Inflammation is your body's natural response to an injury, pathogen or irritant. Chronic inflammation occurs when something engages your immune system and inhibits your body's ability to shut this response off. The result often manifests in diseases, such as arthritis or bronchitis. When your immune system is constantly on guard, your healthy tissues become compromised, and cells could mutate into cancer or cause an artery to rupture. Nature, however, has supplied herbs that can help battle this debilitating condition.
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Frankincense (Boswellia serrata)
The aromatic resin of the boswellia tree has a profound impact on inflammation. As a primary constituent, boswellic acids in boswellia have been shown to inhibit inflammatory mediators. In a randomized, double-blind clinical trial, a 30-percent standardized acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) extract (5-Loxin) showed that boswellia reduced pain and improved physical functioning in people with osteoarthritis. The recommended dose is 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams two to three times per day. Use a standardized extract that contains 60 to 65 percent boswellic acids. Most health-food and supplement stores carry 5-Loxin extract.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric is a spicy powder derived from grinding the dried rhizome of the Curcuma longa herb. Part of the ginger family, this herb has often spiced foods and treated wounds, tumors and inflammation. Today, it serves as a popular remedy used in ayurvedic medicine. It adds its bright orange color to foods and a peppery flavor that has a delightful tang. The recommended dose is 1,200 milligrams per day. As a treat, combine just 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric with ginger tea and 1 ounce of frozen orange juice concentrate for an effective, tasty anti-inflammatory tea.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger contains many powerful constituents that inhibit the inflammatory response and is one of the most widely prescribed herbs in ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for controlling inflammation. Because of its innate ability to warm the body and increase circulation, it often provides comfort to those with aching joints during cold weather. The recommended dose is 500 milligrams two to four times daily.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
The Arabs call this herb "the father of all foods." Alfalfa leaves are rich in minerals and provide a good source of chlorophyll, a substance known for treating inflammatory diseases. In a study at the National Institute of Animal Sciences, chloroform extracted from the aerial parts of alfalfa demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity when fed to rats. Try adding this pleasant-tasting herb to soups and stews or enjoying it as a tea throughout the day.
Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica)
Stinging nettles are known as a spring tonic, due to their ability to remove toxins through the kidneys. Some believe that stinging nettles, though painful to touch, reduce the levels of inflammatory chemicals in the body and interfere with how the body transmits pain to the brain. Try making a strong tea from the leaves and stems and then applying the liquid topically to reduce pain. Cooked stinging nettles taste like spinach and add flavor to soups and stews. The recommended oral dose is 600 milligrams of nettle leaf, taken two to three times a day. This herb is prominent in North American and most of Northern Europe, where it's easily harvested.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)
Bilberry, closely related to the North American blueberry, contains a medicinal pigment known as anthocyanin. The herb's popular in Europe and North America for treating inflammation. Studies at the University Hospital of Zurich have been performed on lab mice to test the effectiveness of this herb in treating inflamed bowels. The effects were positive, prompting further study of anthocyanin for treating other inflammatory diseases. The recommended dose is 160 milligrams two to three times per day.
Most health-food and supplement stores sell herbs, and many more are available online. Purchase herbs from a reputable source, such as an herbalist or an apothecary.
When taken in moderation, most herbs are safe, but some have undesirable results when interacting with certain medications. If you're taking any kind of medication or are pregnant, don't take herbs without first consulting your doctor.