Top 15 anti-inflammatory herbs and spices

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Herbs and spices for inflammation
Herbs and spices for inflammation

Our common enemy is chronic inflammation, we despised it, but it doesn’t have to ruin our lives.

We can fight inflammation by selecting foods from nature that provide the body with anti-inflammatory substances, and dampen the complex pathways associated with inflammation.

Using these and other plant combinations in your diet will surely increase the breadth of your palate, and reduce your disease symptoms.

Herbs are exotic and hard to find, aren’t they?

Most of these herbs can be found loitering in the dark places of every kitchen, just go have a dig around and see what under used anti-inflammatory treasures you can find lurking in the kitchen.
With a little guidance and some diet modification we’ll soon have you fighting inflammation with tasty treats that will help you shed the burden of inflammation.

Why you need to fight inflammation with food

The big problem with inflammation is that it’s linked with almost every disease and illness known. Here is a list of conditions that have a major inflammatory component, there are many more but as you can see they are all serious diseases that need long term care.

  • Asthma
  • Acne
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Chron’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Heart disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and
  • Alzheimer’s disease

All of these diseases start with or have a Chronic inflammation component making it vitally important we’re able to recognise subtle bouts of inflammation and deal with them quickly. Our goal should be to protect ourselves from these possible future problems by Understanding and eliminating the triggers of chronic inflammation.

Bad foods like cakes and processed foods can trigger inflammation, but on the other side of the equation we have the healing foods that never make it to our tables.

How you can avoid inflammation with food

Avoiding trigger foods or stressful situations is a simple and easy way to cut inflammation before it starts. The idea is that we don’t need to remove the inflammation that we don’t create.
We can even go one step further by living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. This means including foods, and plant substances, in our diets that we know have inflammation fighting capabilities.

Taking these steps could lead to a decrease in  your current levels of inflammation or stop an attack of inflammation before it starts.

A diet as old as the Earth

I would love to say that we are the new pioneers of this exciting new approach to inflammation, but unfortunately the opposite is true.
We are the masters of creating inflammation!

Our forebears where the masters of living the anti-inflammatory lifestyle because almost every food they ate was anti-inflammatory, or nutritionally supportive in ways that prevented disease.

Our western diets have come far from our original natural path, and we’re suffering with disease as a result.
I always think it’s interesting to look at the word diet and realize that the first three words spell the word die!

The word diet comes from the latin dieata which means “way of living prescribed by a physician.”  Food was always considered, and used, as medicine in those times with physicians dispensing foods and food based remedies for all kinds of maladies.
We can, and should be, our own good food physician and take the responsibility needed to ensure we live healthy, happy lives.

No one is going to do that for us.

By making positive food based alterations to our lifestyle we can avoid most of the conditions on the list above before they get the chance to take hold.

Supplementing with anti-inflammatory herbs, and removing inflammatory foods like gluten, meat, eggs, dairy, refined sugar and processed fats, will have immediate impact on your health, you’ll feel healthier and lighter, experience less pain, have more energy, and improve your moods.
Please follow the slide show to learn about my top 15 anti-inflammatory foods and enjoy adding them to your daily regimen.

And remember that this is not a definitive list of “best herbs and spices.” My aim is to give you a list of foods that complement your existing diet and slowly introduce you to new and exciting tastes.

Some of my favourite herbs don’t make the list and they are also some of the most powerful ones! Tarmarind for example is insanely powerful but I’m saving that information for another post and some delicious smoothies I’d love you to try. Perhaps I’ll add  it to this list later?

Enjoy my list of arthritis fighting foods.

Arugula

aragula
Arugula

ORAC units value: 1,904 μ mol TE/100g.

Ok, I admit arugula isn’t the worlds most anti-inflammatory food in the world. This herb makes the list because I wanted to start off with a versatile food you can eat daily and explain why I think it’s so valuable.

Salads are something we should eat every day without fail. Juicing and smoothie making are great but they can lack the required fibre needed to keep our digestion moving.

Arugula is good because it’s a slightly more potent salad herb than regular salad leaves, and the taste isn’t unpleasant, although it may not be to everyone’s liking.  and gives us that extra fibre required to keep the gut healthy.   Having a good nutritional grounding is key to avoiding inflammation so add some arugula from time to time to avoid problems with leaky gut and keep things squeaky clean.

How do I use arugula?

Every so often, amazing recipes come along  and make you wonder how people came up with such tasty combinations. Here’s an unusual combination I think you might like.

Arugula, Watermelon and Feta Salad blows my mind, my taste buds and my inflammation away by imaginatively combining anti-inflammatory watermelon with arugula. If this isn’t a sure fire winner for a late snack before bed then I don’t know what is? Surely this is the perfect late night snack for dampening inflammation, although ideally we shouldn’t be eating after 6 pm.  Give this light salad a try, and by morning you should feel relaxed and well rested. Sweet dreams!

Allspice

allspice
Allspice

ORAC unit value : 290,283 μ mol TE/100g.

Allspice has long been known for its disease fighting activities, including being used as an anesthetic, analgesic, antiseptic, carminative, bactericidal, fungicidal, and antioxidant.

Our favourite carribbean flavouring ingredient is used heavily in the manufacture of the Chartreuse and Benedictine liquers, and has been shown to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain in rats.
Taking allspice can also lead to an increase gastric mucosa in the stomach lining, which could help with auto immune conditions caused by leaky gut syndrome.

How do I use allspice?

Pete and I adore eating oily fish and this allspice inspired recipe by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall really goes down a treat. Look at all those lovely herbs and spices in this sardine recipe, and think of all that lovely calcium in the sardine bones. Thanks Hugh!

Basil

basil
Basil

ORAC unit value: 61,063 μ mol TE/100g.

The god people of India have known about the anti-inflammatory effects of basil for centuries, and yet only now are the pathways and mechanisms of this action being uncovered by science.

One study on human blood cells taken from healthy individuals showed that basil down regulates pro inflammatory cytokines and other inflammatory markers, including Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), Interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and IL-2. Furthermore, basil extract was found to suppress inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS,) and production of nitric oxide (NO) [bctt tweet=”Ocimum basilicum crude methanolic extract inhibits proinflammatory cytokines and mediators”]

A further study, perfomed on rats, compared the effects of basil leaf tincture and diclofenac on the proliferation of inflammation. Results went on to show the basil leaf tincture was better at reducing  leukocyte and monocyte count than diclofenac, but not other key inflammatory markers.

The study lead to conclude  “the tested Ocimum basilicum tincture has important anti-inflammatory effects on bone marrow acute phase response and a reduced one on NO synthesis.”

Another study concluded that  basil “may be a useful anti-inflammatory agent which block both cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase pathways of arachidonic acid metabolism.”

I think it’s pretty safe to say that basil has an anti-inflammatory effect.

How do I use basil?

Here at Acme we know herbs don’t have to be bland and overpowering?  We think it’s unfortunate that many people have no idea that herbs go so well together with fruit, if that sounds strange think sweet and sour and you’ll be on the right track.
Try this super tasty fruit recipe next time you have some basil in the kitchen and I’m sure you’ll be delighted with the results.

Cilantro

cilantro
Cilantro

ORAC units value: 5,141 μ mol TE/100g.

Packed with phytonutrients, flavonoids, and active phenolic compounds, cilantro, who’s seeds are known as coriander, has long been used by ancient cultures to help with digestive disorders.

Recent scientific studies have shown that cilantro possess anti-arthritic and anti-rheumatic properties because it contains cineole and linoleic acid.

How do I use Cliantro?

Cilantro is one of those herbs that you love or hate and that makes it hard to find a good home for in the kitchen.  Usually I’ll throw it into a juice for good measure because I no longer eat meat and don’t want to get out of the habit of using and cultivating cilantro. Try this chicken recipe if you eat meat, it looks delicious, and cilantro really needs meat in it’s life to be a success.

Cinnamon

cinnamon
Cinnamon

ORAC units value: 131,420 μ mol TE/100g.

Cinnamon is loaded with anti oxidants that give it a powerful anti-inflammatory effect.

The good stuff doesn’t stop there! Cinnamon also contains a substance called Cinnamaldehyde.  This organic compound gives cinnamon it’s characteristic smell and taste, but it’s not just tasty! It inhibits NF-kappaB, normalizes cell death responses, and prevents the clumping of blood platelets. All this adds up to a reduction in diseases like, heart disease, and the other diseases of inflammation mentioned in the list above.

How do I use cinnamon?

Yummy yummy Cinnamon, Oh how I love thee! Yes, you guessed it cinnamon is one of my very favourite herbs. I use it daily in smoothies, adore it in cakes, and sweets, but just lately I’ve been so into the whole preserving and kilner jar deal that my explorations lead me to this sweet taste sensation Basil-Cinnamon Peaches  WOW!

Cloves

cloves
Cloves

ORAC units value: 290,283 μ mol TE/100g.

The volatile oils contained in cloves contain an anti-inflammatory substance called Eugenol.  Cloves also contain the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant flavonoids  kaempferol and rhamnetin.

 The Journal of Ethnopharmacology reported “eugenol inhibits 5-LO by non-competitive mechanism and also inhibits formation of LTC4 in human PMNL cells”

How do I use cloves?

Cloves compliment many foods but when you add them to carrots they really give an extra dimension to a food that can get a bit tedious. Ooops sorry carrots. …. I actually love carrots and wouldn’t be without them so keeping them exciting with new original flavours is a real bonus. We chose this carrot and clove recipe because it’s easy to make, keeps carrots interesting, and gives us the benefits of cloves anti inflammatory power.

 Dill

dill
Dill

 ORAC unit value: 4,392 μ mol TE/100g.

Dill has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that both help to reduce inflammation.

Monoterpene’s in dill have an affinity to oxidized molecules in the body. These antioxidant helpers stick to oxidized molecules and prevent them damaging tissues inside the body.

These amazing results were first reported by the Tehran University of Medical Sciences and confirmed two years later by the “Journal of Food Science”.  The results concluded that the antioxidant activity of dill is comparable to alpha-tocopherol, ascorbic acid, and quercetin.

How do I use dill?

What a shame more of us don’t use dill in the kitchen. Dill tastes great and is surprisingly versatile. Check out this cheerful grilled carrots with lemon and dill recipe.

I love using dill and lemon together for many dishes and this ones a real beauty. However, I usually use this as a side dish and prefer to roast my carrots first and grill them to finish. Using them this way is more versatile in my opinion because they can be added to many dishes and salads, and I prefer carrots to be cooked all the way through. A very nice summer snack all the same.

Fenugreek

fenugreek
Fenugreek

ORAC units value: 17,840

Carrying a rich abundance of the vitamins, thiamine, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins A, B6, and C is the main reason fenugreek makes my list… And because I love using it.
Also included in fenugreek’s nutrient rich soup is an array of minerals such as copper, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, manganese, and magnesium……Now I think you’re starting to see why I like fenugreek.

Eating a wide variety of foods to help us obtain full nutritional support, especially herbs and spices, is critical in our fight against inflammatory arthritis.

One very difficult to get nutrient is the elusive vitamin K, and fortunately fenugreek is a rich source of bone building vitamin K! That’s why I really like it.
No ones ever going to get really excited about the plain old nutritional value of fenugreek, but I felt I wanted to make the point that food doesn’t always have to have some magic ingredient to be supportive, and thus anti inflammatory.
We don’t need to get obsessed about this ingredient or that chemical? Yes, exotic chemicals are all good, and I love them as much as the next person, but sometimes you just need good old fashioned food that combines well with other valuable anti inflammatory foods.

The takeaway from this message is that variety, and the food synergies it provides, is better than obsessing about any one particular nutrient. Good research and a good well balanced, local, seasonal diet with all the extras added is where it’s at, and I hope the dish below reflects that philosophy.

How do I use fenugreek?

The Tate household understands the immune boosting properties of mushrooms so we try to eat them as often as possible. Combining fenugreek and mushrooms in a curry really let’s you go to town on the other herbs and spices you can cram into the dish!

Is there a better way to eat fenugreek than in this fenugreek methi mushroom recipe? If you find one please shoot me a message or add your thoughts in the comments below.

Ginger

ginger
Ginger

 ORAC units value: 14,840 μ mol TE/100g.

Aromatic, pungent and spicy, ginger is more than just a uniquely wonderful flavor.
Ginger contains an anti-inflammatory compound called gingerol that has long been helping arthritics overcome inflammation.

This important arthritis inflammation fighter was found to inhibit the production of nitric oxide, a pathway critical in controlling rheumatoid arthritis inflammation.

Another key to gingers anti-inflammatory powers is its high concentration of anti oxidants. The main one being a free radical scavenging phenolic compound 6-gingerol.

Ginger is probably the most anti-inflammatory food in this list, maybe in nature too? Suffice to say that we could talk about ginger for ever but there is insufficient room in this blog to do so. Documenting the disease fighting capabilities of ginger would literally take a lifetime.

How do I use ginger?

Teas, soups, tonics, curries you name it and you can usually find a ginger recipe for it.

Ginger is the king of anti-inflammatory food and I use it at least twice daily without fail. Morning and bedtime tonics with honey, spices and apple cider vinegar are a constant fixture of my diet, but I also use ginger with celery seeds and other inflammation fighting tea ingredients.

Using ginger in that is amazing, but I think it’s time we perked things up and shared one of my favourite sweet paleo ginger recipes.  Coconut Flour Ginger Cake Cookies are easy to make, tasty, and you can easily change the ingredients around. Substitute maple syrup for honey and add lemon zest for a real taste explosion. Yummy!

 Spearmint

mint
Mint

ORAC unit value: 13,978 μ mol TE/100g.

Spearmint is so much more than a tasty mouth freshener, it’s also a wonderfully powerful cooking ingredient and anti-inflammatory.

The anti-inflammatory power comes from rosmarinic acids. but choose your mint variety carefully. The variety Mentha spicata contains twenty times the amount of rosmarinic acid and is the one to go for.
Mint tea is a great way to freshen breath, fight inflammation and extract the anti-inflammatory compounds that fight arthritis. Give it a try before bed and add some ginger to relieve rheumatic pain. make sure you give the tea a good 30 minutes to brew and you should wake feeling much improved.

Studies on Spearmint oil in China found that a “dosage of 100 mg*kg(-1) significantly reduced leucocyte numbers in BALF, and attenuated bronchiolitis, pulmonary interstitial inflammation and inflammation cell infiltration.”

The study then went on to say:

“Spearmint oil 30-300 mg*kg(-1)decreased the destruction of pulmonary alveolus and the thickness of bronchioles walls, and inhibited goblet cell proliferation. Spearmint oil significantly reduced MDA in lung homogenate, and decreased the expression of Nrf2 protein in lung tissues.”

How do I use Spearmint?

Spearmint goes great in chocolate smoothies, so we won’t go there for the recipe.
I mean doesn’t everyone love mint chocolate?

For our minty inflammation fighting recipe were going for another highly spiced beet dish. Roasted beets are incredibly sweet and tasty and will instantly convert you if you’re not already a beet head.

Just like the chocolate and mint combination must have felt to its discoverer way back in the day, most people think beets are bland and uninteresting? My love for beets is strong and I hope I can infect you with it with this Roasted Beets with Cumin, Lime, and Mint recipe.

Oregano

oregano
Oregano

Dried oregano ORAC value: 175,295 μ mol TE/100g.

Rosmarinic acid, oleanolic acid, and ursolic acid are the main anti-inflammatory compounds in oregano.  It is also rich in carvacrol, flavonoids, and terpenes all of which have anti-inflammatory properties and significant health benefits for a number of diseases.
Cooking with dried oregano is great for fighting inflammation, drying increases the antioxidant value, but the real benefits for arthritis come from oregano oil.
The oil extraction of oregano can be used topically or internally and it’s that versatility, along with its staggering power that  makes it idea for treating arthritis.

Researchers in Zurich discovered an active compound called, beta-caryophyllin or E-BCP, contained in oregano oil, is highly anti-inflammatory. The researchers found E-BCP reduced inflammation, in seven out of ten inflammation induced cases in mice.

Interestingly, E-BCP is also found in some of the other spices mentioned in this post, including basil, rosemary, and cinnamon. E-BCP connects with receptors in the cell membrane called the cannabinoid CB2 receptor. This action promotes positive changes in cell behaviour.
The researchers went on to say that E-BCP could possibly form the basis for new drugs that may control chronic inflammatory conditions like osteoporosis and Crohn’s disease.

How do I use oregano?

Juices are a perfect fit for oregano, especially any juice that contains orange. The chilled cucumber and orange juice with oregano combination from epicurious.com is a scrummy, hydrating arthritis juice that’s easy to make and costs pennies. Forget the inflammation causing tomato we usually associate with oregano and try this refreshing, skin hydrating, anti-inflammatory juice instead.

Parsley

parsley
Parsley

ORAC unit value: 73,670 μ mol TE/100g.

Parsley contains a volatile oil called eugenol.  This substance has been shown in studies to be strongly anti-inflammatory due to it’s ability to lower  levels of cytokines (tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interferon (IFN)-γ and tumor growth factor in rats.

This discovery lead the researches to claim that “[bctt tweet=”Eugenol ameliorates experimental arthritis and could be useful as a beneficial supplement in treating human arthritis.”]

Half a cup of parsley also contains around 54% of your RDA of vitamin C! Vitamin C is a powerful disease fighting anti-inflammatory agent and helps provide relief from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

How do I use parsley?

Parsley is another tricky one to cook with, it goes really well in quiches and meat dishes. Personally I stay away from most of those dishes and usually add parsley to smoothies.

I love the way This parsley smoothie  blends pear and mango with parsley.  Someone was inspired when they came up with this smoothie.

Rosemary

rosemary
rosemary

ORAC units value: 165,280 μ mol TE/100g.

Surprisingly enough, our old friend rosmarinic acid makes a return with rosemary. The clue is in the name!

As we have mentioned before in this article, Rosmarinic acid is a phytochemical contained in many herbs. A 2003 study taken from the “Journal of Rheumatology” reported that rosmarinic acid has the ability to inhibit the progression of arthritis in mice. The scientists in that study went on to speculate that Rosmarinic acid may be useful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

How do I use rosemary?

Rosemary and tomatoes is a match made in heaven! Unfortunately, tomatoes live in arthritis hell (nightshade)  so I can’t eat them, and maybe you shouldn’t either. Such a shame, but here’s a wonderfully quick and easy way to get your rosemary on, and snack on delicious sweet beetroot at the same time.

Ok, Beetroot and rosemary chips  aren’t quite rosemary and tomatoes, but this dish is an amazingly healthy snack for when you’re being extra good. Well done you!

Sage

sage
Sage

ORAC units value: 32,004 μ mol TE/100g.

Urosolic acid has been revealed as the substance behind the anti-inflammatory powers of sage. One study has shown extract of sage leaf to be twice as potent as indomethacin in treating inflammation.

“The anti-inflammatory effect of ursolic acid (ID50=0.14 μMoles/cm2) was two fold more potent than that of indomethacin”

 How do I use sage?

Sage brings me back to those carefree but naive days when I thought I could eat anything. Sausages, meats, potatoes and all that good stuff. Those kinds of foods gave me a life long love of sage, so I’m not going to stop eating it now!

This sage recipe perks up broccoli in a wonderfully aromatic way and I would encourage you to try it. I eat broccoli on most days and find this recipe keeps me interested in what can become a less than interesting food. Give it a try next time you’re preparing broccoli.

Turmeric

turmeric
Turmeric

ORAC units value: 127,068 μ mol TE/100g.

Ayurvedic medicine has used turmeric to reduce inflammation and rheumatic conditions for centuries and now studies are proving these observations to be well founded.

The Arizona Center for Phytomedicine Research, found that three major curcuminoids found in turmeric were effective in preventing joint inflammation. However, this protective effect was only observed if treatment commenced before the onset of joint inflammation.

Please don’t get downhearted the evidence for the anti-inflammatory power of turmeric are absolutely everywhere. Here are some quotes from the numerous studies I found supporting this claim.

[bctt tweet=”Curcumin strongly inhibited collagenase and stromelysin expression at micromolar concentrations.”]

“Curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric, has been reported to alter the nuclear factor (NF) kappaB transcription activity, inhibit prostaglandin E2 production and COX-2 expression, making it an efficient anti-infl ammatory.”

“A turmeric fraction depleted of essential oils profoundly inhibited joint inflammation and periarticular joint destruction in a dose-dependent manner. In vivo treatment prevented local activation of NF-κB and the subsequent expression of NF-κB–regulated genes mediating joint inflammation and destruction, including chemokines, cyclooxygenase 2, and RANKL. Consistent with these findings, inflammatory cell influx, joint levels of prostaglandin E2, and periarticular osteoclast formation were inhibited by turmeric extract treatment.”

“These results indicate that curcumin has nutritional potential as a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agent for treating OA through suppression of NF-kappaB mediated IL-1beta/TNF-alpha catabolic signalling pathways in chondrocytes.”

I reckon that puts the power of turmeric in no doubt.

How do I use turmeric?

Turmeric is super easy to use and can be used in all kinds of Indian dishes like curries.
All the same, I like to use a pinch nearly in every smoothie I make!

My favourite way to use turmeric is in a pre bedtime tonic containing  apple cider vinegar, lemon, honey, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and ground black pepper for its piperine content.

Here is a similar recipe that’s a powerful arthritis fighter. I love the way this turmeric recipe has a tincture feel to it, and the fact that it’s so versatile, stores long term, and can be added to green smoothies if the dreaded inflammation returns.

Conclusion

Never before have we been under such attack from toxicity, disease, stress and inflammation. Making the correct dietary choices is vital if we’re going to survive this constant onslaught, and in herbs we have the perfect companion to face this onslaught.
Choosing the most powerful herbs on the planet is now a must for all people who want to stay healthy, not just the sick and vulnerable. The best part is that most of these plants grow in terrible conditions and can be grown in pots on window sills for free!

If this list doesn’t persuade you that herbs are the way forward, perhaps this bible phrase might make you think a little more deeply on the healing power of herbs.

 Genesis 1:29 – And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which [is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [is] the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

Enjoy your herbs, they belong to you!

Sources

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1076/phbi.40.3.200.5829

https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jhs/53/4/53_4_500/_article

http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tiperciuc_Brindusa2/publication/232279165_EFFECTS_OF_OCIMUM_BASILICUM_L._EXTRACT_ON_EXPERIMENTALACUTE_INFLAMMATION/links/09e415081077ab7603000000.pdf

http://nopr.niscair.res.in/handle/123456789/19004

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17291458

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16807698

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/art.22180/full

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17291458

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18705008

USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2 – Prepared by Nutrient Data Laboratory, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – May 2010

 

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