9 Natural Essentials that Fight Inflammation
Inflammation is one of our peskiest health problems. It is a clear contributing factor in nearly all our chronic health conditions and when left unmanaged, it can make us sick, stressed, and desperately searching for solutions.
Thankfully, nature provides us with some powerful adaptogens and healing medicinals that help us fight inflammation. Here we’ll review some of the most essential natural supplements that show promising anti-inflammatory and healing properties.
From treating infections to healing burns to managing cold symptoms, the deep purple elderberry has been used for centuries in medical traditions around the world. Modern research shows that elderberry does have anti-inflammatory properties and may live up to its healing claims.
Studies point to elderberry’s phenolic acids and anthocyanins (the same compounds that give them their deep purple hue) when explaining its healing effects. Phenolic acids are powerful antioxidants that moderate inflammation and help to prevent damage to the body’s cells and tissues1, which improves cellular healing. Anthocyanins, too, prevent oxidative damage and therefore reduce excess harmful inflammation.2
Studies show that astragalus is rich in three main healing compounds: saponins, flavonoids, and polysaccharides. Together, these three compounds can help to reduce inflammation, heal wounds, and reduce pain. While saponins and flavonoids are helpful when it comes to a strong immune and cardiovascular system3, polysaccharides are the most involved with healing cells and calming inflammation.4
Studies also show that astragalus root extract effectively reduces the inflammatory response5, likely due to high levels of antioxidants that lower oxidative stress on the body’s tissues to allow for healing.
Andrographis, also known as the “King of Bitters,” is rich in a special type of compound called andrographolides. These compounds show anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antioxidant benefits6 and may be beneficial in a wide range of inflammatory and immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis7, upper respiratory tract infections8, and inflammatory bowel disease9.
Vitamin C is well-known for its positive effects on the immune system, but this vitamin’s benefits go far beyond improving the common cold. In fact, research shows that Vitamin C encourages healthy wound healing and reduces inflammation. 10 We can see the effects of Vitamin C on inflammation as a clear decline in the presence of inflammatory markers that signal inflammation, such as c-reactive proteins11.
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin, yet many people struggle to get adequate amounts. Unfortunately, low levels of Vitamin D are strongly associated with inflammatory and painful conditions12 such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and others. Research shows that Vitamin D supplementation can decrease the biomarkers of inflammation13 (like c-reactive proteins and IL-6) and could be a helpful way to moderate inflammation while also supporting the body holistically.
Zinc is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mineral14. It helps to heal infections and decrease cytokines which in turn reduce inflammation and pain. Research shows that while zinc has a range of effects on the entire immune system, one reason it may help improve inflammatory conditions is by stopping inflammation from raging out of control15. The effects of zinc seem to target those pathways that cause inflammation and slows the process down to prevent inflammatory damage.
Copper is one of the trace minerals that our bodies need in small amounts to stay healthy. Copper helps to maintain healthy bones and joints and even helps the body to absorb iron effectively. Research shows that copper can be helpful in cellular healing (especially of the skin) and protects against the oxidative stress that leads to inflammation and tissue damage16.
Spirulina is a blue-green alga that is known for its high levels of antioxidants and health-promoting benefits. When it comes to healing pain and inflammation, spirulina can help by reducing inflammation17 (as seen with decreased inflammatory markers) and supporting the immune system with increased immune cell function18. Much of this benefit comes from spirulina’s antioxidant compounds, specifically phycocyanin which is highly anti-inflammatory.
Garlic has long been a popular home remedy for many health issues like nausea, fungal infections, and even joint pain. Modern research has supported many of these claims and links garlic’s healing properties to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Garlic contains several sulfuric compounds that have been shown to inhibit molecules like cytokines, prostaglandins, and nitric oxide, all of which contribute to inflammation, pain, and poor cellular health. By reducing these compounds, garlic helps the body fight against the damaging effects of inflammation19.
Natural Steps Towards Better Health
The first step towards a healthier lifestyle often begins with eliminating the root cause of illness. For many of us, that root lies in inflammation. From everyday aches and pains to serious chronic conditions, the effects of inflammation can have serious consequences for our health both now and in the future.
By using nature’s resources, however, we can fight back against inflammation, enhance cellular healing, and lay the foundation for a healthy body in balance.
- Sidor, A et al. Advanced research on the antioxidant and health benefit of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) in food – a review. Journal of Functional Foods, Volume 18, Part B, October 2015, Pages 941-958.
- He J, et al. Anthocyanins: natural colorants with health-promoting properties. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2010;1:163-87. doi: 10.1146/annurev.food.080708.100754. PMID: 22129334.
- Huang LF, et al. The effect of Astragaloside IV on immune function of regulatory T cell mediated by high mobility group box 1 protein in vitro. Fitoterapia. 2012 Dec;83(8):1514-22. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2012.08.019. Epub 2012 Sep 5. PMID: 22981502.
- Hao S, et al. Effects on exercise endurance capacity and antioxidant properties of astragalus membranaceus polysaccharides (APS). Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 4(10), pp. 982-986, 18 May, 2010. DOI: 10.5897/JMPR10.203 ISSN 1996-0875© 2010 Academic Journals
- Adesso, S et al. Astragalus membranaceus Extract Attenuates Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Intestinal Epithelial Cells via NF-κB Activation and Nrf2 Response. International journal of molecular sciences vol. 19,3 800. 10 Mar. 2018, doi:10.3390/ijms19030800
- Zou, W et al. The anti-inflammatory effect of Andrographis paniculata (Burm. f.) Nees on pelvic inflammatory disease in rats through down-regulation of the NF-κB pathway. BMC complementary and alternative medicine vol. 16,1 483. 25 Nov. 2016, doi:10.1186/s12906-016-1466-5
- Guo Q, et al. Rheumatoid arthritis: pathological mechanisms and modern pharmacologic therapies. Bone Res. 2018;6:15. doi:10.1038/s41413-018-0016-9
- Hu XY, et al. Correction: Andrographis paniculata (Chuān Xīn Lián) for symptomatic relief of acute respiratory tract infections in adults and children: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS ONE. 2018;13(11):e0207713. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0207713+
- Ng SC, et al. Systematic review: the efficacy of herbal therapy in inflammatory bowel disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2013;38(8):854-63. doi:10.1111/apt.12464
- Desneves KJ, et al. Treatment with supplementary arginine, vitamin C and zinc in patients with pressure ulcers: a randomised controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2005 Dec;24(6):979-87. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2005.06.011. Epub 2005 Nov 15. PMID: 16297506.
- Ellulu, M et al. Effect of vitamin C on inflammation and metabolic markers in hypertensive and/or diabetic obese adults: a randomized controlled trial. Drug design, development and therapy vol. 9 3405-12. 1 Jul. 2015, doi:10.2147/DDDT.S83144
- Kostoglou-Athanassiou I, et al. Vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis. Ther Adv Endocrinol Metab. 2012;3(6):181-187. doi:10.1177/2042018812471070
- Yin, K et al. Vitamin D and inflammatory diseases. Journal of inflammation research vol. 7 69-87. 29 May. 2014, doi:10.2147/JIR.S63898
- Jarosz M, et al. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of zinc. Zinc-dependent NF-κB signaling. Inflammopharmacology. 2017;25(1):11-24. doi:10.1007/s10787-017-0309-4
- Ohio State University. Zinc helps against infection by tapping brakes in immune response. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 February 2013.
- Higdon, J. “Copper.” Linus Pauling Institute. Oregon State University. 2001.
- Shih CM, et al. Antiinflammatory and antihyperalgesic activity of C-phycocyanin. Anesth Analg. 2009 Apr;108(4):1303-10. doi: 10.1213/ane.0b013e318193e919. PMID: 19299804.
- Park HJ, et al. A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study to establish the effects of spirulina in elderly Koreans. Ann Nutr Metab. 2008;52(4):322-8. doi: 10.1159/000151486. Epub 2008 Aug 19. PMID: 18714150.
- Lee DY, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of sulfur-containing compounds from garlic. J Med Food. 2012 Nov;15(11):992-9. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.2275. Epub 2012 Oct 11. PMID: 23057778; PMCID: PMC3491620.