Fighting chronic inflammation
Inflammation is a growing problem for many people and it plays a significant role in many common but serious diseases today. This includes cancer, asthma, heart disease, arthritis, psoriasis, depression and Alzheimers. Even if you’re not dealing with a serious disease, many other ailments are also affected by inflammation including eczema, headaches, migraines, IBS,
Menstrual cramps, allergies, chronic injuries and other chronic pain. The good news is that there are many options out there for reducing inflammation. These are our top 5 herbs for inflammation.
Turmeric or curcumin is probably one you have heard of. It’s become the most recommended and talked about herb for inflammation. The science is there to back up its fame. Many clinical trials have been done that prove the effectiveness of curcumin – one of the primary constituents in turmeric.
One study that looked into the use of turmeric found that taking turmeric extract three times a day had comparable anti-inflammatory benefits to taking 1200 mg of ibuprofen a day. This is exciting news, especially for those who are experiencing pain and inflammation but want natural alternatives that don’t come with the side effects of ibuprofen such as stomach pain, nausea, heartburn, and diarrhea.
Curcumin has been studied for its use in various chronic conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer where it showed beneficial effects in all of these circumstances due to its reduction in inflammation. However, there may be other ways in which turmeric improved these conditions. In heart disease, for example, Tumeric has been shown to decrease LDL, HDL cholesterol, and lipid peroxides. In Alzheimer’s disease Turmeric has been found to have the ability to bind to beta-amyloid plaques which is one of the main mechanisms in which the disease occurs.
Curcumin also has the ability to disrupt tumour growth due to its ability to interfere with the activity of enzymes that allow tumours to grow and spread. It can induce apoptosis which is also called ‘programmed cell death’. It essentially is the way the body kills cells in the body that are sick so that they don’t continue to spread and cause illness.
The use of Cat’s claw can be traced back to use by ancient Inca civilization who used it for inflammation, cancer, viral infections, ulcers, and to stimulate the immune system. Now it is traditionally used for a variety of inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
One of its primary constituents, procyanidins is a flavonoid that has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. Cat’s Claw is known to decrease inflammatory molecules including TNF-α which is one of the worst offenders of chronic inflammation and NF-κB which signals to the immune system to produce inflammation. It’s increased by most unhealthy behaviours. The bright side is that many herbs, like Cat’s Claw, inhibit it.
Cat’s Claw also blocks the release of iNos, which is a type of free radical that releases nitric oxide as part of the immune response. Another way that cat’s claw reduces inflammation is by blocking the release of COX-1 and COX-2. This is the same way that many NSAIDs work to reduce prostaglandins and as a result, reduces pain and inflammation.
When it comes to joint inflammation specifically, Cat’s claw increases a hormone called IGF-1, which helps to maintain cartilage health and prevents its breakdown.
Olive leaf and olive oil are a great part of a healthy diet but are also wonderful when applied topically for inflammation as well as when taken orally as a supplement.
Olive leaves are rich in polyphenolic compounds that are known to have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory activities. Oleuropein is a polyphenol found in olive leaves that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects even in small concentrations. Hydroxytyrosol is another polyphenol in olive leaves that also has anti-inflammatory effects.
One study on the use of olive leaf extract took healthy volunteers and gave them a standardized extract of olive leaf that contains 51 mg of oleuropein and 9 mg hydroxytyrosol from olive leaf and it reduced Interleukin 8, a known pro-inflammatory cytokine.
Olive leaf extract can be helpful when it comes to serious digestive issues such as ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory kind of bowel disease. A study that gave 14 people with ulcerative colitis olive leaf extract showed a decrease in several inflammation markers and reduced the patient’s pain.
Topically olive oil is a great anti-inflammatory. The oleuropein can speed up the healing of wounds and injuries by reducing inflammation and swelling. It’s also helpful when it comes to inflammation of the skin for minor wounds, scrapes, rashes, and other irritation.
Marshmallow is a really unique botanical. It contains fibrous materials in it that swell up when exposed to moisture (such as from the body) and form a healing gel-like substance. This substance has wonderful cooling, moisturizing and soothing effects for various issues conditions including cough, minor wounds and scrapes, skin complaints like eczema, and digestive issues.
In particular, when it comes to digestive issues marshmallow root is very supportive for leaky gut. Leaky gut is very much what it sounds like. It involves the gut wall developing tiny openings where particles can leak through. When this happens the gut can no longer filter out harmful substances and instead they enter the bloodstream. When this happens inflammation and autoimmune reactions can result. The gel-like substance that marshmallow root creates helps to coat the lining of the digestive tract to repair, seal, and soothe leaky guts.
Its anti-inflammatory effects are not isolated to its soothing coating ability. Marshmallow root has been shown to reduce reactive oxygen species production, tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6, all markers of systemic inflammation.
Ginger is an amazing herb that you can enjoy as a food or supplement. Its primary active constituents are gingerols, shogaol and parasols have enormous medicinal benefits. Notably, all three are well documented to have anti-cancer effects. As we discussed in our previous blog on chronic inflammation, cancer is influenced by chronic inflammation. Ginger’s positive anticancer effects are partly due to its effects on inflammation, although there are more benefits going on when it comes to cancer such as antioxidants.
The active constituents Gingerol and shogaol inhibit prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormones that cause a type of inflammation that is responsible for things like painful menstrual cramps, headaches, migraines, cancer, celiac disease, depression, and ALS. Prostaglandins are not all bad and do play an important part in health but when they are too high cause problems like mentioned above. Because ginger is so effective at reducing prostaglandins it can have effects for those ailments mentioned above like menstrual cramps and migraines.
They also inhibit the production of leukotriene which is an inflammatory chemical that is released in response to an allergen or other toxins. Similar to Cat’s Claw it blocks the release of iNos and COX-2 and TNF-alpha. Which is a fancy way for saying they reduce inflammation similar to the ways that NSAIDs (common painkillers) do.
What all this comes down to say is that ginger is a wonderful herb for fighting inflammation especially alongside the other herbs we’ve discussed today.
How to use these herbs
Some of these herbs like turmeric, ginger, and olive oil are easy to include in your diet. We always recommended getting nutrients from your food whenever possible. Although inflammation plays an important part in keeping our bodies healthy, many people have high inflammation. This is largely due to a lack of healthy lifestyle habits such as eating whole foods, exercising and moving throughout the day, getting good sleep, stress and environmental toxins. Including turmeric, ginger, and olive oil can help you to reduce some of the harmful effects of excess inflammation if you are otherwise healthy. However, if you are experiencing any of the inflammatory conditions we mentioned above we highly recommend supplementing with additional Turmeric, Cat’s Claw, Olive, Marshmallow root and Ginger to combat chronic inflammation. You can look for these in tea or tincture form although we always recommended tinctures if you can as these will offer superior bioavailability, potency and are fast-acting.
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Inflammation & Anti-inflammatory Herbs