Medically reviewed by, Russell Braun RPH
Most people realize that inflammation is the bodys response to injury. We have all had a cut that becomes red and inflammed and then after a few days is almost magically healed. Inflammation is a wonderful process the body uses to deal with the injuries life brings us. However, too much of a good thing can quickly have you searching for natural inflammation reducers.
Unfortunately, in our modern society inflammation is triggered way too often. Things such as poor diet, lack of exercise, toxins and excess stress leave many people in a state of chronic (ongoing) inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is one of the key factors in many of the leading causes of death for adults. Those diseases include:
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
This doesn’t even take into account arthritis, which millions live with on a daily basis.
How Do I Get Rid Of Inflammation Naturally?
Below we list natural herbs, spices or foods that can help lower levels of inflammation. They all have some clinical research backing their use. However, if you want to greatly reduce inflammation naturally it must start with three core concepts.
The latest nutrition guidelines recently published state that 7 in 10 adults over 20 years of age are overweight. Shockingly, over 40% are obese! Being overweight itself mean inflammation is occurring in your body even if you don’t notice it.
A diet that reduces inflammation doesn’t mean starve yourself with less calories. Instead you need to eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and low in processed foods. Avoiding sugars that spike insulin levels is one of the best things you can do.
The table below lists foods that help to fight inflammation and ones to avoid that can trigger inflammation.
|Eat These||Avoid These|
|Fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines)||Soda|
|Green leafy vegetables||Processed foods|
|Fruits (Strawberries, blueberries, cherries)||Refined carbohydrates|
Many people live a sedentary lifestyle today. If you are not moving and getting the fluid out of your lymphatic system you are unable to clear toxins from the body. This will result in more inflammation.
Developing a routine to exercise is all about showing up first. Start with 1 minute a day if you are doing zero presently. Add on a minute each day to that and in no time you will be exercising for 30 minutes a day. The movement can be anything such as walking, dancing, yoga, gardening.
Just get moving!
Stress causes the body to release neurotransmitters and hormones that prepare you to run from a saber tooth tiger. This is also known as the fight or flight response. The problem is, that same reaction occurs when you stress over a social media post that is not likely to kill you.
When this happens over and over these stress chemicals can cause inflammation. Learning ways to cope with stress is a must. Meditating and deep breathing can be great ways to deal with the stressors of every day life. If you want to reduce inflammation naturally this would be a key part of the process.
How Can I Reduce Inflammation Quickly?
For minor aches and pains that are short term, over the counter medications can be a good way to reduce inflammation. The most commonly used medications are:
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Click here to get a full breakdown on the strongest OTC pain relievers.
Another way to reduce inflammation quickly is using ice to slow swelling and blood flow that is going into the affected area.
Natural anti-inflammatory supplements can help the body fight pain and inflammation. They may even prevent some of the long term complications of chronic inflammation, such as cancer.
The agents listed below are listed in order based on the amount of evidence for their effectiveness in treating inflammation.
The natural inflammation reducers listed below are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. (FDA). You should find the underlying cause of your inflammation and try and rebalance the body to totally eliminate the problem. These substances may help with that but should not be viewed a a cure for any particular disease.
Before trying a new anti-inflammatory treatment, even a natural one, it is important to consult a doctor. Keep in mind natural remedies are often potent medicine that can cause side effects and interact with other drugs.
|What is it?||Turmeric comes from the root of the turmeric plant. It is a spice that is often used in Asian cuisine, especially curry. It is also used in other foods to add color and flavor such as mustards and cheeses.|
|What does it do?||Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. When inflammatory cells and chemicals are released in the body it causes oxidative stress that promotes more inflammation. Turmeric seems to slow this process and therefore reduce inflammation.|
It is also believed to block the actions of tumor necrosis factor (TNF). TNF is an important way the body signals to ramp up inflammation.
|Does it work?||Studies have shown that turmeric is effective at treating inflammation tied to many chronic diseases such as:|
There are also randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled studies showing turmeric is effective in osteoarthritis. These type of studies are the holy grail in medicine to show a medication works. A dose of 500mg divided three times per day showed significant improvement in pain and physical function.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil)
|What is it?||Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fat. This form of fat is linked to many health benefits. They are most commonly found in the following foods.|
Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)
|What does it do?||Omega-3 fatty acids are used to make all sorts of components for our cells and hormones that signal to other cells. The omega-3 means the part of the chain of the molecule that has a bend in it. This bend allows the components that are made from them to be more fluid and not so rigid.|
This leads to platelets being less sticky, which helps prevent blood clots. Therefore, fewer inflammatory mediators are found in the blood. Less of these mediators leads to less overall inflammation.
|Does it work?||Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease known markers of inflammation. A study in Circulation Research tested healthy subjects and looked at their blood makers of inflammation.|
Another trial found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis had less pain when taking omega-3’s. In addition these patients had less need for other pain medications.
3. Green Tea
|What is it?||Green tea is a type of tea made from unoxidized tea leaves that contains high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols. It has long been used in asian culture for medicinal purposes.|
|What does it do?||The anxioxidants in green tea give it anti-inflammatory properties. EGCG (also known as catechins) is the chemical in green tea that makes it such a powerful antioxidant.|
Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress, which lowers inflammation.
|Does it work?||Green tea has such powerful effects that the major journal JAMA published a study that showed it reduced the chance of death from cardiovascular disease.|
The researchers concluded this was due to green tea reducing inflammation. Those who drank 5 cups per day had a significantly lower overall risk of death.
|What is it?||Capsaicin is found in chili peppers. It is the chemical component that makes the peppers spicy.|
|What does it do?||Capsaicin actually overstimulates nerve endings, causing them to release chemicals that would trigger pain sensation in the brain. |
This results in a decrease in pain perception over time.
|Does it work?||Capsaicin is an effective pain reliever. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat arthritis, musculoskeletal pain and post herpetic nueralgia. To gain FDA approval for such conditions studies must prove it is effective at treating these conditions. |
Capsaicin is also commonly used to treat other types of pain tied to inflammation.
|What is it?||Cinnamon is derived from the bark of trees know by the genus of Cinnamomum. This spice is used in a variety of foods, scents and as medicine.|
|What does it do?||Cinnamon contains polyphenols, which end up giving this spice antioxidant properties. In fact, it has more antioxidant content than almost any other spice. |
Like other polyphenols cinnamon will inhibit signaling to the rest of the immune system to respond. This ultimately slows down the inflammatory process.
|Does it work?||A double blind, radomized, placebo controlled study looking at cinnamon vs placebo in rheumatoid arthritis patients showed a significant decrease in CRP and diastolic blood pressure after 8 weeks. CRP (C-Reactive Protein) is a known marker of inflammation in the body. The cinnamon group also had less pain and tenderness in joints. |
Make sure to get a few servings of Ceylon cinnamon in your diet each day. The supermarket version Cassia variety is not as effective.
|What is it?||S-adenosylmethionine also known as SAMe is a chemical that is found in our body naturally. It can also be man made. SAMe is found in nearly every cell in the body.|
|What does it do?||Chemicals in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine and the hormone melatonin are broken down by SAMe. It also works on the immune system.|
SAMe is thought to help with inflammation by stimulating cartilage growth in joints. In addition, it is thought that its effects on serotonin decrease the perception of pain.
|Does it work?||SAMe was found to be effective at treating osteoarthritis. Patients were followed for 24 months and the positive effects were seen early in treatment and persisted through the study. In addition to treating the osteoarthritis, the depression associated with is was also improved. |
SAMe has been show to provide similar levels of osteoarthritis relief as NSAID drugs.
|What is it?||Chondroitin is an important component of human cartilage and connective tissue. Cartilage and connective tissue are key components of most joints and tendons.|
|What does it do?||Researchers believe that chondroitin reduces chemicals that promote inflammation called cytokines. It also lowers levels of cyclooxyrgenase 2 (COX-2) and prostaglandins. These are chemicals that over the counter pain relievers called NSAIDs work on also.|
In addition, increased cartilage in joints helps to prevent inflammation by preventing friction from bones rubbing together.
|Does it work?||Studies have shown that chondroitin prevents cartilage breakdown and may stimulate its repair. Specifically, joint spaces were found to have less narrowing and effusion, which is a sign of inflammation. Therefore, if your inflammation is in joints chondroitin may be a good option for you.|
|What is it?||Spirulina is a form of algae that comes in three different forms. It has been labeled as a superfood because it contains so many essential nutrients.|
|What does it do?||Spirulina has antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties. These effects are attributed to phycocyanin and beta carotene. |
These substances capture free radicals and slow nitric oxide production and prevent DNA damage. All of which can cause inflammation.
|Does it work?||Many studies in animals show spirulina to be a powerful anti inflammatory. Trials done in humans have shown spirulina decreases cytokines that regulate inflammation. Researchers believe this is based on its effects on TNF-alpha, COX-2 and prostaglandins.|
|What is it?||Quercetin is a pigment found in many foods and beverages we consume, such as:|
Fruits (apples, berries)
This type of pigment is also known as flavonoids. Quercetin is the most abundant flavonoid found in dietary sources.
|What does it do?||Quercetin is an antioxidant and that is thought to be the way it helps reduce inflammation. It has also been shown to improve exercise performance, lower blood pressure and stabilize blood sugar levels.|
|Does it work?||Quercetin has been proven to directly inhibit effects of TNF-alpha. TNF-alpha is also a target of many popular drugs used for autoimmune diseases today. Quercetin blocks chemical mediators that promote gene expression of inflammatory proteins. That simply means it blocks your genes from making more protein that will cause inflammation. |
Finding the right dose of quercetin and how much is required from particular foods is an area where more research is needed.
|What is it?||Flaxseed comes from the flowering linseed plant. It is grown as a staple crop in many areas of the world. Today there are hundreds of foods that contain flaxseed due to its reported health benefits.|
|What does it do?||Flaxseed contains fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats such as alpha-linolenic acid. It is believed that flaxseed controls immune responses by:|
-Providing fiber to support gut microbiome
-Alpha-linolenic acid acting like an omega-3 fatty acid
|Does it work?||A study was done on flaxseed comparing at C-reactive protein (CRP) levels of patients who took flaxseed vs. those who did not. CRP is a marker of inflammation in the body. They found no change in CRP for patients who were normal weight. However, for obese patients with a BMI >30 there was a significant decrease in CRP and thus inflammation.|
|What is it?||Zinc is found in nearly every cell in your body. It is a vital nutrient needed for immune health, protein building and DNA function.|
|What does it do?||The immune system uses zinc to help fight off foreign bacteria and viruses. Specifically, zinc helps relay messages back and forth in the immune system. This allows your body to know when a virus or bacteria needs to be eliminated. |
When zinc levels are low the immune system confuses theses messages and may damage your own cells. This leads to inflammation.
Finally, zinc helps control oxidation and release of cytokines that get inflammation up and running.
|Does it work?||Zinc is an antioxidant at the cellular level. Studies have shown that it helps lower levels of oxidative stress and cytokines. This was found to be especially true in the elderly, where more inflammatory processes are at work.|
12. Thunder God Vine
|What is it?||Thunder god vine is an herb that has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. The leaves and root of the plant are used to create the medicine.|
|What does it do?||Thunder god vine seems to suppress the immune system. Specifically, it is believed to prevent macrophages, neutrophils and dendritic cells from reaching the sources of the inflammation. These different immune cells types can lead to more inflammation.|
|Does it work?||Clinical trials have confirmed that joint pain, physical function and pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis were improved by thunder god vine. Another study compared thunder god vine to another drug commonly used for rheumatoid arthritis. It also found thunder god vine to be effective. |
These studies were both done on a small number of patients. However, the results to seem promising to use thunder god vine as a tool to fight inflammation.
13. Vitamin E
|What is it?||Vitamin E is a collection of chemicals also known as tocopherols, of which exist in different forms. They are fat soluble compounds that your body can’t produce on its own.|
|What does it do?||Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and helps prevent damage from occurring in cells that can be caused by free radicals. These free radicals are produced as our body converts the food we eat into energy. |
Vitamin E is also thought to inhibit cytokines from being released that can lead to inflammation. CRP, which is an inflammatory maker is also decreased by Vitamin E.
|Does it work?||Vitamin E is the most widely studied antioxidant that have been in humans. There are numerous human trials showing that it lowers CRP in patients with cardiovascular disease. |
Before supplementing with vitamin E make sure to talk to your doctor. It can have a blood thinning effect and they may not want you to use this with other medications.
14. Alpha-Lipoic Acid
|What is it?||Lipoic acid in the alpha state is an organic compound that is made naturally from your aerobic metabolism. It is also found in many plants and can therefore be obtained from your diet.|
|What does it do?||Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) breaks down carbohydrates in the body to make energy. This takes place inside the mitochondria, which is the power generation sites inside your cells. ALA acts an an antioxidant, which is important because damaging free radicals are created in the energy breakdown process. This leads to inflammation.|
|Does it work?||Several studies have found that alpha lipoic acid is beneficial for inflammation. In fact, two primary markers of inflammation, CRP and TNF-alpha have both been shown to be reduced by ALA. |
These effects have also been observed in patients with metabolic disease. That is important because it means ALA, helps in patients that are healthy and those with disease.
15. Vitamin A
|What is it?||Vitamin A is normally referred to as retinal and carotenoid compounds. The most common type you will see in supplements is beta carotene. |
This fat soluble vitamin also found in many foods. While most often thought of for helping with vision, it is also important in regulating the immune system.
|What does it do?||Vitamin A’s affect on inflammation has to do with it’s activity on immune system. It affects the development of neutrophils, macrophages and killer T-cells. |
All of these are key immune system components that end up causing inflammation when vitamin A levels are low.
|Does it work?||Supplementing with vitamin A has been shown to be effective in human studies for a number of inflammatory problems, such as:|
You should consider having levels of vitamin A checked if you have an inflammatory problem.
|What is it?||Methylsulfonylmethane, also known as MSM, is a chemical found in many plants and animals. It can be manmade as well and today is part of many supplements.|
|What does it do?||MSM is used in the body to help produce the amino acids methionine and cysteine. Cysteine is converted in the liver to one of the most potent antioxidants the body can produce which is glutathione.|
|Does it work?||In a small double blind, placebo controlled trial MSM was found to reduce osteoarthritis pain. The patients also had an increase in physical functioning.|
|What is it?||Cloves are actually flower buds of a tree called Myrtaceae, which is found near Indonesia. They can be used as a spice, ground into a powder or used to make oils. Cloves have also been used in China as a medicine.|
|What does it do?||Cloves can be applied to the gums during dental procedures to relieve pain. Clove oil is also sold as an essential oil for stress relief. They are considered to be an anti-inflammatory substance.|
|Does it work?||Studies have shown that clove extracts can decrease several pro-inflammatory mediators. While the study was done in humans they only looked at the level of inflammatory markers that were decreased. It did not specifically look at effects on direct inflammation or pain overall.|
18. White Willow Bark
|What is it?||White willow bark comes from different varieties of willow trees. The bark has been found to have properties similar to that of aspirin.|
|What does it do?||White willow bark is used as a pain reliever and fever reducer. Some people use the bark from 2-3 year old trees as an alternative to aspirin. |
COX-2 inhibition is thought to be the mechanism that white willow bark uses to reduce inflammation.
|Does it work?||Salicin in white willow bark is similar to salicylic acid that is found in aspirin. Some studies have found it to be better than placebo (sugar pill) at treating musculoskeletal pain. However, more research is still needed.|
19. Cat’s Claw
|What is it?||Cat’s claw is an herb that comes from a woody vine. The plant has small thorns that look like claws. The bark of the vine has been used for hundreds of years as medicine.|
|What it does?||The active ingredient in cat’s claw is thought to be polyphenols such as flavonoids and tannins. These compounds are believed to give cat’s claw the ability to reduce chemicals that control inflammation.|
|Does it work?||Studies have shown that cat’s claw can inhibit TNF-alpha which can decrease the expression of genes that produce of inflammatory proteins. While the anti-inflammatory effects have been shown in several studies they have been preformed on rats. There are no clinical trials using cat’s claw in humans for inflammation at this time.|
20. Frankincense (Boswellia Serrata)
|What is it?||Frankincense is a gum like resin that comes from the Boswellia tree, normally found in India. It is made from cuts in the trunk of the tree.|
|What does it do?||Frankincense is used for healing wounds, gas, pain and swelling. It has also been used to flavor foods or as a scent in many products. Frankincense is thought to inhibit leukotrienes and therefore stop inflammation.|
|Does it work?||There is evidence of Frankincense prohibiting inflammation in rats. Another study showed it to be effective at decreasing inflammation in osteoarthritis when paired with turmeric. |
Overall, more research is needed to prove Frankincense is effective alone.
21. Black Pepper
|What is it?||Black pepper also known as peppercorn comes from a flowing vine. Most people know of it as a spice often used on food. Black pepper is the worlds most traded spice, but has also been used as medicine.|
|What does it do?||Black pepper is a very potent antioxidant and therefore is also anti-inflammatory. Like other antioxidants it reduces the oxidative stress on the body caused by metabolism.|
|Does it work?||Spices such as black pepper have been shown to lower levels of inflammation due to being strong antioxidants. In fact, black pepper has been found to help with cancer prevention as well due to the link with inflammatory pathways. |
To date there are studies of black pepper reducing inflammation in rats with arthritis. However, there are no studies showing benefits in humans. Black pepper is an strong antioxidant and therefore, it most likely would prove a benefit, but the data is not there to support it just yet.
|What is it?||Ginger is a plant who’s root has been used as a spice in cooking and for medicinal purposes. Ginger is grown in parts of Asia, South America and Africa.|
|What does it do?||Ginger has been used for many common problems including:|
-Various types of pain
Ginger is believed to relieve inflammation by affecting calcium that is transported in heat and pain receptors in the body.
|Does it work?||Ginger has been extensively studied in animals for various types of pain. In humans a few trials have showed benefits of ginger for osteoarthritis pain. These studies had conflicting results. Another problem is what form of ginger was being used, some were essential oils and others used oral dosage forms.|
|What is it?||Rosemary comes from an evergreen shrub with a vibrant odor. It is a part of the mint family and is used in various essential oils for medicinal purposes.|
|What it does?||Rosemary has long been used in cooking especially in the Mediterranean areas where the plant is native too. Medicinally, rosemary has been used in many ways such as:|
-Helping with digestion
-Immune system support
The beneficial effects of rosemary are believed to come from its strong antioxidant properties.
|Does it work?||A study that compared the immune mediators present after administering rosemary and placebo to rats showed a significant decrease in those chemicals. There are many animal studies exist showing positive effects of rosemary on inflammation. However, at this time studies in humans are not available.|
|What is it?||Resveratrol comes from plants such as Japanese knot weed and the skin of red wine grapes. It is a polyphenol molecule. Polyphenols are known to protects plants from infections.|
|What it does?||Resveratrol is thought to block inflammation in a similar way to NSAIDs. It surpresses the enzyme known as cyclooxyrgenase-2 (COX-2). |
Polyphenols like resveratrol are also antioxidants and can help protect DNA from being damaged.
|Does it work?||Resveratrol has been studied and show to be effective in reducing joint inflammation and pain. However, this study looked at resverartol injections into the joints, which is not practical for most people. Other clinical trails on resvertrol taken orally are small or have shown little benefits. This is likely due to absorption issues rather than lack of efficacy though.|
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Maroon Joseph, et al. Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief. Sure Nerol Int. 2010:1:80.