Inflammation is a healthy reaction of the body to any trauma that initiates the healing process. It can be classified as either acute or chronic. Acute inflammation is the initial response of the body to harmful stimuli and is achieved by the increased movement of plasma and leukocytes from the blood into the injured tissues. A series of biochemical events propagates and matures the inflammatory response, involving the local vascular system, the immune system, and various cells within the injured tissue. The classical signs of acute inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. It is not a synonym for infection, even in cases when inflammation is caused by infection. Although infection is caused by a microorganism, inflammation is one of the responses of the organism to the pathogen. Without inflammation, wounds and infections would never heal. Similarly, progressive destruction of the tissue would compromise the survival of the organism.
Prolonged or chronic inflammation leads to a progressive shift in the type of cells present at the site of inflammation and is characterized by simultaneous destruction and healing of the tissue from the inflammatory process. Chronic inflammation can also lead to diseases, such as hay fever, periodontitis, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, even cancer.
In some instances, this normal defense system wrongly begins or continues an inflammatory state when there are no invaders to fight. In this mode, your body's normally helpful immune system causes damage to the surrounding tissues.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids are often the standard treatment for chronic inflammatory conditions, but these drugs can cause health issues of their own if used for extended periods of time as well as side effects like gastric ulceration and, infrequently, myocardial infarction and stroke. Safer alternatives are offered by mother nature! The best and most effective natural anti-inflammatory agents are those that have both an anti-inflammatory and an analgesic effect on the organism. They must be able to track the inflammation, reduce the swelling and ease the pain.
After quite a lot of studdying and experimenting (!), I have concluded to this list of natural anti-inflammatory agents:
1. TurmericThe active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has strong anti-inflammatory and disinfecting properties. As a natural anti-inflammatory, turmeric aids in giving relief to sufferers of arthritis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. It may also slow the progression of multiple sclerosis.Taken orally as an anti-inflammatory, turmeric does not have the side-effects commonly associated with some modern pharmaceutical medicines. These include intestinal bleeding, ulcers, and the decrease of white blood cells. This makes turmeric a safe and very effective alternative to some non-prescription drugs.
2. Chili/Cayenne pepper
Chili owes its stinging pungency to the chemical, capsaicin. Capsaicin produces highly selective regional anesthesia. It also inhibits NF-kB, thus producing an anti-inflammatory effect. Capsaicin can cause a burning sensation when it comes in contact with human flesh, and also in the digestive tract. Chili/Cayenne pepper is rarely used alone, so if you decide to use it topically you should mix it with a base oil like olive oil, which also has anti-inflammatory properties.
3. St John’s Wort ( Hypericum perforatum)
St. John's wort has a history of being used as a medicine dating back to ancient Greece, where it was used for a range of illnesses, including various "nervous disorders." St. John's wort also has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it has been applied to the skin to help heal wounds and burns. In the case of an inflammation it is recommended to use St. John’s wort oil on the affected area. It is very useful in cases of nerve inflammation such as sciatica and neuralgia and for recovery from wounds/injuries where there has been nerve tissue damage. It also provides relief for swollen joints and muscle cramps and from pain cause by injuries.
4. Bee Propolis
Propolis is a mainly resinous substance that bees collect from trees and plants. Being made up of waxes, resins, fatty acids and even amino acids. Aristotle reputedly coined the name Propolis, which in greek means "defender of the city". Propolis is a unique natural medicine because of its breadth of action. It is probably best known for its antibiotic properties, but it also has important antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and immunomodulatory effects. A survey of Propolis consumers showed that arthritis was the health problem that Propolis was used to treat the most. This is because of the potent anti-inflammatory properties of the propolis constituents in particular CAPE (Caffeic acid Phenyl ester), CAPE has been shown to suppress T cell activation. A paper by Park et al in 1999 concluding that the ethanolic extract of propolis had profound anti-inflammatory effects on both chronic and acute arthritic inflammations. These anti-inflammation properties extend to other illness and disorders such as asthma and allergies reducing both smooth muscle airway contraction and allergic responses. Any disorder or illness related to inflammation could be helped by Propolis. I usually prefer it in the form of a tincture, but you can also get it in its natural form or in capsules.
5. Ginger Root
Ginger is the root of a plant in the same family as turmeric. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb and there has been much recent interest in its use for joint problems. Red ginger, in particular, has the ability to stop chronic and acute inflammation. In a study published in February 2010 in the "Journal of Medicinal Food," red ginger was found to reduce inflammation in a mouse experimental model. The active ingredients were found to be gingerdiols, and proanthocyanidins, two phytochemicals, or plant chemicals that can impact health. These active compounds were able to stop the expression of nitric oxide, a gas in the body that can lead to conditions such as arthritis when too much is present. In a study published in 2010 in "Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry," rats fed with ginger showed reduced ear swelling caused by inflammation.
6. Omega-3 (Fish Oil)
Research has shown that the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are some of the most effective natural anti-inflammatory agents available. The biological basis for the effectiveness of fish oil in treating arthritis has been well documented with many positive clinical studies, when compared to traditional pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory agents.
7. Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum)
Devil's Claw or Harpagophytum, which in Greek means “hook plant” (Αρπαγόφυτο), has been a popular anti-inflammatory and arthritis treatment since it was first discovered in South Africa by European colonists in the 18th century. It is still quite common in Europe today but is not so well known in the U.S. Devil's Claw can relieve pain from arthritis quite fast, as well as lower back, knee and hip pain. It is also used to treat osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, bursitis, tendonitis and soft tissue pain (muscle aches).Studies have shown no side effects, even at very high doses, so Devil's claw can be an alternative for those taking over-the-counter pain medications.
8. Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
Cat's Claw (Uncaria tomentosa) is a vine native to the Amazon rainforest and other parts of South and Central America. The bark and root of the plant have been used traditionally in South American medicine for the treatment of a wide range of health problems, including cancer and AIDS. It was also used as a form of birth control. Today, mainly by word of mouth, it has become one of the best selling herbs in the USA. This herb's anti-inflammatory properties may help to relieve arthritis, gout, and other inflammatory problems. The primary mechanism for Cat's claw anti-inflammatory actions appears to be immunomodulation via suppression of TNF-alpha synthesis.
9. Green Tea
Green tea has long been recognized to have cardiovascular and cancer preventative characteristics due to its antioxidant properties. Its use in the treatment of arthritic disease as an anti-inflammatory agent has been recognized more recently. The constituents of green tea are polyphenolic compounds called catechins.
Green tea research demonstrates both anti-inflammatory and chondroprotective effects. The usual recommendation is 3–4 cups of tea a day.
10. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Last but definitely no least, the virgin olive oil! Mediterranean’s secret to longevity! Its rich supply of polyphenols protects the heart and blood vessels from inflammation. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil are also turned into anti-inflammatory agents by the body that can lower occurrences of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers have observed that olive oil reduces the plasmatic concentration of molecules in the walls of blood vessels that promote inflammation. They attribute this beneficial effect of olive oil partly to the high presence of micronutrients, specifically the phenolic compound oleocanthal, which is believed to have an effect similar to that of anti-inflammatory drugs (without all the unwanted side-effects).