Natural Anti-Inflammatories

Low-level inflammation fosters disease, but these nutrients and
herbs can help douse this dangerous fire


January 2013

Stub a toe or catch a cold and you’ll experience inflammation, a process that facilitates healing. Swelling, heat and pain are hallmarks of this immune response, which is designed to subside once an injury heals or an infection passes.

However, chronic inflammation represents a hazard made all the more dangerous by its stealthy, symptomless nature. “Inflammatory conditions can linger for years and sometimes a lifetime,” says Nancy Appleton, PhD, nutritionist and author of Stopping Inflammation (Square One). Like a smoldering fire, persistent inflammation can flare up and contribute to ailments such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and respiratory disorders.

“Many times it is difficult to pinpoint the causes of chronic low-grade inflammation,” says Appleton. But there are known contributors, including poor diet, stress, food allergies and toxin exposure. Such factors promote the development of free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cells.
A number of natural agents have been found to help dispel inflammation, often by affecting the release of various chemicals produced by the immune system. Many of these agents act as antioxidants, substances capable of quenching free radicals and limiting oxidative damage.

Nutrient/Herb

What It Is Healthful Properties
Bromelain A protein-digesting enzyme taken from the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus); works best with other pineapple compounds, such as comosain and ananain Helps regulate activity of cytokines and neutrophils, immune system components involved in inflammation; aids digestion; eases swelling and pain caused by arthritis, gout and injuries
Fruit Flavonoids

Compounds found in brightly colored produce, especially red-blue fruits such as açai, bilberry, blueberry, cherry, cranberry, pomegranate, raspberry and strawberry Most serve as antioxidants and many boost the activity of antioxidant vitamin C; evidence suggests that various flavonoids help protect the heart, ease allergic reactions and reduce muscle soreness
Glutathione

An antioxidant present in every cell; found in fresh produce and meat; works best with other compounds, such as grape seed extract, NAC and selenium In addition to fighting free radicals, glutathione also helps the liver process toxins such as pollutants; believed to retard arterial plaque formation and inhibit DNA changes that can lead to cancer
Green Tea
Leaves from Camellia sinensis, the plant from which all tea is taken; contains antioxidant polyphenols, especially EGCG Has reduced inflammatory responses in studies; inhibits the enzyme that breaks down collagen, the body’s primary structural protein; has been linked to protection against bone loss, cancer, heart disease and other disorders
Olive Fruit Extract
Contains hydroxytyrosol, a compound responsible for much of extra virgin olive oil’s beneficial effect on health Potent antioxidant; helps prevent formation of inflammatory compounds, including COX-2; inhibits oxidation of lipoproteins, a key heart-health factor; has fought diabetic nerve damage and cancer-related DNA damage in studies
Oregano Extract
Contains compounds found in Origanum vulgaris, used commonly in cooking Antioxidant shown to inhibit inflammatory pathways, including those related to allergies; may reduce rise in post-meal blood sugar levels among people with type 2 diabetes; protects food from microbial contamination
Quercetin A phytonutrient found in apples, broccoli, onions and other foods Has been shown to protect the cardiovascular system against inflammatory damage; appears to assist in control of asthma, gout and cataract formation; may speed healing in cases of recurrent heartburn
Resveratrol A phytonutrient found in grapes and wine, along with peanuts and various berries; supplements taken from Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) Has suppressed oxidative stress and inflammation in human studies; cytokine inhibition helps explain resveratrol’s ability to support cardiovascular health; inhibits biological processes related to cancer development
Serrapeptase
An enzyme originally discovered to help silkworms escape their cocoons after metamorphosis Fights abnormal blood clotting, a risk factor for heart attack and stroke; has reduced inflammation in women with breast swelling and pain, and in men with prostate issues; helps ease ear, nose and throat symptoms
SierraSil A multi-mineral composite found in the high Sierra Mountains Helps modulate the inflammatory response, allowing for greater control over the process; reduces the release of inflammatory substances that destroy joint cartilage
Turmeric A spice, Curcuma longa, used in Asian cuisines and traditional medicine practices; curcumin is its most notable phytonutrient Reduces inflammation through several biological pathways; has modulated the inflammatory response associated with arthritis and ulcerative colitis in studies; has shown anti-cancer properties
Zinc An essential trace mineral found in dairy products, meat, nuts, shellfish and other foods; absorption drops as people age
Helps regulate inflammation associated with cardiac risk factors; has altered airway inflammation linked to asthma; promotes healthy immunity, skin and hair, and reproductive function; boosts vitamin A’s effectiveness

NOTE: Always consult with your healthcare practitioner for help in designing a supplementation program, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.

Nutrient/Herb

What It Is Healthful Properties

Boswellia

Resin taken from Boswellia serrata, a tree found from Northern Africa to the mountains of India

A key herb in India’s Ayurvedic medicine, which uses it to fight breathing difficulties, diarrhea, fevers, skin problems and other disorders; has been found to inhibit inflammation-promoting enzymes as well as compounds that stimulate mucus production

Feverfew

Tanacetum parthenium, a small bush native to southeastern Europe with daisy-like flowers

As its name suggests, it has been used in traditional European herbalism to reduce fevers and to treat arthritis, headaches and menstrual problems; used by modern herbalists to help prevent migraines and reduce their intensity

Ginger

The rhizome of Zingiber officinale, popular in Asian and other cuisines

Long used to relieve digestive distress, including that induced by pregnancy; has been found to selectively inhibit the inflammatory compound COX-2, which allows ginger to help relieve arthritis symptoms without the side effects of NSAIDs (drugs that affect both COX-1 and COX-2) such as ibuprofen

MSM

Methylsulfonylmethane, an organic form of sulfur found within all body cells

Fights both inflammation and free radical production; has improved exercise recovery in studies; inhibits pain signals, which makes it useful in treating arthritis (especially in combination with glucosamine and chondroitin); is an essential component of collagen, the protein-based substance that gives skin its flexibility and tone

Omega-3

A class of essential fatty acids found in flax seed, fatty cold-water fish and krill

Increased omega-3 levels have been associated with lower levels of CRP, an inflammatory marker, in studies, and with lower levels of fatty-tissue inflammation, a factor in insulin resistance; krill oil contains an antioxidant called astaxanthin, which helps reduce free-radical damage to cell membranes and other cellular components

Selenium

An essential trace mineral

Deficiency has been linked to increased inflammation in older people; acts to quell free radicals in concert with other nutrients, including vitamins C and E; supports thyroid and immune function, and has demonstrated anti-cancer properties

Vitamin D

A fat-soluble vitamin created in skin exposed to sunlight

Adequate levels help inhibit the inflammatory cascade by reducing levels of IL-6 and TNF-alpha; low levels have been associated with a number of chronic conditions, including lupus, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease; also crucial for proper calcium balance, immune function, insulin secretion, blood pressure regulation and cell differentiation (a key cancer-inhibiting process)

 

 

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