Herbs and Foods for Reducing Inflammation

April 12, 2021 Joe Brady

In recent years research studies of the anti-inflammatory effects of medicinal herbs used in traditional medicines have shown great promise. More gentle than drugs, herbs and foods can also reduce inflammation and can be used without the harmful side effects of drugs. Medicinal plants have been used for thousands of years and form a rich source of therapeutic agents with the potential to create new treatments for old health complaints. 

Inflammation is our body’s natural response to injury. Especially as we get older inflammation can become chronic in which case inflammation can become the problem rather than the solution.  Inflammation is a pathologic condition that includes a wide range of diseases such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, rheumatism, pneumonia, cancer, rheumatic and immune-mediated conditions, 

The normal medical response to pain associated with inflammation includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and opioid drugs and these have a lot of adverse effects and can sometimes lead to fatal results. Therefore herbs and food items that have an anti-inflammatory effect are proving to be can be a potential source to replace them. 

More and more research is being conducted on herbs used in traditional medicinal systems like traditional Chinese medicine and ayurvedic medicine. Each year many plant-based substances are being studied for their potential anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity.

Studies have even uncovered some of the mechanisms through which herbs and food can affect inflammation. The epi-genetic transcription factor NFκB regulates various inflammatory genes that control leukocyte adhesion molecules, cytokines, and chemokines compounds that are involved with various types of inflammatory diseases. Flavonoids are plant compounds found in fruits, grains, vegetables, roots, bark, flowers, stems, tea, and wine, mushrooms, honey, plant extracts, plant juices, plant powders, and essential oils which have all been shown to possess anti-inflammatory activities.  As NFκB inhibitors, these flavonoids may modulate the expression of pro-inflammatory genes leading to reducing inflammation and aiding in the treatment of various inflammatory diseases.

To read more about the chemistry of all this, see

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6842955/

For lists of anti-inflammatory herbs and foods and the science behind them read more

Foods that reduce inflammation

Berries

  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • blackberries

Fatty fish

  • salmon
  • sardines
  • herring
  • mackerel

Cruciferous vegetables, 

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower, 
  • Brussels sprouts, 
  • Kale

Peppers

  • Bell peppers
  • chili peppers

More Foods

  • Avocados
  • Mushrooms
  • Grapes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Dark chocolate and cocoa
  • Cherries
  • Tomatoes 
  • Note – Tomatoes are not for everyone, tomatoes are in the deadly nightshade family and so there are some people that their bodies just don’t handle tomatoes very well.

Foods that increase inflammation

  • Junk foods: fast food, convenience meals, potato chips, pretzels
  • Refined carbohydrates: white bread, pasta, white rice, crackers, flour tortillas, biscuits
  • Fried foods: french fries, donuts, fried chicken, mozzarella sticks, egg rolls
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: soda, sweet tea, energy drinks, sports drinks
  • Processed meats: bacon, beef jerky, canned meat, salami, hot dogs, smoked meat
  • Trans fats: shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, margarine

* Come on y’all knew these foods were not good for you! So keep this in mind and keep these foods to a minimum. For example hot dogs should be reserved for the fourth of July and baseball games.

Herbal Medicines that reduce Inflammation

Green tea

  • Green, black, and oolong teas all come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, but are prepared using different methods. To produce green tea, leaves from the plant are steamed, pan-fried, and dried.
  • Tea has been used for medicinal purposes in China and Japan for thousands of years.
  • Green tea as a beverage or dietary supplement is promoted for improving mental alertness, relieving digestive symptoms and headaches, and promoting weight loss. Green tea and its components, including epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), have been studied for their possible protective effects against heart disease and cancer.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a topical ointment, sinecatechins (brand name Veregen), which includes extracted components of green tea leaves and is used for the treatment of genital warts.
  • A small number of studies suggests that both green and black tea might have beneficial effects on some heart disease risk factors, including blood pressure and cholesterol. The research has limitations though, including how the data was evaluated and differences in study populations, so no definite conclusions have been reached.
  • The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is funding research on green tea and its extracts, including studies on new forms of green tea extracts for preventing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and for lowering cholesterol.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Historically, ginger has been used in Asian medicine to treat stomach aches, nausea, and diarrhea. Today, ginger is used as a folk or traditional remedy for postsurgery nausea; nausea caused by motion, chemotherapy, and pregnancy; rheumatoid arthritis; osteoarthritis; and joint and muscle pain. Based on available evidence, it is unclear whether supplementation of ginger is beneficial in treating rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or joint and muscle pain.

The Evidence Base

  • The evidence base on efficacy of ginger for inflammatory conditions such as muscle pain and osteoarthritis consists of only a few studies and reviews.

Efficacy

  • A 2010 study of a total of 74 participants examined the effects of ginger on muscle pain and inflammation caused by eccentric exercise. The study found that daily consumption of raw and heat-treated ginger resulted in moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain following exercise-induced muscle injury.
  • A 2008 review of dietary supplements for osteoarthritis concluded that there is insufficient reliable evidence of long-term safety or effectiveness of ginger for this condition.

Turmeric

Turmeric has a long history of use in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of inflammatory disorders. Curcumin, a chemical extracted from turmeric, is often used as a remedy for the treatment and prevention of inflammatory diseases. Preliminary findings from laboratory research suggest that curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, may have anti-inflammatory properties, but in spite of its long history of use for inflammatory disorders, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of turmeric supplementation for these disorders.

The Evidence Base

  • The evidence base on efficacy of turmeric for inflammation consists of several laboratory studies and only a few clinical trials.

Efficacy

  • A 2015 review of laboratory, translational, and clinical data of curcumin for musculoskeletal disorders found that curcumin is an effective therapeutic agent for osteoarthritis.
  • A 2013 randomized controlled trial of 120 participants with primary knee osteoarthritis found that curcumin extract showed significant decrease of pain symptom and function compared to placebo.
  • A 2013 systematic review of plant food supplements with anti-inflammatory properties found that in spite of the long-term traditional use for inflammatory disorders, turmeric warrants further investigation.

Safety

  • Turmeric is considered safe for most adults, but high doses or long-term use may cause indigestion, nausea, or diarrhea.

Bromelain (Pineapple Plant)

Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes found in the pineapple plant. Bromelain is often used as a dietary supplement for nasal swelling and inflammation, osteoarthritis, cancer, poor digestion, and muscle soreness. In spite of its use, the exact mechanism of action remains poorly understood. There is some evidence that bromelain may be useful as adjunctive therapy to help improve acute nasal and sinus inflammation, but there is insufficient evidence as to whether bromelain has any beneficial effects on other inflammatory conditions.

The Evidence Base

  • The evidence base on efficacy of bromelain for inflammatory disorders consists of several studies and a systematic review.

Efficacy

  • A 2014 prospective, placebo-controlled trial of 34 patients evaluated the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect of bromelain in the postoperative after extraction of impacted lower molars. The study found no statistically significant differences between the bromelain and placebo groups, a trend toward less inflammation and improved oral aperture was observed in the bromelain group, compared to placebo.
  • Findings from a 2006 systematic review of three randomized controlled trials suggest that bromelain is helpful in relieving symptoms of acute nasal and sinus inflammation when used as adjunctive therapy with standard medications such as antihistamines, analgesics, and/or antibiotics.
  • A 2004 review concluded that current data suggests the potential of bromelain in treating osteoarthritis, but that further studies are needed before a definitive conclusion can be drawn.

Safety

  • There have been some reports of gastrointestinal problems, increased heart rate, and menstrual problems in people who have taken oral bromelain.
  • Allergic reactions may occur in individuals who are sensitive or allergic to pineapples or who may have other allergies.

References

Flavonoids as Natural Anti-Inflammatory Agents Targeting Nuclear Factor-Kappa B (NFκB) Signaling in Cardiovascular Diseases: A Mini Review

Ker Woon Choy, 1 , * Dharmani Murugan, 2 , * Xin-Fang Leong, 3 Razif Abas, 4 Aspalilah Alias, 5 and Mohd Rais Mustafa 2 , 6 , *

Review of Anti-Inflammatory Herbal Medicines

Mona Ghasemian, Sina Owlia, Mohammad Bagher Owlia, “Review of Anti-Inflammatory Herbal Medicines”, Advances in Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, vol. 2016, Article ID 9130979, 11 pages, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/9130979

Mona Ghasemian,1 Sina Owlia,2 and Mohammad Bagher Owlia2

Volume 2016 |Article ID 9130979 | https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/9130979

Published online 2019 Oct 31. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2019.01295

1School of Pharmacy, Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences, Yazd, Iran

2School of Medicine, Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences, Yazd, Iran