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indexSuffer, or know of someone who suffers from mental health problems? Then this article provides a summary of exciting new research on the role of inflammation in the cause of depression, anxiety and other mental disorders and how natural inflammatory’s such as fish oils and Turmeric may work as well as anti-depressant SSRI’s. 

You may be familiar with the concept that “inflammation is the root of all evil,” when it comes to chronic disease. This is as true of mental diseases as it is of any other.

A surprise discovery in the field of psychiatry occurred in 1987 when hepatitis patients were given a chemical called cytokine which causes inflammation, and it was found to induce psychiatric complaints in many patients.Subsequent studies confirmed a link between higher levels of inflammation and mental conditions from depression to obsessive-compulsive disorder.5,6 Conversely, numerous trials show that administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs provide significant relief to depressed patients.7 This strongly suggests that anti-inflammatory support should form part of the treatment of mood disorders.

Getting Sick is Depressing – Literally
When a person has an acute infection they often feel miserable and anti-social. Known as ‘sickness behaviour’, and bearing a striking similarity to clinical depression, these symptoms are not caused directly by the infection, but by the inflammatory response, it induces. This response concentrates the body’s energy on healing, rather than dissipating it through work, social interaction, or reproduction (“not tonight honey…”). Furthermore, it essentially quarantines the infected and potentially infectious individual from the rest of society.8

Immune-induced Inflammation Drives Affective Disorders
Research is identifying mechanisms by which inflammation may drive affective disorders such as depression. It has been found that any inflammation – from the gut or via autoimmunity, as well as infection – can induce this neurodepressive response.

inflammatory5 The Herbal Swiss Army Knife
In order to resolve these disorders we need to address neuroinflammation. Arguably the most effective natural anti-inflammatory is Curcuma longa (turmeric), although labelling it solely as an anti-inflammatory is like considering a Swiss army knife only good for its long blade. While turmeric will reduce the neurotoxic damage caused by inflammation, the benefits don’t stop there. Curcumin, the major active constituent of turmeric, has many other neurotrophic benefits: it has been shown to increase production of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) amongst other brain actions,  BDNF supports the survival of existing neurons, and encourages the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses.15 This is significant as the hippocampus is known to shrink under the effects of stress. Two randomised clinical trials have shown that 25g per day of turmeric extract BCM-95® provides significant benefits to patients with major depressive disorder,16 comparable to fluoxetine (a popular SSRI antidepressant).17

Saffron A lesser known, but equally useful herb for managing depression is Crocus sativus (saffron). Saffron contains crocin, a potent anti-inflammatory phytochemical that is gathering an impressive portfolio of clinical trials for depression. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised study, 40 individuals received 90mg per day of saffron or placebo. A significant change in depressive symptoms was noted from week two, which continued until the end of the trial.18 Another study of 30 individuals over six weeks compared the effect of saffron with fluoxetine; finding that saffron had similar effects to fluoxetine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.19

The formulation of BCM-95® Turmeric & Saffron for Depression (Metagenics Infla-mood) is based on the results of six clinical trials on turmeric and saffron and provides 25g per day of BCM-95® and 90mg per day of saffron for the management of depression and other mood disorders. The great thing is that this phytonutrient can effectively be used alongside antidepressants.

Solutions for mood disordersinfa-mood
Mood disorders such as depression result from an excess of neurotoxic factors such as inflammation, cortisol and glutamate, and a relative deficiency of neurotrophic factors, such as BDNF. Comprehensive treatment for depression would include a Stress Less programme including nutrition and lifestyle changes and incorporating B vitamins and magnesium, together with turmeric and saffron for inflammation and promotion of BDNF, and fish oil for its anti-inflammatory and membrane restorative actions.

Please note: Work with a health professional if you are considering coming off any medication, including anti-depressants,  to ensure the best result and to keep you safe

Contact me for more details and information on trials using this programme of nutrition and lifestyle changes and herb and nutrient supplementation.


1. Olfson M, et al. Re-examining associations between mania, depression, anxiety and substance use disorders: results from a prospective national cohort. Molecular Psychiatry. 2016; DOI: 10.1038/mp.2016.64

2. Mirza SS, et al. 10-year trajectories of depressive symptoms and risk of dementia: a population-based study. The Lancet Psychiatry. 2016; DOI:10.1016/S2215-0366(16)00097-3

3. Kim Y, et al. Whole-brain mapping of neuronal activity in the learned helplessness model of depression. Frontiers in Neural Circuits. 2016; 10 DOI: 10.3389/fncir.2016.00003

4. Renault PF, et al. Psychiatric complications of long-term interferon-alpha therapy. Arch Intern Med. 1987;147:1577–1580.

5. Haapakoski R, et al. Cumulative meta-analysis of interleukins 6 and 1β, tumour necrosis factor α and C-reactive protein in patients with major depressive disorder. Brain Behav Immun. 2015;49:206-15.

6. Rao NP, et al. Plasma cytokine abnormalities in drug-naïve, comorbidity-free obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychiatry Res. 2015;30;229(3):949-52.

7. Köhler O, et al. Effect of anti-inflammatory treatment on depression, depressive symptoms, and adverse effects: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. JAMA psychiatry. 2014 Dec 1;71(12):1381-91.

8. Miller AH, Raison CL. The role of inflammation in depression: from evolutionary imperative to modern treatment target. Nat Rev Immunol. 2015 Dec 29;16(1):22-34.

9. Setiawan E, et al. Role of translocator protein density, a marker of neuro-inflammation, in the brain during major depressive episodes. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72:268–275.

10. Hodes GE, et al. Neuro-immune mechanisms of depression. Nature Neuroscience. 2015 Oct 1;18(10):1386-93.

11. Yu JJ, et al. Chronic supplementation of curcumin enhances the efficacy of antidepressants in major depressive disorder: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2015 Aug;35(4):406-10.


12. Kim SJ, et al. Curcumin stimulates proliferation of embryonic neural progenitor cells and neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus. J Biol Chem. 2008 May 23;283(21):14497-505.

13. Zhang L, et al. Effects of curcumin on chronic, unpredictable, mild, stress-induced depressive-like behaviour and structural plasticity in the lateral amygdala of rats. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2014 May;17(5):793-806.

14. Huang EJ, Reichardt LF. Neurotrophins: roles in neuronal development and function. Ann Rev Neuroscience. 2001;24:677–736.

15. Sapolsky RM. Depression, antidepressants, and the shrinking hippocampus. PNAS. 2001 Oct 23;98(22):12320–12322.

16. Lopresti AL, et al. Curcumin and major depression: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial investigating the potential of peripheral biomarkers to predict treatment response and antidepressant mechanisms of change. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2015 Jan;25(1):38-50.

17. Sanmukhani J, et al. Efficacy and safety of curcumin in major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Phytother Res. 2014 Apr;28(4):579-85.

18. Akhondzadeh S, et al. Crocus sativus L. in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. Phytother Res. 2005 Feb;19(2):148-51.

19. Noorbala AA, et al. Hydro-alcoholic extract of Crocus sativus L. versus fluoxetine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized pilot trial. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Feb 28;97(2)281-4.

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