10 Best Anti Inflammatory Herbs and Foods: Plus How To Use Them

By Roy Krebs

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Holistic remedies don't always live up the claims they so often make, but thanks to the leaps and bounds we've made in our understanding of human health, we're learning that the benefits can be more powerful than our ancient ancestors even realized. 

If you've ever wanted to reclaim your health and support your natural ability to fight inflammation, here's a list of some of the best inflammation-fighting herbs and supplements that you can buy, and how to use to support better health at any age.

1. Curcumin (Turmeric)

Best Anti Inflammatory Herbs - Curcumin

Curcumin is that "miracle compound" found in the golden-colored root turmeric (curcuma longa).

Boasting 1000s of positive studies, this compound is constantly surprising researchers by the extent of its anti-inflammatory abilities--most notably its effect on arthritis and osteoarthritis.

It’s generally not recommended to consume more than 3 mg/kg of curcumin for your body weight.

If you’re using raw turmeric, this can be difficult to calculate - you’ll have to figure out how much curcumin is in your turmeric, and this can vary based on the way that it’s processed and grown.

Common doses of curcumin range from half a gram to 7.5 grams daily, split into 3 or 4 doses.

Curcumin is about 10 times more potent and effective when it’s consumed with black pepper (thanks to a compound called piperine) or a healthy fat source.

Even better, you can use a patented liquid curcumin extract that is more than 185x more bioavailable curcumin supplements.

Related Content: Is Your Turmeric Supplement Contaminated With Lead?

2. Ginger

Best Anti Inflammatory Herbs - Ginger

Aside from being a fantastic addition to a wide range of meals, ginger packs a lot of health benefits. Beyond inflammation, it can improve metabolism and help fight oxidative damage.

The best way to consume ginger is, of course, to eat the raw root, though it’s widely available in powder and supplement form, as well.

Research suggests that the compounds gingerol and zingerone found in ginger are primarily responsible for the root's ability to fight inflammation. They have been linked to reductions in many forms of inflammation, from colitis to kidney damage to diabetes and cancer.

Research suggests that 2 to 3 grams of powdered ginger per day may be the safe effective dose to support the body's anti-inflammatory response. It’s not recommended to take more than four grams of fresh ginger a day because this might cause heartburn or digestive issues.

3. Spirulina

Best Anti Inflammatory Herbs - Spirulina

Spirulina is a blue-green algae and potent antioxidant with a range of powerful anti-inflammatory and cleansing abilities.

In one study on diabetic subjects, participants given eight grams of spirulina daily showed decreases in malondialdehyde (MDA). MDA is a compound produced by our body that reflects the ability of your immune system to respond to inflammation. Higher levels indicate more inflammation and lower levels indicate less.

Since a lot of the beneficial effects of spirulina are caused by c-phycocyanin, and spirulina is about 20% c-phycocyanin, we can calculate doses that way. Daily doses of spirulina range between one to eight grams daily.

Effects can be registered at doses at as little as 2.5 grams a day but shouldn’t exceed more than 12.

Related Content: The Top 5 Benefits of Spirulina and Chlorella

4. Cayenne pepper

Best Anti Inflammatory Herbs - Cayenne Pepper

Capsaicin, the spicy compound that makes chili peppers hot, is actually a potent anti-inflammatory compound. Many topical pain relief creams actually use capsaicin because it inhibits the production of substance P, a compound your brain produces that increases sensitivity to pain.

Cayenne pepper also contains a wide range of flavonoids and other phytonutrients. These are antioxidants that work at a cellular level and actually disarm free radicals that can lead to cellular inflammation.

The University of Maryland’s Medical Center recommends taking between 30 and 120 mg of cayenne pepper three times daily to experience beneficial effects.

5. Cinnamon

Best Anti Inflammatory Herbs - Cinnamon

Cinnamon. As delicious as it is nutritious. Many of the phytonutrients present in raw cinnamon are potent anti-inflammatory compounds. Cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants and flavanols that are both known for having a positive impact on inflammation in the human body.

One of the main components of cinnamon, cinnamaldehyde, is known to inhibit certain proteins that are factors in causing inflammation, as well as preventing blood from clumping which further helps protect against other inflammation related diseases.

You can begin to notice the benefits of cinnamon when taking between 1-1.5grams a day. Too much more than this can lead to adverse reactions or indigestion.

Related Content: Trehalose: The Sugar That's Good For You

6. Cloves

Best Anti Inflammatory Herbs - Cloves

Cloves contain one compound that is  particularly potent when compared to other components of the herb. This compound is eugenol, and it acts in a very similar manner to cinnamaldehyde.

Eugenol works partially by inhibiting an enzyme that’s responsible for causing an inflammatory response. This is actually the same enzyme that non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs target, making cloves and clove oil one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories that you can find.

Dosages of clove oil can be effective at reducing inflammation topically with as little as a single drop.

7. Sage

Best Anti Inflammatory Herbs - Sage

The two primary compounds in sage, carnosic acid and carnosol, give sage its unique flavor and are responsible for many of its health benefits. Sage increases the activity of superoxide dismutase, which is responsible for metabolizing and eliminating superoxide from the body. Superoxide is a free radical that is known to cause considerable inflammation in the human body.

Dried sage leaf has been indicated to reveal benefits at doses between 300 and 600 mg, but regular, fresh leaf should be taken in doses between four and six grams daily.

8. Rosemary

Best Anti Inflammatory Herbs - Rosemary

Rosemary contains some of the same compound as sage, which explains the similarities between their flavors. Rosemary also contains its own unique compound called rosmarinic acid, commonly used as a natural preservative and stabilizer in health supplements. 

Like sage, rosemary impacts the body's production of superoxide dismutase. Its effects are more potent if you cook with the herbs, which helps to release some of the phytonutrients. However, Rosemary will still benefit you. Apigenin and diosmin are two compounds present in rosemary that act by preventing your body from producing prostaglandins, which are responsible for causing an inflammation reaction throughout your body.

Fresh rosemary leaf can be used at doses between four and six grams a day to help treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The essential oil can be used in doses of 0.1 to 1 ml to treat similar symptoms.

9. Black pepper

Best Anti Inflammatory Herbs - Black Pepper

You know that curcumin is much more potent when taken with black pepper, but the benefits are amplified when you recognize that black pepper carries its own anti-inflammatory benefits.

Piperine, the compound responsible for making pepper hot, is known to help ease symptoms of various forms of arthritis.

Dosages are typically measured by their ability to improve the absorption of other compounds like curcumin, and for this, it’s generally believed that you need about 20 mg of the active component, piperine.

This is probably a similar dosage that’s needed to provide some degree of inflammation relief on its own, as well.

10. Green tea

Best Anti Inflammatory Herbs - Green Tea

Green tea has been regarded for a while for having a wide range of health benefits. Recently, it has been shown to be effective  at reducing inflammation for arthritis sufferers.

A couple cups of green tea a day are enough to provide mild relief from symptoms of inflammation.

Now that we’ve gone over some the best anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, it’s time to talk about the  most convenient ways to add them to your diet.

How to use Natural Anti-Inflammatory Foods and Herbs In Your Diet

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Did you know that you can reduce or even eliminate the pain and discomfort of inflammation just by changing your diet? 

Chronic, low level inflammation is increasingly associated with diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Inflammation can be caused by various external triggers, including injuries, airborne allergens, and food.

Certain conditions are characterized by inflammation as well. These include arthritis, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome.

If you're suffering from inflammation, it’s very possible that your diet has a lot to do with its severity. 

While changing your diet may not be a complete cure-all, it’s likely that limiting or eliminating foods known to cause inflammatory reactions will reduce your pain and discomfort.

I’ve discovered that many diets recommended for different illnesses all limit inflammatory foods and encourage people to eat more food with anti-inflammatory properties.

Anti-inflammatory foods like...

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Dark chocolate
  • Kale
  • Red cabbage
  • Beans

...are packed with anti-oxidants which helps to keep inflammation from rearing its ugly head. 

Anti-inflammatory foods tend to be rich in Omega-3 oils—here are some examples: 

  • Cold water fatty fish (eg: mackerel, salmon)  
  • Krill oil
  • Walnuts
  • Soybeans
  • Avocado oil

If you eat a ton of dark leafy vegetables, avocados, legumes, fruit and nuts, you’re on the right track to maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet.  

Be sure to include plenty of fresh water fish in your diet and use cold-pressed oils like olive oil or avocado oil.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Krill Oil Is The #1 Omega-3 Supplement For Brain Health

Anti-Inflammatory Cooking

I know at first it may seem like following a super healthy diet is difficult, but with a little preparation you’ll soon get the hang of it and feel better all over!  

One of the great things about learning to cook anti-inflammatory foods is that you get to experiment with unique herbs and spices.  

It's fun to experiment with adding different flavors to your old favorites, and let your personal tastes, intuition and mood guide you in adding various seasonings.

I’ve discovered many of my own yummy and unique recipes this way!

Two things that are key anti-inflammatory herbs: black pepper and cayenne pepper, which you can sprinkle on top of almost anything.

Adding turmeric, ginger, garlic, spirulina, rosemary, sage, cinnamon or cloves to dishes will also boost a dish’s anti-inflammatory power.

If you’re not sure how to use some of these herbs, use with caution as some can be strong! Trying them out in salad dressings, marinades and soups is a great idea.

Grating fresh turmeric root onto a green salad has become a favorite of mine, as has a dash of grated ginger to add some extra tang to fresh fruit salad.

One fun trick I use when I’m stuck is plugging in a few ingredients I have handy into a Google Search, and then seeing what recipes pop up.  

As you experiment, you'll also learn quickly how to adapt recipes if you don’t have all the ingredients listed in a particular recipe.

Global Flavors

 

Certain ethnic styles of cooking contain lots of anti-inflammatory herbs, spices and other foods than others.

The Mediterranean diet, for instance, includes plenty of dark leafy greens, olives, olive oil and fish. Often, mediterranean dishes are loaded with fresh healing herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage.

Anti-inflammatory spices are also used extensively in Eastern and Middle-Eastern countries where they originated.

Indian curries often have turmeric as a base, which gives them their yellow color. Indian cooking often makes use of black pepper, chilies, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.

Try out some Moroccan-style tagine or soup, do an Asian stir fry with fresh fish, or whip up a salmon and quinoa bowl.

There’s so much to choose from...the creative possibilities are endless!

Anti-Inflammatory Smoothies

Smoothies provide a nutritious punch to start the day or to make a quick and easy lunch when you’re on the run.

But it’s worth noting that the smoothies in juice bars often have too much added sugar, low quality proteins as well as processed and artificial ingredients.

Instead, I recommend getting a good quality blender (if you don't already have one) and creating your own nutrient-packed smoothies.

Add one or more anti-inflammatory foods like spirulina powder, turmeric, ginger, or cinnamon for an extra burst of nutrition and flavor.

This is one of my favorite anti-inflammatory recipes— simply blitz the following ingredients together in the blender:

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon of spirulina powder
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries, or any other berry
  • ½ tablespoon coconut oil
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ tablespoon honey or sweetener of your choice
  • a serving of protein powder (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon flax or chia seeds (optional)

Anti-Inflammatory Teas

Tea is not just a beverage we make from the leaves of the tea plant — it’s really any drink made from an infusion of the roots, leaves, fruits or flowers of plants.

There are plenty of different versions of anti-inflammatory tea. You can add almost any type of fresh spice or herb to boiling water, and even experiment with iced teas as well.

You’ll need to let the tea steep for quite a while with some root herbs (like ginger) to get the full flavor. I like most herbal teas plain, but you can also sweeten your tea with honey, stevia, agave or cinnamon.  

This turmeric and ginger tea is warming and soothing. I like to drink it on a cold winter’s day, or if I’m feeling a little under the weather.

Here’s how to make it:

  • 1 ½ inch ginger root chopped in pieces
  • 1 ½ inch turmeric root chopped in pieces
  • 3 slices of lemon
  • 4 cups of water

Boil all the ingredients together for about 10 minutes and strain before drinking.

Anti-Inflammatory Aromatherapy and Essential Oils

Essential oils are undiluted pure plant oil. You can find them at health food stores, specialty aromatherapy shops, and even these days at conventional pharmacies.

Aromatherapy oils can be used in different ways: you can use them with oil for massages, you can burn them in diffusers, or you can add a few to a hot bath.  

Essential oils that have been shown to reduce inflammation are:

  • thyme
  • rose
  • eucalyptus
  • clove
  • vetiver
  • ginger
  • chamomile
  • bergamot
  • peppermint
  • lavender
  • rosemary

Some essential oils are ingestible, but you’ll want to use caution if you plan to take them orally. Certain oils like cedarwood, eucalyptus and wintergreen (to name a few) should not be ingested.

Be sure to ask your health professional and read labels carefully if you want to use these oils with food.

Anti-Inflammatory Supplements

Adding anti-inflammatory foods, herbs and spices to your daily diet is a good start and a way to stay healthy and prevent chronic disease amid the hustle and bustle of modern living.

Curcumin is the main anti-inflammatory ingredient in tumeric. There are about 200 mgs of curcumin in a teaspoon of tumeric. But to get the full benefits of the spice, you’ll need to take 2 to 5 times this amount.

Taking a liquid curcumin supplement is an easy way to get a powerful daily dose without having to purchase, prepare and ingest large quantities of the raw herb.

Avoid These Foods that Cause Inflammation

Controlling inflammation effectively is not only about adding more anti-inflammatory foods to your diet; it’s also about elminiating foods that trigger or exascerbate inflammation.  

Let’s discuss why some of the foods you may be eating could be making your condition worse.

Sugar and High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Studies have shown that a diet high in sugars, including the high-fructose corn syrup used to sweeten many commercial products, increases inflammation.

In one study on rats, researchers discovered that fructose caused inflammation in the cells that line blood vessels. [1]   

Various studies also point to an increase in CRP — an inflammatory marker closely associated with cardiovascular disease — when subjects are given sugar. [2]

Sugar also tends to work against the anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3 fatty acids.

Refined Carbohydrates

Some people seem to think that all carbs are bad for you. But we can’t forget that we get plenty of carbohydrates and important nutrients from whole foods like vegetable, fruits and whole grains.

Carbohydrates are bad for us when they are refined. Refined flour, for instance, is the main ingredient in most commercial breads.

When flour is refined, it means that most of the fibre naturally contained in the wheat has been stripped out of the flour. 

Fibre is important for controlling blood sugar and balancing gut bacteria. When the  fibrous parts of the wheat is removed, it seems to encourage the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria. [3]

Research shows that those who eat diets high in refined carbohydrates are more prone to inflammation-based diseases and that some of these diseases can be linked to an earlier death. [4]

Vegetable and Seed Oils

Vegetable and seed oils — including corn, safflower and canola oil — have high amounts of omega-6 fats. In the U.S. consumption of these oils has increased dramatically over the last few decades.

Research shows that too much omega-6 appears to cause oxidative stress. [5]

Oxidative stress occurs when there are too many free radicals in the body, which essentially can damage various parts of the cells and tissues. Antioxidants keep free radical levels down.

Diseases thought to be linked to oxidative stress (that is, where oxidative stress appears to be a factor, though not necessarily a direct cause), include diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer.

Another reason omega-6 oils may be damaging is that they are sometimes extracted using solvents, which may have inflammatory toxic effects.

Trans Fats

Trans fats are unsaturated fats which are processed to make them more solid are extremely unhealthy.  

Margarine spreads as well as many commercial baked and processed foods contain trans fats. I strongly advise you to avoid products with hydrogenated fat (trans fat) on the labels.

These artificial fats cause inflammation and have been linked to damage to endothelial cells and high levels of various inflammatory markers.  

For instance, in one study, the levels of CRP (an inflammatory marker) were 73% higher in woman who had reported the highest trans fat intake compared to those with the lowest intake. [6]

Excessive Alcohol

Alcohol consumption has been associated with an increase in CRP. One study confirmed that the more people drank, the higher the levels of CRP was in their bloodstream. (7)

Heavy drinkers also seem to have a greater chance of developing leaky gut syndrome, which has been found to drive widespread inflammation. [8]

In Conclusion

There are many ways to incorporate more anti-inflammatory herbs, foods, and supplements into your diet.

Incorporating more of these ingredients into your daily diet while cutting out things like sugar and alcohol should lead to a lessening of inflammatory symptoms.  

For more information on inflammation-fighting herbs and spices, check out the video below: 

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If you think we missed something, or you’d like to leave a comment to share your experience with anti-inflammatory herbs, please do so below!

 

1. Glushakova, O et al. "Fructose induces the inflammatory molecule ICAM-1 in endothelial cells."  2008 Sep;19(9):1712-20.

2. Jameel F et al. "Acute effects of feeding fructose, glucose and sucrose on blood lipid levels and systemic inflammation."  2014 Dec 16;13:195.

3. Dixon LJ et al. "Combinatorial effects of diet and genetics on inflammatory bowel disease pathogenesis."  2015 Apr;21(4):912-22.

4. Buyken AE et al. "Carbohydrate nutrition and inflammatory disease mortality in older adults."  2010 Sep;92(3):634-43.

5. Yang LG et al. "Low n-6/n-3 PUFA Ratio Improves Lipid Metabolism, Inflammation, Oxidative Stress and Endothelial Function in Rats Using Plant Oils as n-3 Fatty Acid Source."  2016 Jan;51(1):49-59.

6. Lopez-Garcia E et al. "Consumption of trans fatty acids is related to plasma biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction."  2005 Mar;135(3):562-6.

7. Oliveira A et al. "Alcohol intake and systemic markers of inflammation--shape of the association according to sex and body mass index."  2010 Mar-Apr;45(2):119-25.

8. Wang HJ et al. "Alcohol, inflammation, and gut-liver-brain interactions in tissue damage and disease development."  2010 Mar 21;16(11):1304-13.

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