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5 Best Anti-Inflammatory Spices

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to fight against an infection or injury. It also usually causes pain, swelling, or redness. Inflammation can also cause loss of function of the affected tissue, and acute inflammation is a response of the body designed to help the body heal and restore normal tissue function. However, if inflammation lasts longer than necessary, it can cause harm to the body. This is known as chronic inflammation, and studies have shown that it is associated with many diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, amongst others. Since diet plays an important role in your health, what you eat also affects inflammation in the body. There are many types of foods that are known to be anti-inflammatory in nature, meaning they help decrease chronic inflammation in the body and pain. One of the easiest ways to include anti-inflammatory items in your diet is through the use of spices. So what exactly are anti-inflammatory spices, and do they work? Let us take a look.

5 Best Anti-Inflammatory Spices

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5 Best Anti-Inflammatory Spices 

Certain foods, herbs, and spices have been identified as being anti-inflammatory in nature. This means that they help reduce chronic inflammation in the body, along with the other symptoms associated with inflammation. For example, omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fatty fish, some nuts, and chocolate are known to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.(1, 2, 3)

Even though there are mixed results from the various studies that have looked at how these foods reduce inflammation in the body, but nevertheless, the evidence is promising. The easiest way to include anti-inflammatories in your daily diet is by using spices.(4, 5)

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Here are some of the best anti-inflammatory spices.

  1. Turmeric

    Turmeric is a popular spice used in many Asian cuisines since ancient times. This spice is loaded with over 300 active compounds, the main one being the antioxidant curcumin. Curcumin is known to have potent anti-inflammatory properties.(6)

    Several studies have found that curcumin is capable of blocking the activation of NF-kB, which is a molecule responsible for activating the genes that promote inflammation within the body.(7, 8) An analysis of 15 reliable and high-quality studies that followed nearly 1223 people who were taking 112 to 4000 milligrams of curcumin every day for a period of three days to almost 36 weeks.(9) The study found that those taking curcumin had dramatically lower levels of inflammatory markers as compared to those who were taking a placebo. These inflammatory markers included high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), malondialdehyde (MDA), and interleukin 6 (IL-6).

    Studies done on people with osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative condition that causes joint inflammation, have found that taking curcumin supplements helped provide relief from pain that was similar to that provided by common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like diclofenac and ibuprofen.(10, 11, 12)

    However, the issue with turmeric is that it only contains three percent of curcumin by weight, and the body is unable to absorb it properly. This is why it is recommended to consume curcumin with black pepper, as black pepper contains piperine, which is a compound that helps increase the absorption of curcumin by nearly 2000 percent.(13, 14)

    If you are thinking about taking curcumin for its anti-inflammatory benefits, it is best to consume it in the form of supplements, especially ones that include black pepper extract or piperine. You can find curcumin supplements easily online or from health stores.

  2. Ginger

    Ginger is another popular spice that is known for its sweet and peppery flavor. Many people frequently use ginger in cooking, either powdered, dried, or fresh. Apart from the culinary uses of ginger, it is also used for numerous health conditions. It is frequently used as a traditional medicine for healing cough and cold, migraine, nausea, arthritis, and even high blood pressure.(15)

    Ginger is rich in over 100 active compounds, including shagoal, gingerol, zingerone, and zingiberene, apart from many others. These are believed to be responsible for the many health benefits attributed to ginger, including reducing inflammation in the body.(16)

    A review of 16 studies that included 1010 participants showed that those taking 1000 to 3000 mg of ginger every day for a period of 4 to 12 weeks had dramatically lower markers of inflammation as compared to those participants who were given a placebo. These inflammatory markers included tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a) and C-reactive protein (CRP).(17)

    Other studies have also looked at the impact of consuming 500 to 1000 mg of ginger daily on people with osteoarthritis. The studies discovered that ginger helps lower inflammatory markers like interleukin 1 beta and TNF-a, and it also helps boost joint mobility and reduce joint pain.(18, 19)

    Ginger is such a versatile spice that it can easily be incorporated into numerous dishes, or you can also purchase ginger supplements.

  3. Cardamom

    Cardamom is a popular spice that is native to Southeast Asia. It is known for its sweet and spicy flavor. Studies have shown that taking supplements of cardamom can help decrease inflammatory markers like CRP, IL-6, MDA, and TNF-a. One additional study also found that cardamom increased the level of antioxidants in the body by nearly 90 percent. A study that lasted for eight weeks and was carried out on 80 people who had prediabetes discovered that taking just three grams of cardamom every day helped significantly lower inflammatory markers like IL-6, MDA, and hs-CRP as compared to taking a placebo. Similarly, a 12-week study found that when 87 people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease were given either a placebo or three grams of cardamom daily, the group that took the cardamom had dramatically lower levels of inflammatory markers like TNF-a, IL-6, and CRP. Taking cardamom every day also decreased the degree of their fatty liver disease.(20, 21, 22, 23)

    You can either use cardamom as a spice to add to stews and curries, or you can also take it as a supplement in capsule or powder form.

  4. Garlic

    Garlic is a commonly used spice that is known for its strong taste and smell. People have been using garlic as a traditional medicine for centuries for the treatment of conditions like constipation, arthritis, cold and cough, infections, toothache, and many others.(24)

    Garlic is known to have many health benefits, and most of them are attributed to its sulfur compounds like diallyl disulfide, allicin, and S-allyl cysteine. All these compounds are known to have potent anti-inflammatory properties.(25, 26, 27)

    An analysis of 17 studies that included over 800 participants and lasted for 4 to 48 weeks discovered that people who were taking garlic supplements had significantly decreased blood levels of the inflammatory marker CRP. However, the study also found that aged garlic extract was much more effective, and apart from reducing CRP, it also reduced the blood levels of TNF-a.(28)

    Other studies have also proven that garlic can help increase the level of antioxidants in the body, including superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione (GSH), while also controlling inflammation-boosting markers like nuclear factor-kB (NF-kB) and interleukin 10 (IL-10).(29, 30)

    Since garlic is a versatile spice, you can add it easily to many dishes, and you can even buy concentrated garlic or aged garlic extract supplements.

  5. Black Pepper

    Black pepper is a spice that is popular throughout the world and is even used to treat many health conditions like gastric diseases, asthma, and diarrhea, among others. Studies have shown that the main active compound in black pepper, piperine (also discussed above), plays a major role in decreasing inflammation throughout the body.(31, 32)

    Animal studies found that animals with arthritis who were administered piperine experienced a reduction in inflammation markers like TNF-a, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), and interleukin 1 beta.(33)

    In other studies done on mice with seasonal allergies and asthma, piperine was found to reduce redness, various inflammatory markers, and also the frequency of sneezing.(34) 

    However, there are limited studies done on humans to test out the anti-inflammatory properties of black pepper. More research is still needed on this.

Conclusion

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to fighting off an infection or injury. While some inflammation is beneficial to the body, chronic inflammation increases the risk of developing health complications and causes many diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and many others. The good news is that what you eat can have a profound effect on your health, helping bring down inflammation in the body. The spices described here can help bring down inflammation and also prevent further inflammation, and also add some great flavors to your food.

References:

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