Inflammation is a local response to cellular damage. It includes, in large part, capillary dilatation, redness, heat, pain, swelling, and stiffness. The body uses it to initiate the elimination of wastes and damaged tissue.
Actually beginning as a healing process, inflammation generates large quantities of free radicals that, ironically, contribute to tissue damage if allowed to go on too long. Inflamed tissue gets swollen, so circulation gets compromised, and fresh fluids are prevented from replacing toxic ones. That begets more inflammation, and the cycle continues.
Researchers are learning more about the role of inflammation in chronic disease every day, and we can turn to a long list of helpful herbs that have already proven their usefulness. Natural inflammation remedies often mimic or potentiate adrenal steroid hormones, or increase the body’s ability to make these natural chemicals. Some remedies contain healthy fat molecules that the body uses to manufacture anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Others suppress the production of pro-inflammatory types of prostaglandins. (This is how aspirin, and the herb it came from, willow bark, work.) Other plants are rich in polyphenol substances that reduce oxidation. Here are three top natural anti-inflammatories.
1. Licorice root has been used since ancient times as food and medicine.
In Chinese medicine, licorice is an ingredient in nearly every herbal formula for the purpose of “harmonizing” each individual herb, essentially by reducing inflammation. The most analyzed active ingredient is glycyrrhizin, which has been found to possess anti-inflammatory and adrenal hormone-like properties.
How to Use: Take in capsule, liquid, or tea form as a single herb or as part of a combination formula.
2. Berberine-containing herbs are powerful inflammation fighters.
Berberine is an alkaloid compound found in several pants and herbs including goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape root, phellodendron bark, and coptis root.
How to Use:Pick one of the berberine-containing herbs (or a combination formula featuring a blend of them) and take daily in capsule, liquid, or tea form.
3. Red and purple fruits are amazingly rich in anti-inflammatory compounds.
Think hawthorn berry, arjuna bark, schisandra berry, and goji berries.
How to Use: Most of these herbs come in capsule, liquid, powder, and tea forms. Goji berries can be added to salads, soups, baking recipes, and more.
Combine 1 cup coconut milk, 1 cup almond milk, ⅓ cup honey, ¼ cup chia seeds, and ¼ cup dried goji berries in a medium bowl. Refrigerate until thickened, and serve.
Are You Inflamed?
Many chronic diseases involve some degree of inflammation, including:
- Heart disease
- Neuralgia (pain due to nerve damage)
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- Kidney disease
- Macular degeneration
- Periodontal disease
- Skin disorders
- Chronic inflammatory diseases (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis)
- Migraine headaches
- Hay fever
Top 10 Best Foods to Reduce Inflammation
- Onions, garlic, and leeks
- Spices (ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, clove)
- Fruits (dark berries, apples)
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens, chard)
- Brassica vegetables (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli)
- Bell peppers
- Beans (all types)
- Nuts and seeds
- Herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, mint, tarragon, dill)
- Tea (all types)
- Red wine
- Cocoa/dark chocolate (minimum sugar, maximum chocolate)
- Flaxseeds and flax oil (try Barlean’s Forti-Flax—you can sprinkle it on everything!)
- Omega-3s: Wild salmon is a great source of the most important omega-3s found in food, as well the superstar antioxidant astaxanthin. Grass-fed beef also has omega-3 fats, as do sardines, mackerel, herring, and tuna.
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, DN-C, RH, specializes in Ayurveda and herbalism, and has more than 40 years of experience in holistic medicine. His website is kpkhalsa.com.