Since the beginning of time, humans have sought out various substances from the environment to heal sickness, ease pain and improve energy levels. Herbs are plants that have medicinal properties. They are chemically complex and have hundreds or even thousands of chemical compounds. When herbs are used correctly, they can be extremely beneficial. Here is my top five list of anti-inflammatory herbs.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Ginger is a wonderful anti-inflammatory herb. The constituents in ginger have been shown to inhibit the expression of pro-inflammatory molecules. Ginger is particularly beneficial on the digestive tract. It can help relieve cramping and bloating. It increases the motility in the digestive tract by stimulating the flow of saliva, bile, and gastric secretions.
Some other common uses for ginger include nausea and vomiting. Ginger tea works wonders and is easy to make. You can either buy prepared ginger tea bags at the store, or simply grate about 1 Tbsp. of fresh ginger and steep for 10 minutes with 1-2 cups boiling water, strain, and enjoy.
Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita)
There are several different constituents of chamomile that have anti-inflammatory effects. Apigenin is one component in chamomile, which has been shown to exert the strongest anti-inflammatory effect. Chamomile has several other effects including enhancing the immune system, relieving stomach cramping, antimicrobial activity, and sedative activity.
Chamomile tea has been shown to induce deep sleep. This is a great option for those who have trouble relaxing and falling asleep. You can buy the tea bags from the store or make your own infusion using the dried flower heads.
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)
No, this is not the marshmallow candy, but it does get sticky like it! Marshmallow root produces a thick sticky substance that coats body tissues. Inflammatory disorders of the digestive tract can benefit from marshmallow root because it soothes inflammation.
It is also excellent for a dry cough or painful sore throat because it eases dryness. A cold infusion works best: put 2-4 grams of marshmallow root in 1 cup of cold water and let it sit overnight. Strain in the morning and drink.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
Stinging nettle has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting the effects of NF-kappaB, a molecule that has a central role in inflammation.It also has been shown to decrease TNF-alpha and interleukin-beta 1, which are pro-inflammatory molecules.Nettle leaf is well known for its benefits in helping with allergies and arthritic conditions.
It is also packed with nutrition (even more than spinach!): calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C, phosphorus, chlorophyll, magnesium, and flavonoids. You can make a cold or hot Stinging nettle infusion.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
The anti-inflammatory activity of licorice is due to its ability to prolong the effect of cortisol, which has anti-inflammatory effects, as well as preventing the action of NF-kappaB (a pro-inflammatory molecule). Licorice has several other effects including antibacterial, antiviral, lipid lowering, and ulcer healing.
Licorice stimulates the production of mucus in the stomach to help heal ulcers. An individual who has chronic fatigue syndrome accompanied with low cortisol levels may benefit from licorice. Licorice slows the breakdown of cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands. As you can see, one single herb can have several beneficial actions and be used for various conditions due to the many constituents in it.
Many herbs are safe, and the body does well with them because they are naturally produced. However, it is important to keep in mind that herbs can have adverse effects. This may be due to the property in the herb, inappropriate use, a medication interaction, or an adulterated or contaminated product.
Check in with your practitioner to see what herbs may benefit you. There are some amazing ones out there!
1) Braun L, Cohen M. Herbs and Natural Supplements, 3rd Ed. Australia:Churchill Livingstone;2010:1034.
2) Hoffmann D. Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press; 2003:244.
3) Freeman C. Althaea officinalis. NYCC MSACN Program. Summer 2013.