reading the researchers conclusions indicates one treatment (turmeric) is equally effective as Prozac, it doesn’t account for the negative effects of Prozac, which boost turmeric’s value considerably.

The above article quotes this study, published in Phytotherapy Research revue.

Regardless of whether this particular study is reliable (unless this is the only study that's ever been conducted on this subject), is the claim true, that "Turmeric more Effective than Prozac at Treating Depression"?

  • Actually I just learnt that the effect of Fluoxetine (also known as Prozac) in the treatment of depression is controversial ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoxetine ). If Prozac has no positive effect in this study, it’s not really relevant that Turmeric has similar effects (maybe sugar, water, or black pepper would be equivalent). It seems there was no control group in this study. That’s a major problem if Prozac’s effect is controversial… don’t you think?
    – Einenlum
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


I don't have access to the full article, but the most interesting part of the abstract (to me) is the scale used to measure depression.

The Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression used to be the standard test, and was created in 1960. This original test had 17 questions (aka HRSD-17 or HAM-D17), and is the version used by the study mentioned. Since then, there have been several revisions to the test, with lengths varying from 6 to 29 items (none of these later revisions were used).

It's important to note that while the test is supposed to rate how depressed you are (rather than if you're depressed), Hamilton omitted certain symptoms from the test. As a result, he was skeptical that the test could be used for clinical studies:

enter image description here The Hamilton Depression Scale and the Numerical Description of the Symptoms of Depression

In recent years it has been criticized in several published papers, notably The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale: Has the Gold Standard Become a Lead Weight? A particularly pointed passage:

Evaluation of item response shows that many of the individual items are poorly designed and sum to generate a total score whose meaning is multidimensional and unclear.

So while I do believe that the results published in the study are accurate, it's hard to tell if they're meaningful.

  • 3
    Personally, I believe that if turmeric had the same level of effect as Prozac, countries who use it as a staple spice would have much lower rates of depression than they do.
    – Is Begot
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 20:21
  • 1
    While a discussion of the Hamilton Depression Scale might be interesting I think this is the wrong place to have it. For better or worse it happens to be a frequently used scale. I think it's better if this question focuses on turmeric/curcumin.
    – Christian
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 20:46
  • @Christian I believe it speaks to the reliability of the study, as asked by the OP. They used a single, widely criticized metric. Compare to the clinical trials for Prozac, where HAMD-17 was one of several measures. Incidentally, a placebo gave a similar mean change in HAM-D17 scores as actual Prozac.
    – Is Begot
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 21:19
  • 1
    Note to future: This question just changed from "Is this study/article reliable?" to "Regardless of whether it's reliable..."? Go figure.
    – Is Begot
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 21:22
  • Thanks @Geobits for your answer. Maybe it’s the case for these countries, but… Hard to measure it. Moreover this positive effect of turmeric could be balanced by other variables (socio-economic ones for example). So I doubt we could see any clear effect of these countries, even if turmeric was effective to treat depression.
    – Einenlum
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 21:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .