Last updated on August 13th, 2022 at 05:38 pm
Reduce chronic inflammation and feel great with these amazing anti-inflammatory herbs and spices for a strong and healthy body! These wonderful healing plants will help provide flavor to your favorite meals and will supply your body with beneficial anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phytochemicals. If you’re wanting to reduce inflammation and starting an anti-inflammatory diet, make sure to enjoy some of these tasty healing herbs and spices that can help to reduce pain, decrease chronic inflammation and improve your health.
Nature Is The Best
Before we had modern medicine and big pharmaceutical companies, people used to heal themselves using natural medicinal plants for thousands of years. These plants were effective, had few side effects and were pretty cheap.
I’m actually amazed how little most of us even know about the natural world we were born in. We believe we know everything because we have the access to so much information. Yet, let the average 20- or 30-year-old spend a weekend in a village without running water or a grocery store, they probably won’t know what to drink or eat. Let alone heal themselves if they get sick…And I say this, because I’m (still) one of them.
Yes, most of us know how to recognize garlic, zucchini and broccoli. But when it comes to herbs or mushrooms, we’re pretty lost. And it’s a risky little game to play out there. You make one mistake – you’re gone forever as my 5-year old nephew would say.
Herbs and Spices Were More Valuable Than Gold
We know, health is wealth. But did you know that cinnamon was more valuable than gold in ancient Egypt? Yes, it was. And at some point in history, for quite a while actually, pepper was a currency that you can buy things with. Another plant that was more valuable than silver and gold came from the Mediterranean area and was named silphion. In ancient times, silphion was used as a seasoning, perfume, aphrodisiac, and medicine. Unfortunately, this plant is extinct for a while now due to overexploitation.
There are many examples in history that show us the value and importance of herbs and spices for health and life. They weren’t things you can just print like money nowadays. Currency had actual meaning in the real world too. As in, you could use it in everyday life and buy things with it on top. People back then knew the potential and the medicinal value of herbs and spices. They were so valuable, that many men went around the world looking for them.
And we’ve got to ask: If something has been this valuable and has worked for thousands of years, wouldn’t it work now?
Of course, it will. As humans, we haven’t evolved that much biologically. We need to make space for these plants in our diets and our lives and we need to learn more about them again.
Btw. I got some of the information above from a chapter of a book I got from the library a while ago and it actually amazed me. You can find the summary of the chapter here.
Inflammation Is Necessary, But We’ve Got A Problem
The most important thing we need to know about inflammation is that it is completely normal, natural and very necessary reaction of your immune system to protect your body from pathogens, injury and harm in general. It is the very reason we can recover from infections, injuries and chronic disease, because it helps to destroy the old and bad tissue/cells and to create new tissue/cells.
The point when inflammation becomes harmful is when it’s chronic. It won’t be severe, you might not even notice you have it. But when this low-grade chronic inflammation is there, all the might of your powerful immune system turns agaist your own cells, your own body, your own tissues. While you don’t feel sick at all, over time chronic inflammation can lead to tissue destruction and chronic disease such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, other neurodegenerative, autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases.
What’s pretty scary is the fact that in recent years inflammatory and autoimmune conditions are becoming more and more common. Younger and younger people are affected.
Could it be the food we eat? The polluted air we breathe? Could it be the plastic we use to wrap our vegetables, all of our food? The lifesaving devices attached to our bodies 24/7 aka smartphones? The fact that we’re more obese than ever (and actually cheering it on)? Or the chronic stress we go through because we live a life of consumption and chronic comparison? Could it be the lack of sleep? Or an infection that hasn’t been treated completely?
Yes, it could be any and all of these things. It is ridiculous to blame diet alone, because our human lives have changed so much during the last, well, even just 40 years. Whatever the reason, it’s good to know that we can do something about it. And yes, herbs and spices are just one piece of the puzzle, but it’s a good piece to start with.
Reasons To Eat More Herbs And Spices
Herbs and spices are naturally rich in polyphenols – small molecules that have powerful health benefits. These compounds can improve the condition of every system in your body – whether cardiovascular, digestive, immune or nervous…But herbs and spices and their polyphenols can do even more, they:
- have anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-diabetic and hepatoprotective properties
- can help to preserve foods like meat or fish for longer
- are often used as flavoring agents and natural antioxidants in the food and pharmaceutical industry
- have low toxicity in comparison to pharmaceuticals
- prevent the formation of several carcinogens during the preparation of meat
- can help improve the bioavailability of vitamins and minerals from other foods like grains or legumes
- add so much flavor and deliciousness to your diet
8 Anti-Inflammatory Herbs And Spices For A Strong Body
Here, we’re going to focus on the herbs and spices we all know. Ginger and turmeric are not going to be on the list, because the motto is: let’s learn something new (although these two are great and you can find more about their anti-inflammatory benefits here!). The following anti-inflammatory herbs and spices have been used for the treatment of different health conditions for thousands of years. And research is finally catching up. So if you suffer from chronic inflammation and inflammatory disease, adding these anti-inflammatory spices and herbs to your meals on a daily basis might have a great impact on your health.
Please note, that even though rare, isolates from these plants can be harmful at higher doses. Please consult a medical professional if you intend to use these plants as supplements. The way I try to incorporate them into my life is through diet by adding them to my daily meals and I also try to keep an overall anti-inflammatory diet by eating more berries, vegetables, fish, legumes and omega-3-rich seeds.
Nigella sativa, also known as black cumin or black seed is a very effective healing plant that is native to Southern Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia. Traditionally used as spice and food additive, the plant is cultivated and widely used in traditional medicine in many countries around the world to treat health conditions of the respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive and immune systems as well as to improve kidney and liver function. Among others, the black seeds have been used for asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism and other inflammatory diseases. In Islamic culture, nigella is considered to be one of the greatest forms of healing medicine, as it is mentioned in Prophetic Hadith, as the remedy for all diseases except death. It is also one of the most powerful evidence-based herbal medicines.(source)
Research suggests that most of the healing properties of black cumin come from a bioactive component called thymoquinone. Nigella seeds have been demonstrated to exert antibacterial (e.g. against H. pylori), anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer, hepatoprotective, anti-hypertensive and anti-diabetic activities among many others. (source)
Nigella oil and thymoquinone (the bioactive compound in nigella) have also been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Supplementation is associated with faster recovery in mild infection (source) possibly due to black cumin’s bronchodilatory effects as well as antiviral, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties. (source)
How To Use Nigella For A More Anti-Inflammatory Diet
To add nigella to your daily diet, simply sprinkle some seeds over salads, wraps or power bowls. It’s a really great addition to most Mediterranean diet meals. It is a flavor you might need to get used to, but when you adjust, you’ll start really enjoying it.
Rosemary is a popular herb that has been used in folk medicine for its anti-rheumatic, diuretic, anti-convulsant, pain and spasm-reducing properties. And I guess, to the surprise of nobody, folk medicine was on the right track because research has now uncovered even more healing superpowers of rosemary. It’s been especially useful in the battle against diabetes and metabolic syndrome as the herb can help with hypertension, hyperglycemia, high cholesterol and even diabetic wounds. (source) Diabetes and metabolic syndrome, in general, are linked to high oxidative stress and increased chronic inflammation. Therefore if you have any of these conditions, increase your antioxidant intake by consuming more fresh vegetebles and fruits (especially greens and berries) and adding some herbs and spices to your daily diet.
Studies further show rosemary and its main healing constituents – carnosic acid, rosmarinic acid ursolic acid – have great antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and hepatoprotective potential. (source)
How To Use Rosemary For A More Anti-Inflammatory Diet
A great way to add rosemary to your meals is dried or fresh with meats, rice or mushrooms. When consumed with meats, rosemary can even help prevent the formation of harmful heterocyclic amines that build up when meat is cooked. These heterocyclic amines can potentially cause cancer, therefore it’s a great idea to marinate or cook your meat with herbs like rosemary, basil, mint or oregano.
Oregano is more than that little bit of flavor in your pizza sauce. It’s a popular Mediterranean herb and has been traditionally used to treat respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis as well gastrointestinal complaints alike diarrhea, indigestion and stomach ache. Traditional and modern medicine also suggests oregano has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgestic and anti-diabetic properties. (source)
Research suggests that extracts of oregano can be beneficial in autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, inflammatory conditions like acne vulgaris and for gastrointestinal health due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Oregano, like many spices, is also often used in the food industry as a natural food preservative to prevent food from spoiling and to extend shelf life.
How To Enjoy Oregano And Its Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
You can use oregano fresh or dried in your favorite Mediterranean, tomato-based or mushroom-based dishes like for example in this anti-inflammatory ground turkey soup.
I first heard of and tasted cardamom in my twenties. It is a very unique fresh sweet tasting spice and is used for cooking in countries all over the world including India, Malaysia, Norway, Sweden, the Middle East.
Research suggests cardamom extracts can offer protection against DNA-damage and oxidative stress. Further it has been shown to downregulate pro-inflammatory cytokines like COX-2, IL-6 and TNF-α, thus showing anti-inflammatory effects. (source)
How To Enjoy Cardamom And Its Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Cardamom is part of spice mixes such as the Indian masala or Thai curry pastes. You can enjoy cardamom regularly in its many varieties as tea (like the Indian Masala chai), for baking or in sweet dishes as well as savory dishes like curries.
Thyme is a culinary herb used all over the world. Due to its beautiful aroma and anti-septic effects this herb and its oils are often applied in the food and cosmetic industry. In ancient Egypt, thyme was also a part of the mixtures used to preserve mummies. (source)
Thyme has been used in traditional medicine to treat cough and other respiratory conditions, as well as garstrointestinal and skin disorders.
Recent studies suggest thyme has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antioxidant effects. (source). The main consituents responsible for thyme’s health benefits are thymol and carvacol. Carvacol is suggested to improve recovery from brain injuries. This substance is used as a food additive and is found in oregano and savory as well. (source)
How To Enjoy Thyme To Reduce Inflammation
You can make thyme a part of your diet by drinking thyme tea or adding fresh or dried thyme to savory dishes with meat, grains and mushrooms.
Now we’re talking. Basil is probably my favorite herb out there, one that I use almost as often as parsley. Luckily this delicious plant is super beneficial for your health – it’s a powerful antioxidant and has anti-aging potential as well. Who knew aging in reverse was actually a thing!
Rich in healing polyphenols and flavonoids, basil has shown some impressive anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-microbial talents among others. (source)
As for inflammation, there are many studies that show the strong anti-inflammatory potential of basil as well. Basil seems to decrease inflammation in different cell types like fat cells and leukocytes by inhibiting pro-inflammatory molecules and enhancing the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines in these cells.
How To Enjoy Basil To Reduce Inflammation
You can enjoy fresh basil in salads, make your own pesto or add some dried basil with olive oil, garlic and lemon to fish or meat of choice. If you can tolerate nightshades and legumes, I recommend trying my super tasty tomato basil chickpea salad that comes with nigella seeds as well.
Another favorite of mine and a popular herb as well, coriander (aka cilantro) is delicious fresh or dried! Coriander is one of the oldest herbs that has been used for thousands of years for its flavor and medicinal properties. All parts of the plant – the seeds, fresh leaves and essential oil come with amazing health benefits. Among others traditional medicine suggests coriander can be used to treat inflammation, indigestion, gout, bronchitis, diabetes, kidney and heart conditions, to fight worms, heal rheumatism, joint pain, coughs, and gastrointestinal disorders. (source)
In studies coriander has shown anti-microbial, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-depressant, nerve-soothing, diuretic, anti-hypertensive and anti-mutagenic activity. (source)
As for inflammation, coriander seeds are the main part of a traditional formulation from Sri Lanka called Maharasnadhi Quather or short MRQ. Reseach has shown that MRQ is analgestic and anti-inflammatory, both in humans and animal models.
For example rheumatoid arthritis patients who took MRQ for three entire months experienced improvement in pain, inflammation and mobility without any bad side effects affecting liver function or gastrointestinal tract. (source)
Another study showed that an ayruvedic polyphenol preparation containing coriander could benefit patients with inflammatory bowel disease. The effect was comparable to Prednisolone (a steroid medication used to treat inflammatory and autoimmune conditions). (source)
Comparable Activity To Diclofenac
A preparation of coriander seeds was shown to significantly reduce edema (or pain and swelling) in rats, that was caused by the use of carrageenan. Carrageenan is a natural isolate from seaweed. It is often used to thicken ice cream, almond milk, chocolate milk and even cottage cheese. Carrageenan increases the release of pro-infammatory mediators and thus causes inflammation, so you wanna try to stay away from it (read labels!). Sure there might be a safe dose, but should we really use our bodies to test the limits of it? I think not. Instead focus on enjoying whole foods that can make your body feel better. As for the anti-inflammatory effect of the coriander preparation on the swelling – at larger doses it was comparable to diclofenac. (source)
Diclofenac is actually the pain killer I used when I had kidney stones three years ago. I also use it in rare cases when I pinch a nerve in my neck and can’t handle the pain or get rid of it with stretching…It is effective, but problem with it, as with other medications, is that it comes with bad side effects, among others – it really messes up your stomach.
How To Make Coriander A Part Of Your Anti-Inflammatory Diet
You can easily add coriander to your diet as part of curries, to season meat, grain or legume-based dishes. You can add the fresh cilantro leaves to salads, in bowls, to make dressings or freshly chopped over curries or stews. For example, ground coriander is one of the spices I used to make my 5-minute spicy chickpeas.
We’ve come to the addictive, comforting aroma of cinnamon. As mentioned, this amazing spice was actually more valuable than gold at some point in time and there’s a good reason for it. Cinnamon is rich in polyphenols and flavonoids that are shown to have antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer and anti-diabetic, properties.
Furthermore, cinnamon’s natural compound cinnamaldehyde is shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. This was demonstrated especially in human endothelial cells and a rat model of ischemic myocardial injury, both making cinnamon a great candidate for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, especially atherosclerosis. (source)
Another thing cinnamon and its special constituent cinnamaldehyde can do, which I cannot, is inhibit neuroinflammation (source). The word neuroinflammation sounds pretty horrible and it is, because it can lead to the development of neurodegenerative disease. Thankfully, cinnamon and its magical neuro-protective and anti-inflammatory powers can help us prevent this progression.
How To Make Cinnamon A Part Of Your Anti-Inflammatory Diet
You can use cinnamon in sweet and savory dishes. Cinnamon is a great addition to breakfasts, especially oatmeal or chia pudding. You can also use cinnamon to make apple or pumpkin-based desserts like these apple crumble bars or these oatmeal pumpkin bars.
More About The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
I hope you found this post about the anti-inflammatory diet helpful, I know it can be overwhelming, but little changes, over time will make a big difference. If you want to read more about inflammation and how to reduce chronic inflammation, here are some interesting reads to check out: