You’ve heard the popular notion, “Inflammation is at the root of most diseases”, but do you know how to stop inflammation in it’s tracks, naturally? It is possible to do by eating a clean diet that contains powerful herbs and spices. You’ll get the medicinal properties of these fine wonders by cooking with them every day, savoring their flavor packed nutrients along with reducing the inflammation in your body.
What is Inflammation?
First things first! Believe it or not, inflammation is programmed in our body to help it us heal. Inflammation is a protective response of immune cells, blood vessels and a whole host of molecular interactions to bring balance back to the body. If you sprain an ankle or contract a cold, a whole orchestra of events happens within the body to bring healing so that you can get better in a short period of time.
Chronic inflammation, however, is the culprit to degenerative diseases as this type can last for months or years as a result of not eliminating the stressor that is causing inflammation. The stressor can come in the form of consistently eating processed foods, chronic stress, sleepless nights and living a sedentary lifestyle. With long term inflammation, the body is put on alert as the immune system becomes overly worked in trying to repair and restore its proper function.
This type of inflammation builds momentum silently over the years without you even knowing it until one day you are labeled with a disease! Rest assured, you can stop inflammation in its tracks now and in the future by adding potent herbs and spices to your food every day.
Herbs & Spices Contain Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Qualities
You’re getting a dose of nature’s medicine when you add herbs and spices to your food! Spices top the list of foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants eradicate free radicals. Free radicals breakdown cellular function which promotes inflammation and accelerates aging. So, upping your intake of foods rich in antioxidants will reduce inflammation in the body. For instance, one study showed that just half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon has as many antioxidants as half a cup of blueberries, and half a teaspoon of dried oregano has the antioxidant power of three cups of raw spinach.(1)
Amazing right?! These powerful seasonings are highly potent meaning they have a high concentration of active ingredients. Some herbs and spices, however, have a low potency due to the way they are processed. You can test for potency by dropping the herbal supplement into a glass of water to see if it dissolves. If it doesn’t dissolve, however, it may be a sign that it won’t be bioavailable for your body. (2)
Another study mentioned that just taking a normal serving of spices such as rosemary, ginger and turmeric significantly reduced inflammatory markers in the body! And that was just in 1 weeks time! It’s interesting to note that certain medications approved to treat inflammation for osteoarthritis, IBS and more can cost between £10,000-£15,000/per person a year! The outrageous cost along with possible side effects from taking such anti-inflammatory drugs can be outweighed when another option is given such as taking curcumin from turmeric on a regular basis. The benefits of taking this herb is astounding as it’s orally bioavailable, inexpensive and highly safe with many positive unsuspected side effects! (3)
What Herbs & Spices Can Truly Do For You
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of these powerhouse plants. You’ll find the proof in the research which will hopefully get you using these special lovelies in your everyday cooking.
Turmeric is part of the ginger family and is a root which contains a yellow pigment called Curcumin. This yellow pigment is what gives curry dishes it’s flavorful and brilliant taste and color. For thousands of years, ayurvedic practitioners used it to treat arthritis, liver disease and immune disorders.
Turmeric is a powerhouse! It contains two dozen plus anti-inflammatory compounds including six different COX-2 inhibitors. The COX-2 enzyme helps produce prostaglandin which is one of the hormones that is responsible for inflammation and pain. So it’s not surprising that turmeric is high in antioxidants as well as having anti-bacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anticancer properties.(4) With all the ANTI properties, one would be well served to use it daily to ward of inflammation in the body!
A great way to implement this power packed spice into your diet is to add it to scrambled eggs in the morning. It’s warm and peppery taste will be a nice addition to other root vegetables like potatoes and carrots for lunch or dinner. Get brave and sprinkle it your morning smoothie or warm coconut drink for peace and calming at night.
Ginger is widely known for soothing digestive issues such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and upset stomachs.(5) Many of these issues can be caused from reacting to the stress filled world we live in like rushing from one appointment to the next and never taking time to quiet the mind. That kind of chronic stress has an effect on the body. Muscles get tight from trying to stomach the events of the day. The throat may tighten from speaking too much or from repressing feelings that need to be shared. In this situation, ginger is the go to spice for its antispasmodic properties with over 60 trace minerals and over 30 amino acids and more than 500 enzymes all working together to help reduce the physical ailments brought on by the emotional stressors of the day.(6)
This root based spice is also highly effective in relieving pain from rheumatoid arthritis, respiratory issues and migraines. In one study of 247 people, ginger was shown to significantly decrease knee pain in those with osteoarthritis and required less medication.(7)
Ginger has such a wide spectrum of healing properties because of its high concentration of gingerol, a substance which is loaded with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, there’s a high correlation to those with alzheimer’s having oxidative and inflammatory stress. Studies suggest that ginger can protect against age-related damage to the brain. It can also improve brain function in elderly women.(8)
To save time from mincing the ginger, you can find frozen ginger trays at the supermarket. You can add ginger to stir fry and chicken giving it a great savory taste. Another idea is to add it to a morning smoothie with the outside layer shaved, but added whole. When winding down at night, why not warm up some ginger tea and sip it slowly as you close out the day.
This herb is a powerhouse against superoxide, a potent free radical that promotes chronic inflammation. (9) The enzyme in rosemary called superoxide dismutase, breaks down superoxide stopping it in its tracks. Thank you rosemary!
In certain studies, rosemary has been shown to perform best when cooked. So sprinkle some rosemary on top of salmon and saute it with veggies to give an extra kick to your meal. Another great property of rosemary is that it will prevent oxidation with your cooking oils so be sure to add it to your pan when heating.
Rosemary has also been shown to be highly effective even when it’s not cooked. A recent study shows the effectiveness of ethanolic extract and rosmarinic acid contained in rosemary to help with different neurological disorders associated with inflammation.(10) If you think about it, this aromatic herb needs very little attention to establish itself as it grows amazingly well in tough conditions. The same holds true for its antibacterial properties. It specializes in holding its own when fighting against antibiotic resistant bacteria such as MRSA and C.difficile, therefore, making a powerful herb with any compromised immune system. (11)
Clove is a powerful spice that has long been known for it’s medicinal analgesic properties. It’s almost like it creates a barrier or coating around the object it’s applied to whether it’s a toothache or abnormal skin growth. (12) This “protective barrier” has been found to help shield one from environmental toxins and pollutants, digestive cancers, indigestion and “foreign invaders” like bacteria and viruses.
One study was conducted where 10 to 12 subjects in 13 groups were given a small amount of a certain spice to consume each day for one week. Blood samples were then drawn an hour before consumption and an hour after consumption to track antioxidant activity from the spices. Researchers also analyzed how well the blood could decrease an inflammatory response in white blood cells.
This was done by placing the blood sample on white blood cells that had been oxidized by eating unhealthy food. From this study, researchers found that just consuming an everyday dose of spice had significant effective response in reducing inflammation. Sure enough, clove ranked as the number one spice! (13)
The best way to grind whole clove is in a coffee grinder. A little bit goes a long way with this spice. Add some ground clove to your morning oatmeal along with walnuts and raisins for a nice, warm breakfast. Another twist to using clove is to pierce a whole onion with whole cloves and add it to your homemade soup. Remember a little bit of spice used every day has overwhelming powerful effects at the cellular level.
Have you ever wondered how cinnamon sticks are shaped? They come from the stem of the Cinnamomum tree. The inner bark is extracted and the woody parts are removed leaving the left over bark to dry. The inner bark naturally curls during this process forming the traditional cinnamon stick. You can thank cinnamaldehyde,the oily part of cinnamon, for the intense taste and smell of cinnamon that takes us back to the joyous times of the holiday season.
This unique spice not only brings joy in a cup of fine wassil during the holiday season, but it also brings joy to the body in the form of balance. In particular, cinnamon has been known to “balance” or “normalize” blood sugar levels in the body. For those who have unstable blood sugar, their cell membrane is inflamed. The cell receptor sites on these cells can no longer recognize insulin and the cells become “inflamed” or insulin resistant. Cinnamon comes along and reminds the cell receptor sites to recognize insulin. Thus, cinnamon can lower blood sugar in diabetics by activating insulin receptors. (14)
It’s amazing how it has an uncanny way of bringing joy not only to the outward facade at holiday time, but also down deep at the cellular level.
For thousands of years, garlic has also been known for it’s medicinal benefits, such as balancing blood sugar, reducing neurological symptoms and decreasing bad cholesterol. It’s packed full of amino acids, trace minerals, vitamins, flavonoids, enzymes and 200 additional compounds. (15)
Another thing to know about garlic is that it can help reduce high blood pressure. One study showed that aged garlic extract of 600-1500 mg was just as effective as the drug Atenolol in reducing hypertension. Keep in mind, you’ll need to consume at least 4 cloves of garlic a day to have enough allicin to produce the desired effects.(16)
Let’s take a walk with garlic from the time it’s unearthed. Right before it’s harvested, it needs time to rest. During this resting period it takes in the nutrients from the soil and becomes stronger with ever increasing immune boosting properties as it wards off pathogens like mold and fungus. (17)
It’s interesting to note that the act of waiting after harvesting and preparing the garlic for cooking is when it’s most potent and powerful. Could it be that garlic is the superpower of all spices when one is patient in the process?
The latest research tells us that slicing, dicing and mincing garlic is the best way to extract it’s powerful compounds. A sulfur-based compound called alliin and an enzyme called allinase are separated in the garlic’s cell structure when it’s whole. When garlic’s cell ruptures due to the slicing and dicing, it releases these two elements to come together to form a powerful new compound called allicin. It’s allicin that is behind the pungent aroma and gives garlic it’s intense flavor. By chopping or mincing garlic more finely, more allicin is produced which in turn increases its health benefits and aroma. (18)
This antibacterial compound is produced when the garlic is crushed or chopped.
To get the most health benefit from garlic other than chopping it very fine, allow the garlic to sit for a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes for optimum benefit. Waiting for a few minutes after preparing the garlic helps the allicin form so, it’s well worth the wait. If the garlic is cooked without letting the allicin to form, the heat has been found to deactivate the enzyme that is responsible for forming allicin. Research on garlic reinforces the validity of this practice. When crushed garlic was heated, its ability to inhibit cancer development in animals was blocked; yet, when the researchers allowed the crushed garlic to sit for 10 minutes before heating, it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer activity was preserved.
Some ideas to get more of this immune boosting powerhouse in your food is to get a garlic press to quickly and easily mince the garlic. Add it to some olive oil and lemon juice for with some basil and oregano for a nice greek style salad dressing. Adding it to any sauteed vegetables will amp of the flavor many times over!
7. Boswellia - Herbal Extract
Boswellia is a lesser known herb in our day, but has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Boswellia is a resin that is collected from the Boswellia trees located in India, Africa, China and the Middle East. Frankincense essential oil is also derived from the extracts of the Boswellia tree and is another form in getting the benefits from the potent herb.
What makes boswellia so powerful is that it can block one of the first markers that sets off inflammation. This enzyme is pro-inflammatory 5-LOX which then triggers the metabolic cascade leading to the synthesis of inflammation for various diseases like asthma and cancer.
So, think of boswellia as an inflammatory blocker. Not only can it block 5-LOX but it also has been shown to block the activity of human leukocyte elastase (HLE), an inflammatory enzyme associated with rheumatoid arthritis, pulmonary emphysema, cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, and acute respiratory distress syndrome.(19)
With boswellia blocking two of the major inflammatory instigators it’s no wonder it has been shown to reduce the growth of cancer cells. One study that was done at the Cleveland Clinic showed that boswellia extract was effective against human meningioma cells. It worked by stopping the growth of the tumor and actually killed cancer cells.(20)
Boswellia contains a compound called AKBA which naturally reduces the inflammatory response. AKBA has been shown to be just as effective as NSAID pain relievers and does not compromise the gut lining and have other toxic side effects.
This has increased the interest of scientists in forming synthetic drugs that have similar properties to the AKBA in Boswellia that has very little side effects. This is a great finding as that means future pain blocking drugs made with this herb will have greater benefits with less stress on the body.(21)
Cayenne pepper has been called, “The King of Herbs” for thousands of years and we have good reason to call it such! This powerful anti-inflammatory spice has been shown to increase blood flow to areas of the body that may be constricted. With increased blood flow, comes more nutrients so the body can repair itself. For example, if you have joint pain, lower back pain, post-op surgery pain, capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne peppers, will go to work. It alters substance P-a compound that transfers pain messages to the brain, which can reduce pain and inflammation.(22)
Cayenne is also known as a stimulant. With this healing property in mind, you can reach for cayenne to stimulate digestion as well as your metabolism.(23)
To do so, Add a ¼ tsp. of cayenne to warm lemon water three times a day and you may very well see additional calories burned throughout the day.
So, think of cayenne as a spice that promotes motion and flow with many systems of the body.
Parsley is the end all be all herb as it alkalizes the entire body whereas other herbs alkalize only one or two body systems. What this means is that parsley can improve your pH, which in turn reduces the inflammation in the body. Parsley is high in mineral salts and, therefore, binds onto unproductive acids to drive them out of the body. (24) It contains a compound called, apigenin, which has been found to be anti-carcinogenic and it’s no wonder with its ability to alkalize the body on many different levels! (25)
Another big theme with parsley is it’s ability to calm the inflammatory response when the immune system is under attack. Think of super viruses like Epstein Barr, hepatitis C, HIV and Lyme disease that are hard to overcome.(26) Parsley, along with other herbs and spices will help reduce inflammation by putting these bugs in jail so they don’t come out to play.
For some, parsley can taste somewhat bitter, but when juiced with celery, the two create a flavorful concoction. Another way to get more parsley into your diet is to have it as a staple in your home so that you can easily sprinkle fresh parsley over salads, soups and stews. A little dose goes a long way in the cellular world!
When buying and storing herbs and spices, follow these tips:
Avoid buying large quantities in bulk; purchase only what you will use within a few months.Store bulk herbs and spices in airtight glass or tin containers, and throw out old herbs and spices.Buy herbs and spices in their fresh, dried, whole, cracked, coarsely ground, and finely ground forms.Store herbs and spices in a cool, dark place. Exposure to heat, light, and moisture will accelerate the loss of flavor. High temperatures can also cause spices to cake or harden and change or lose color.To increase shelf life, close containers tightly after using, and don’t store spices near the stove. With proper storage, ground spices will keep for about a year and whole spices for up to 2 or 3 years.To test for freshness, rub between fingers and sniff for aroma.
Tips for including more herbs and spices in your meals include:
Add brewed tea to smoothies.Make a simple salad dressing by combining extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, finely chopped garlic, and basilAdd dry or Dijon mustards to dishes for a flavor boostTop salads or sandwiches with fresh herbs such as cilantro, chives, basil, or mintSprinkle cumin or fennel seeds in soups or saladsMarinate lean meats in curry powder or curry pastesSprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg over oatmeal, whole grain toast, a cup of steamed soymilk, or vegetablesAdd fresh parsley or chives to scrambled eggsStew fruits with a cinnamon stick and a vanilla podSteep lemongrass, ginger, or mint in hot waterAdd freshly grated garlic to mayonnaiseAdd fresh or dried herbs to your favorite dishAdd spices to ghee (clarified butter), honey, oils, or salt.
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