12 Herbs & Spices to Fight Inflammation
WHAT IS INFLAMMATION?
Inflammation sounds bad, but the truth is, "inflammation" is nothing more then your body's innate, God given, protective response. It helps your natural healing and repair processes.
By definition, inflammation refers to your body's process of fighting against things that harm it, such as infections, injuries, and toxins. When something damages your cells, your body releases chemicals that trigger a response from your immune system. This is called "acute inflammation."
But inflammation doesn’t just happen in response to injury and illness. An inflammatory response can also occur when the immune system goes into action without an injury or infection to fight. Since there’s nothing to heal, the immune system cells that normally protect us begin to destroy healthy arteries, organs and joints. And when the immune system is triggered continuously, it's called "chronic inflammation" and it causes a host of issues in the body. It's been linked to everything from insulin resistance, increased susceptibility to illness and disease, gastrointestinal problems, and hormonal imbalances, to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, ADD, and Alzheimers.
What causes chronic inflammation? A variety of factors, including pollution, food sensitivities, lack of a healthy diet and lifestyle, chronic stress, carrying too much body fat or body weight, etc.
People are almost always looking for a pill, but I deeply believe that food is medicine, and it's powerful. The purpose of this blog, is to help you realize that one of the ways in which you can reduce and even prevent chronic inflammation in the body is by simply incorporating certain herbs and spices into your diet.
1. Turmeric (Curcumin)
The anti-inflammatory agent in turmeric is its yellow pigment called curcumin. Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines have long used turmeric and curcumin to reduce inflammation as well as treat digestive disorders, wounds and infections. Studies have shown that curcumin also acts as an antioxidant and may combat cancer. Fresh or powdered turmeric is excellent in hot tea, sprinkled into hot cereal, or added to curries, soups or other dishes. Fresh turmeric can be added to vegetable juices or sliced on salads. Supplements of curcumin are also available.
2. Green Tea
The preventative effects of green tea against cardiovascular disease and cancer are well established. More recent studies have shown that green tea can be an effective anti-inflammatory, particularly in the treatment of arthritis. It can also reduce inflammation of the digestive tract, potentially helping conditions like IBS, Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.
It's recommended to drink 3 to 4 cups of tea daily. Green tea extract can also be found in pill form. If you don't want the caffeine, decaffeinated green teas are available.
3. White Willow Bark
White willow tree bark has been used as a treatment for pain and inflammation since ancient Egyptian and Roman times. Many studies have shown that white willow bark has a comparable effect to aspirin, but with fewer side effects than aspirin. When I get a headache, this is my go to if I feel I need to take something. The usual dose of white willow bark is 240mg per day for ongoing conditions. There are also some natural herbal blends that contain white willow bark which can be used for an acute event, like for headaches, as I mentioned.
4. Maritime Pine Bark (Pycnogenol)
Bark from the maritime pine tree (Pinus maritima) can be processed into pycnogenol. This extract has been used for more than 2,000 years to help heal wounds, scurvy and ulcers as well as reducing vascular inflammation. It is one of the strongest antioxidants known today. Studies have shown that pycnogenol is 50 to 100 times more potent than vitamin E in neutralizing free radicals in the body. It has also been found to reduce blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. A typical dosage is 100-200 mg daily. I often recommend this to my clients who have high blood pressure and are looking to eliminate their blood pressure medication.
5. Chili Peppers (Capsaicin)
The countless varieties of hot peppers we have today began as one small shrub (Capsicum annum), native to tropical regions of the Americas. The chemical capsaicin is what makes a pepper hot. And it's capsaicin that's been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect in your body.Any type of chili pepper, such as cayenne or jalapeno, contains capsaicin. You can use chili peppers fresh or powdered in a wide variety of dishes, including desserts. Supplements containing capsaicin are often mixed with other herbs to create natural anti-inflammatory blends.
6. Frankincense (Boswellia serrata)
I swear by Boswellia for it's powerful anti-inflammatory impact on the body. Bodwellia is a tree variety native to India, Somalia, Ethiopia and the Arabian Peninsula. Frankincense is a resin extracted from the trees and it has anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic and pain-controlling properties. Boswellia resin is currently used to treat degenerative and inflammatory joint disorders. One study showed that a combination of Boswellia and curcumin was more effective for treating osteoarthritis than a commonly used synthetic drug. It's recommended to take 300-500 mg of Boswellia extract 2-3 times a day for ongoing inflammatory conditions.
This is an antioxidant found in many plants. The highest amounts have been found in Japanese knot weed (Polygonum cuspidatum) and in the skins of red wine grapes. Resveratrol has been shown to be a strong anti-inflammatory. It also protects against DNA damage and mutations. You can find resveratrol as a common supplement in natural food stores. A WIDE range in dosage is suggested based on why you want to take it, anywhere from 50-500mg a day.
8. Cat's Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
This herb is derived from a woody vine native to Peru. The bark of cat's claw has traditionally been used to treat arthritis, bursitis and intestinal disorders. Studies have shown that it can reduce inflammatory responses in the body and it has a protective effect against gastrointestinal inflammation.You can make a tea from cat's claw from either a prepared tea or use 1000 mg of the bark to 8 ounces of water. It is also available as a dry extract in a capsule. It's recommended to take 20 to 60 mg daily. Go easy on the dose as too much can cause GI cramping or nausea.
In one study, participants were given small amounts of various common herbs and spices for a period of 7 days. Rosemary showed one of the strongest protective effects against inflammation and oxidation.
The other top spices were turmeric, cloves and ginger. The researchers noted that the amounts given of each herb were no more than what someone would normally eat in a seasoned soup, sauce or other dish. So just use some rosemary to season chicken, beef, or sprinkled on roasted veggies or potatoes.
Clove oil can be applied directly to the gums to help with a toothache or for pain control during dental work. Cloves have been shown to reduce mouth and throat inflammation. Cloves can also be used to treat diarrhea, nausea, hernia, bad breath and as an expectorant.
The powdered or whole dried flower buds are delicious in many savory dishes as well as in desserts and hot drinks.
Ginger has a very long history of use in various forms of traditional/alternative medicine. It has been used to help digestion, reduce nausea and help fight the flu and common cold, to name a few. Research has shown that ginger has a better therapeutic effect than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to treat pain and inflammation. Ginger also inhibits the activation of several genes involved in an inflammatory response. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, ginger may help prevent or treat nausea and vomiting from motion sickness, pregnancy and chemotherapy. It can also be used to reduce osteoarthritic pain and heart disease. Ginger is delicious in many savory dishes, as well as in teas, juices and desserts. You can also purchase it in supplemental form as well.
I put cinnamon on (literally) EVERYTHING. This popular spice is made from the bark of cinnamon trees native to China, India and Southeast Asia. In addition to being anti-inflammatory, cinnamon has been shown to have antioxidant, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, anticancer and lipid-lowering properties. It even helps with insulin sensitivity and to stabilize blood sugar. It also has been found to act against neurological disorders like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Cinnamon goes well in anything from hot cereals like oatmeal, to soups and stews, to desserts and drinks. And any pre-made apple pie or pumpkin pie spice mixes you buy in the store will often have cinnamon, cloves and ginger all bundles into one tasty blend.