What Is Inflammation and What Natural Anti-Inflammatory Powerhouses You Should Use
Inflammation is one of the immune system’s most important defense mechanisms to protect the body against disease and injury. When unregulated, however, this same inflammatory process can lead to cell death, tissue damage, and organ dysfunction. In fact, inflammation is at the root of most chronic diseases.
The key to living a long and healthy life starts by reducing harmful inflammation and supporting our fighting immune systems. Here we’ll explore nine key ingredients that naturally fight harmful inflammation and help prevent chronic disease.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is one of the immune system’s key mechanisms for fighting pathogens and disease. When the body detects a potentially harmful stimulus, it mounts an inflammatory response to eradicate it and restore balance. To fight, blood flow increases, immune cells are activated, and pro-inflammatory chemicals are released (1).
Unfortunately, this inflammatory process can be damaging to healthy tissues over time. So is inflammation friend or foe?
As with all things in life, you can have too much of a good thing. Inflammation is a helpful and necessary process in the acute phase of an attack or injury. But when it becomes chronic, it wreaks havoc on healthy tissues and eventually leads to some of our most troublesome chronic diseases, including diabetes, atherosclerosis, and cancers.
Thankfully, nature provides us with some powerful anti-inflammatory medicinals that help us return to a natural state of health and balance.
9 Natural Ingredients that Fight Harmful Inflammation
- Black Elderberry
Black elderberry is a potent antioxidant known for its ability to shorten colds and boost the immune system. These berries are packed with phenols, anthocyanins, and flavanols that not only boost immune function but naturally reduce excessive inflammation (2). Research shows that the anti-inflammatory activity of elderberries has a significant impact on improving the immune system’s function and reducing systemic damage from inflammation (3).
Astragalus has long been used by traditional medical systems for its ability to strengthen the immune system and boost energy. Research now shows that much of astragalus’s usefulness comes from its astragaloside IV and other polysaccharide content (4). These compounds have natural anti-inflammatory effects and have shown to protect the body from a range of diseases related to systemic inflammation, particularly inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract (5)
Andrographis is a potent herbal medicinal, most known for its ability to neutralize inflammation and eliminate pathogens like bacteria and viruses. Studies show that these anti-inflammatory effects stem from andrographolides, which reduce inflammation by interfering with and inhibiting inflammatory cytokines (6). It enhances the body’s innate immunity to interrupt harmful inflammatory pathways and reduce systemic inflammatory damage (7).
Garlic, specifically aged garlic extract (AGE), can be used to moderate both local and systemic inflammation. Studies show that garlic does this by increasing serum levels of TNF-α and interleukin-6, two factors that quell low-grade, chronic inflammation (8). Garlic also contains organosulfur compounds which have been shown to reduce cellular damage and potentially protect against inflammatory diseases like cancer (9)
Spirulina is a blue-green alga that has so many potential health benefits that it is considered a superfood and healing medicinal. It contains a biliprotein called C-phycocyanin that has been shown to reduce proinflammatory cytokine formation in lab studies (10). C-phycocyanin is also involved in the suppression of COX-2 and the reduction of inflammatory, pain-inducing prostaglandins (11). For this reason, it is believed that spirulina may reduce pain heightened by inflammation, or hyperalgesia
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a significant role in the prevention of chronic inflammatory diseases. Studies show that vitamin D can reduce the inflammatory cytokines that lead to systemic inflammation (12). Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a wide range of chronic inflammatory conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, and more (13)
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is well-known for boosting the immune system’s function. As it turns out, much of that ability is related to how vitamin C reduces oxidative damage and moderates the inflammatory process (14). Studies reveal the vitamin C reduces the expression of inflammatory markers (like C-reactive proteins and interleukin 6) which in turn limits overall inflammation in the tissues (15)
Zinc is an essential mineral in the fight against harmful inflammation. Zinc’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects help the body manage factors like interleukin 6 to keep inflammation in check (16). Zinc also inhibits NF-κB activation to reduce inflammatory reactions (17). Without enough zinc, the body fails to manage inflammation properly, which is why we often see a zinc deficiency in cases of chronic inflammatory diseases (18)
We need small amounts of copper to maintain a robust immune system and mount a healthy inflammatory response (19). But studies show that copper also helps to keep inflammation in check by managing inflammation and reducing oxidative damage to protect healthy cells (20).
Heal Chronic Inflammation with Natural Ingredients
When it comes to chronic disease, prevention is the best medicine. With inflammation at the root of most chronic diseases, addressing inflammation naturally is the key to better health. With these research-backed herbs, minerals, and vitamins, you can reduce chronic inflammation and the harmful effects it has on your body.
- Punchard, Neville A et al. “The Journal of Inflammation.” Journal of inflammation (London, England) vol. 1,1 1. 27 Sep. 2004, doi:10.1186/1476-9255-1-1
- Wu X, et al. Characterization of anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins in some cultivars of Ribes, Aronia, and Sambucus and their antioxidant capacity. J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Dec 29;52(26):7846-56. doi: 10.1021/jf0486850. PMID: 15612766.
- Andrzej Sidor, 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, 2015, Pages 941-958, ISSN 1756-4646, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2014.07.012.
- Hsieh HL, et al. Astragaloside IV suppresses inflammatory response via suppression of NF-κB, and MAPK signalling in human bronchial epithelial cells. Arch Physiol Biochem. 2020 Feb 14:1-10. doi: 10.1080/13813455.2020.1727525. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32057253.
- Piao YL, Liang XC. Astragalus membranaceus injection combined with conventional treatment for viral myocarditis: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Chin J Integr Med. 2014 Oct;20(10):787-91. doi: 10.1007/s11655-014-1825-3. Epub 2014 Aug 6. PMID: 25098261.
- Warisara Parichatikanond et al, Study of anti-inflammatory activities of the pure compounds from Andrographis paniculata (burm.f.) Nees and their effects on gene expression, International Immunopharmacology, Volume 10, Issue 11, 2010, Pages 1361-1373, ISSN 1567-5769, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intimp.2010.08.002.
- Nie, X. et al. Attenuation of Innate Immunity by Andrographolide Derivatives Through NF-κB Signaling Pathway. Sci Rep 7, 4738 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-04673-x
- Changjie Xu et al, Aged garlic extract supplementation modifies inflammation and immunity of adults with obesity: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, Volume 24, 2018, Pages 148-155, ISSN 2405-4577, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnesp.2017.11.010.
- Schäfer, Georgia, and Catherine H Kaschula. “The immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic organosulfur compounds in cancer chemoprevention.” Anti-cancer agents in medicinal chemistry vol. 14,2 (2014): 233-40. doi:10.2174/18715206113136660370
- Romay Ch et al. C-phycocyanin: a biliprotein with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2003 Jun;4(3):207-16. doi: 10.2174/1389203033487216. PMID: 12769719.
- 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.
- Liu, Wei et al. “The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Vitamin D in Tumorigenesis.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 19,9 2736. 13 Sep. 2018, doi:10.3390/ijms19092736
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- Traber, Maret G, and Jan F Stevens. “Vitamins C and E: beneficial effects from a mechanistic perspective.” Free radical biology & medicine vol. 51,5 (2011): 1000-13. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2011.05.017
- Ellulu, Mohammed S 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
- Gammoh, Nour Zahi, and Lothar Rink. “Zinc in Infection and Inflammation.” Nutrients vol. 9,6 624. 17 Jun. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9060624
- Jarosz, Magdalena et al. “Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of zinc. Zinc-dependent NF-κB signaling.” Inflammopharmacology vol. 25,1 (2017): 11-24. doi:10.1007/s10787-017-0309-4
- Nuttall, Johnathan R, and Patricia I Oteiza. “Zinc and the aging brain.” Genes & nutrition vol. 9,1 (2014): 379. doi:10.1007/s12263-013-0379-x
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