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Volume 9 (2009), Pages 1233-1241
Review Article

Potentials of Curcumin as an Antidepressant

Pharmacology Division, University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India

Received 29 September 2009; Revised 15 October 2009; Accepted 16 October 2009

Academic Editor: Sergi Ferre

Copyright © 2009 Shrinivas Kulkarni et al.


Major depression, a debilitating psychiatric disorder, is predicted to be the second most prevalent human illness by the year 2020. Various antidepressants, ranging from monoamine oxidase inhibitors to recently developed dual reuptake inhibitors, are prescribed for alleviating the symptoms of depression. Despite the availability of these blockbuster molecules, approximately 30% of depressed patients do not respond to the existing drug therapies and the remaining 70% fails to achieve complete remission. Moreover, antidepressants are associated with a plethora of side effects and drug-drug/drug-food interactions. In this context, novel approaches are being tried to find more efficacious and safer drugs for the treatment of major depression. Curcumin is one such molecule that has shown promising efficacy in various animal models of major depression. Although the mechanism of the antidepressant effect of curcumin is not fully understood, it is hypothesized to act through inhibiting the monoamine oxidase enzyme and modulating the release of serotonin and dopamine. Moreover, evidences have shown that curcumin enhances neurogenesis, notably in the frontal cortex and hippocampal regions of the brain. The use of curcumin in clinics for the treatment of major depression is limited due to its poor gastrointestinal absorption. The present review attempts to discuss the pharmacological profile along with molecular mechanisms of the antidepressant effect of curcumin in animal models of depression. A need for clinical trials in order to explore the antidepressant efficacy and safety profile of curcumin is emphasized.