It’s great when immune cells show up to help heal an infection or injury by ridding the area of damaged tissue and starting tissue repair. But when inflammation becomes chronic, it is a one-way train ride to nothing-good-can-happen. In fact, chronic inflammation in the body is linked to a lot of major health issues, among them cancer and heart disease.
Wisest, then, is to actively tame chronic inflammation. A good and simple way to do that is through your diet. You can do this easily by removing processed foods and inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, and soy, but also by adding fruits and veggies. Some of the strongest soldiers in the battle against inflammation may surprise you—they’re the spices and herbs we add to flavor foods! And boy, are they powerful.
Here are six herbs and spices that are especially good as anti-inflammatories and for contributing to health in general. And it doesn’t take a lot to make a big difference. Routine use of a teaspoon or so added to foods in most cases is sufficient!
A bright yellow spice, turmeric is the base of curry and has a long history in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for helping to treat digestive problems. Among them are indigestion, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease. The component, curcumin, in turmeric is a strong anti-oxidant, which makes it an inflammation fighter as well. Powerful medicine indeed!
A recent study showed that clove, with its bounty of phytonutrients, is a leader among the most potent 24 herbs and spices people commonly use. Not only does it fight inflammation, it also helps relieve upset stomach, nausea, and specific inflammation of the mouth and throat.
It’s a strong anti-inflammatory, including battling inflammation in the colon. Not surprisingly, then, ginger is well known for helping reduce many kinds of gastrointestinal distress, including nausea caused by motion sickness. If you’re prone to it, put some candied or crystallized ginger in your pocket before heading out. Add fresh grated ginger to a smoothie, sautéed vegetables, or fish dishes, and make ginger tea to soothe an aching tummy. It is a great help for digestive discomfort.
This spice’s high number of anti-oxidants make it a powerful anti-inflammatory. Other health pluses: it helps fight infections, viruses, and bacteria including those that cause digestive issues. Cinnamon is so versatile and easy to use—try it in coffee, applesauce, or Moroccan vegetable dishes. Get creative! Plus, this one is especially delicious.
A member of the capsicum family, cayenne pepper helps relieve digestion problems such as diarrhea, gas, upset stomachs, and cramping. Filled with anti-oxidants, cayenne pepper is a useful anti-inflammatory as well. The hotter the pepper, the more healing capsicum it contains. Kick it up a notch.
This is an anti-inflammatory, but sage is helpful for a wide range of additional health issues: gas, stomach pain, heartburn, and bloating. Other problems sage helps address include relief from hot flashes. And yet more! Sage is known to help with memory loss and sharpen other cognitive skills. Use it on foods or make a soothing sage tea.
Sometimes called a cousin of sage, rosemary has similar antioxidants that help fight cancer as well as inflammation. It helps protect against bacterial infections, especially in the stomach. As a gentle diuretic, it flushes out toxins and pathogens. Even just a sniff of the strong smell of rosemary is said to help relieve migraine pain. This herb maxes its health properties when it’s cooked—add it to chicken, roasted vegetables and other dishes in which its potent fragrance also enhances taste.
Using spices and herbs for their anti-inflammatory properties and to aid digestion can also lead to more fun in the kitchen. They give your recipes a special taste that will have your taste buds wanting to explore healthier options. Here is to your healthiest you!