Inflammation has long been a regular companion of mine from the time I was a teenager. As a teen, I suffered from regular severe seasonal allergies, intestinal and menstrual cramping, brain fog, and other ailments that are a result of chronic inflammation. But first, inflammation should be defined. It is the body’s response to infection and injury in an attempt to heal. It has 5 main signs: heat, pain, redness, swelling and loss of function. It means the body is trying to fight off something. So if inflammation is part of a normal and healthy immune system that uses it to fight infection, heal and repair, then how can it be a bad thing?
Sometimes the body responds to something harmless (such as pollen) as though it were an invader, as in the case of allergies. Sometimes there is a chronic injury that can never quite heal because it keeps getting re-injured, as in the case of many intestinal issues where the intestinal wall keeps getting tiny tears because of irritating foods. Sometimes the body can no longer distinguish self from non-self and it attacks the joints, muscles, or organs as if they were foreign invaders and there is chronic inflammation. I am mostly going to talk about these abnormal immune responses, and about herbs for inflammation that is chronic.
Reduce inflammation triggers
The first thing that needs to be addressed is getting rid of as many triggers as you can. At the age of 23, after about 10 years of suffering, I had an allergy test done that revealed that I not only had seasonal allergies, but numerous food allergies as well. I eliminated these foods from my diet and stopped eating the processed, nutrient depleted food that I had grown up on. After a week or so of my body going through detoxification, I felt absolutely great and I didn’t experience seasonal allergies anymore. In fact, I have never needed allergy medication again. But, I didn’t just have seasonal allergies. I also suffered inflammation from environmental toxins such as household cleaners and fumes (and I still do). My face gets puffy, my nose and eyes itch, sometimes my throat itches, and my skin itches and at times breaks out in hives. I have needed to get rid of these triggers too. Testing revealed that I also had leaky gut syndrome, which means that my intestinal wall was damaged and allowing food particles into my bloodstream. These were causing my immune system to be out of control. Foods that can damage the wall of the gut are foods that are hard to digest, such as grains and legumes. There are also other foods that can promote inflammation in people who are sensitive to them. These foods include tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Other triggers that can cause inflammation include certain medications, chronic infections (such as candida or small intestine bacterial overgrowth — SIBO) and stress.
After eliminating the triggers, I experienced far less inflammation. But there are triggers beyond my control, and from time to time I have used herbs for inflammation as well as certain other supplements. There are several herbs that have been helpful, and I will list them here. Interestingly, many of them are spicy, warming herbs that are commonly used in cooking, although the amount needed to get the medicinal effects is more than what is used in a typical dish. Including them regularly in your cooking wouldn’t hurt though.
Turmeric: much like boswellia below, this spice has been found to inhibit the enzymes that cause inflammation.
White Willow bark: this herb has often been called nature’s aspirin, since it contains salicylic acid, the same compound that is the active ingredient in aspirin.
Boswellia: this herb has been found to bind to the enzymes that cause inflammation, leaving them inactive.
Cayenne pepper: this spice blocks the formation of the enzymes that cause inflammation as well, and it tends to even out blood flow so it isn’t pooling in any area of the body. Black pepper acts similarly.
Ginger: ginger tea has many benefits, one of which includes being an effective remedy for inflammation. It has been shown to be as effective as aspirin, much like willow bark. Plus, it tastes good. Who wouldn’t want to drink a nice cup of ginger tea?
Arnica: arnica has long been used for muscle aches and pains from exercise or overuse, but it is effective for everyday aches and pains due to arthritis or other inflammatory conditions. I have used it on my shoulders and back when my fibromyalgia flares up.
Green Tea: I regularly drink this, not just because it is anti-inflammatory, but because it has anti-oxidant properties as well. I like to combine it with ginger for a great healthy drink. Yum.
Quercitin: this is not an herb, but an anti-oxidant that prevents immune cells from releasing histamines, those compounds that trigger inflammation. I have used this supplement primarily for allergic reactions, but it is also useful for other types of inflammation.
Using these herbs has been a great help to me when reducing triggers isn’t enough. Sit back, enjoy a nice cup of ginger green tea while a loved one rubs some arnica and cayenne oil on your inflamed muscles and joints. Sounds lovely. And to really make this enjoyable, don’t forget the 85% dark chocolate. Chocolate is anti-inflammatory too.
If you have any questions or anything you’d like to share, please use the comments section below.