Anti-Inflammatory Herbs For Pain, Swelling and Infections

Tulsi - Holy Basil

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or infection, a perfectly normal reaction to acute injuries. But chronic inflammation can lead to long-term health problems, causing pain, swelling, and infections.

Fortunately, there are countless herbs that are effective at reducing inflammation and relieving pain, helping you to live a happier, healthier life. From well-known herbs like ginger and turmeric to lesser-known herbs like feverfew and plantain, these anti-inflammatory herbs have been used for centuries to promote healing and support overall health.

Whether you’re looking for a natural way to treat an existing condition or just maintain your good health, these organic herbs are a great place to start.

1.   Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is one of the most commonly used herbs in Ayurvedic medicine, largely due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It regulates certain cytokine and enzyme levels that contribute to inflammation. It’s also believed to act as an immunomodulating agent, meaning it can modulate (or balance) the immune system, reducing inflammation.

Some studies have shown that Ashwagandha is most effective at reducing chronic inflammation in those with osteoarthritis, ulcerative colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

2.   Calendula

Calendula’s antifungal and antimicrobial properties have been used to treat wounds for centuries. The anti-inflammatory properties are attributed to the presence of flavonoids and triterpenoids, two compounds which are effective in animal and in vitro studies. Typically, calendula is used as a topical agent to treat minor skin abrasions like wounds, cuts, and rashes. However, many have also used it to treat inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis.

3. Turmeric

Curcumin is the primary bioactive substance in turmeric and is primarily responsible for its anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin blocks the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and enzymes which activate during an inflammatory response. It also has antioxidant properties which help to protect cells from damage caused by inflammation and oxidative stress.

Studies have shown that curcumin is effective in reducing inflammation in conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease, though more research is needed to confirm its efficacy. Turmeric is usually consumed orally as a supplement or spice, but it is also applied topically for skin conditions. For maximum effectiveness combine turmeric with piperine, an alkaloid found in black pepper, to increase its bioavailability.

4.   Ginger

Ginger is a diverse culinary herb that’s widely used in thousands of dishes and desserts. And it is one of the best herbs for inflammation due to the presence of gingerols and shogaols. These compounds have shown anti-inflammatory effects in animal and in vitro studies, blocking the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and enzymes. And similar to turmeric, it also protects cells from oxidative stress and inflammatory damage.

Ginger has shown the most promise in reducing inflammation caused by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and menstrual pain. It’s usually consumed orally as a spice or even as a supplement, but ginger oil is a common topical and aromatherapy treatment.

5.   Boswellia

Boswellia, also known as Indian frankincense, is a tree resin that originates from India and Pakistan. Boswellic acids, the primary anti-inflammatory compounds in the herb plant, have shown promising results in animal and vitro studies.

Boswellia has shown effectiveness in reducing inflammation in conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. It’s usually consumed orally as a resin or supplement, but it is also applied topically as a cream or oil for skin conditions.

6.   Devil’s Claw

Devil’s Claw is an anti-inflammatory herb from southern Africa. It contains compounds known as harpagosides that block certain inflammation-causing proteins; it’s also been known to relieve pain, specifically in the lower back.

Studies have shown that Devil’s Claw is effective in reducing inflammation and pain in those with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lower back pain. It’s typically consumed as a supplement or in an herbal tea, but devil’s claw creams and oils exist for topical application.

7.   Holy Basil

Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is an adaptogenic herb that’s used to reduce inflammation in individuals with ulcerative colitis and arthritis. The active compound is eucalyptol, which has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, blocking pro-inflammatory proteins and protecting cells from oxidative stress damage.

Holy basil is most often consumed orally as a tea or supplement, but oils & creams are available for topical use.

8.   Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is a spice made from the dried and ground fruit of a type of chili pepper. Its anti-inflammatory properties are attributed to the presence of a compound called capsaicin. In several studies, capsaicin has been shown to reduce and even prevent an inflammatory response.

Cayenne pepper is used to reduce inflammation in those with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and nerve pain. As you probably know, cayenne pepper is most often consumed as a spice, but supplement and topical options are available. However, the topical creams may irritate sensitive skin, so test it on a small area before applying generously to the inflamed area.

9.   Licorice Root

Licorice root is a popular anti-inflammatory herb, primarily used to reduce pain and inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis and eczema. Glycyrrhizin and glabridin, the active compounds in the plant, block pro-inflammatory proteins and protect cells from damage caused by oxidative stress.

Licorice root has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to stimulate digestive system functions, eliminate phlegm, relieve coughing & chest congestion, and alleviate pain. It’s even been known to decrease the presence of free radicals, unstable atoms that cause a number of serious illnesses, including cancer.

And as with most of these anti-inflammatory herbs, the most effective consumption method is via herbal tea blend or supplement. It’s worth noting that excessive consumption can cause  adverse effects like increased blood pressure.

10.   Feverfew

Feverfew contains parthenolide and other sesquiterpene lactones, which are believed to inhibit the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, reducing inflammation. It’s been used for centuries to treat headaches, arthritis, and fevers.

Most people ingest feverfew or apply it directly to their gums, but topical applications are quite common as well, usually in the form of oil.

11.   Plantain

Plantain has a long history in traditional medicine thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. The plantain leaves contain aucubin, asperuloside, and baicalein, compounds that reduce inflammation and relieve pain throughout the body.

Drink plantain herbal tea to treat internal conditions such as inflamed bowels, peptic ulcers, bronchitis, and urinary tract infections (UTIs). For skin-related inflammation, apply plantain directly to the burn, dermatitis, insect bite/sting, or wound for best results.

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