New study to spice up depression treatment

April 29, 2013

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Murdoch University researchers are investigating whether a popular Indian spice could be used to help treat depression.

Turmeric has long been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties. This new study aims to find out whether reducing inflammation in the body would have any effect on those living with depression.

“Recent international studies have found strong links between inflammation in the body and depression,” said Adrian Lopresti, a PhD student at Murdoch University.

“We want to know whether the inflammation is a cause of depression in some people, or whether it’s just a symptom. If we treat the inflammation, will the depression ease?”

The study will also investigate what role lifestyle factors play in the development and treatment of depression, a condition which affects one in seven Australians.

“Stress, trauma, lack of sleep, unhealthy eating and lack of exercise can all trigger inflammation responses in the body. That inflammation not only makes us physically ill, but it could be contributing to mental illness too,” Mr Lopresti said.

“The findings of this study could change the way we look at depression from a medical point of view, by shifting the focus onto inflammation rather than treating a chemical imbalance in the brain.”

In the double-blind study, some subjects will be given curcumin, the substance which gives turmeric its distinctive yellow colour. Blood, saliva and urine samples will be taken over a period of eight weeks.

Mr Lopresti is hoping to recruit 60 Western Australian participants, aged between 18 and 65, currently living with a depressive or anxiety disorder. Those who take medication are welcome to take part, providing their condition has been stable for at least four weeks.

To register your interest, contact Adrian Lopresti on (08) 9248 6904 or by email at

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