Dr. Joseph's Top 5 Herbs for Lowering Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury and infection. It is also one of the most widespread and poorly-understood modern health issues. Inflammation happens when white blood cells release chemicals called cytokines that increase blood flow into an area or cause redness, swelling or warmth.
Acute inflammation is when the body or a specific body part becomes inflamed for a short period of time. Say you sprain your ankle and the entire area becomes red and swollen or you try a new type of food and develop a noticeable allergic reaction to it. You stay off your foot or you avoid eating the culprit food and the inflammation eventually goes away. But chronic inflammation occurs when your immune system is permanently “switched on” in response to long-term exposure to a dietary ingredient, infection or toxin. “Say you have an allergy to wheat -- but you don’t realize it -- and you eat pancakes for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch every day,” says Dr. Bomi Joseph, Director of the Peak Health Center in California. “This can cause chronic inflammation in your gut and it can even worsen joint pain if you have rheumatoid arthritis.”
It has been extensively verified that oxidative stress, caused by free radicals, leads to oxidative damage which plays a significant role in most modern ‘chronic diseases’ like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In addition to following a whole foods-based anti-inflammatory diet, the following herbs are widely used to help keep inflammation in check:
The turmeric (Curcuma longa) root has been used for thousands of years in Asia as a cooking spice and medicine. While the active compound, curcumin, shows strong anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory activities and it may be useful for the prevention and treatment of modern chronic diseases. Unfortunately, natural curcumin is not bioavailable and it barely absorbed when eaten. But there are advanced modern formulas like Mervia, BCM-95 and Longvida that appear to be effective for against inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis, hay fever, and itchy skin… as well as depression. Longvida, a patented bioactive turmeric extract that was developed by scientists at UCLA, is the only form known to cross the blood-brain barrier. It may be helpful in improving cognitive function by reducing mild brain inflammation.
Renowned for its ability to reduce sensitivity to inflammation and nerve pain, cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the hottest supplements on the market. The non-psychotropic cannabinoid CBD works by impacting over a dozen anti-inflammatory pathways and molecules. They body has its own natural cannabinoids called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoid deficiency has been linked to painful inflammatory conditions like migraines, fibromyalgia and IBS and CBD is believed to indirectly help to increase natural cannabinoid levels in the body. CBD is usually sold as an oil extract of the hemp (Cannabis sativa) plant, but Asian hops CBD extracts are also available.
Andrographis paniculata is an anti-inflammatory used for millennia in tradition Chinese medicine and Ayurvedia. While it is frequently used for preventing and treating the common cold and flu as well as ulcerative colitis, it is one of the most powerful and underrated herbs for lowering inflammation in the body. In mice, andrographis has been shown to be effective at lowering chronic brain inflammation. The main active compound andrographolide blocks TNF-α, a common inflammatory cytokine.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a common flowering plant whose root is widely used as a zesty culinary spice and remedy in folk medicine for over 3,000 years. According to Dr. Bomi Joseph, it been used against colds, PMS, pain, migraines, arthritis, nausea and high blood pressure. Ginger contains over 100 active compounds but gingerols are the major active component in fresh ginger. According to an analysis of 9 published clinical studies, ginger reduces the levels of inflammatory marker CRP in the blood. Ginger also reduces the COX enzymes that cause inflammation and pain, similar to aspirin and Advil. In lab experiments, ginger extract blocked common inflammatory cytokines.
The Boswellia serrata tree, also known as “Indian frankincense,” is native to India, Northern Africa and the Middle East. The resin, called frankincense, has been used in cultural ceremonies for centuries and it contains active compounds called boswellic acids. Clinical trials have determined that boswellic acids have similar anti-inflammatory action to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) but long-term use of boswellia apparently does not lead to irritation or ulceration of the stomach. A review of 11 published studies on patients with knee osteoarthritis found that boswellia was effective for pain relief and functional improvement.
In addition to these herbs, there are other natural methods of lowering inflammation. “It’s important to stay well-hydrated, drink plenty of water or perhaps even a bottled water that has electrolytes added,” says Dr. Bomi Joseph. Get plenty of daily movement and exercise, and if you have trouble staying motivated a digital fitness tracker watch or device may be helpful. Eat a healthy diet that avoids sugars, processed foods and allergens: the two most common food allergens are wheat and dairy, so consider eliminating them from your diet to see if your inflammation improves. Another common culprit that causes a lot of inflammation are vegetable oils, especially the hydrogenated vegetable oils found in processed foods. Be sure to replace all the vegetable oils in your kitchen with healthier choices like olive oil. Finally, get a better night’s sleep and do whatever it takes to reduce stress to live your best life – with less inflammation.
- Ally Lewis