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
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)
Here are some of the best anti-inflammatory spices.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
- Watzl, B., 2008. Anti-inflammatory effects of plant-based foods and of their constituents. International journal for vitamin and nutrition research, 78(6), pp.293-298.
- Lu, C.C. and Yen, G.C., 2015. Antioxidative and anti-inflammatory activity of functional foods. Current Opinion in Food Science, 2, pp.1-8.
- Serafini, M. and Peluso, I., 2016. Functional foods for health: the interrelated antioxidant and anti-inflammatory role of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and cocoa in humans. Current pharmaceutical design, 22(44), pp.6701-6715.
- Galland, L., 2010. Diet and inflammation. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 25(6), pp.634-640.
- Ricker, M.A. and Haas, W.C., 2017. Anti‐inflammatory diet in clinical practice: a review. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 32(3), pp.318-325.
- Hewlings, S.J. and Kalman, D.S., 2017. Curcumin: A review of its effects on human health. Foods, 6(10), p.92.
- Olivera, A., Moore, T.W., Hu, F., Brown, A.P., Sun, A., Liotta, D.C., Snyder, J.P., Yoon, Y., Shim, H., Marcus, A.I. and Miller, A.H., 2012. Inhibition of the NF-κB signaling pathway by the curcumin analog, 3, 5-Bis (2-pyridinylmethylidene)-4-piperidone (EF31): anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. International immunopharmacology, 12(2), pp.368-377.
- Marín, Y.E., Wall, B.A., Wang, S., Namkoong, J., Martino, J.J., Suh, J., Lee, H.J., Rabson, A.B., Yang, C.S., Chen, S. and Ryu, J.H., 2007. Curcumin downregulates the constitutive activity of NF-κB and induces apoptosis in novel mouse melanoma cells. Melanoma research, 17(5), pp.274-283.
- Tabrizi, R., Vakili, S., Akbari, M., Mirhosseini, N., Lankarani, K.B., Rahimi, M., Mobini, M., Jafarnejad, S., Vahedpoor, Z. and Asemi, Z., 2019. The effects of curcumin‐containing supplements on biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytotherapy research, 33(2), pp.253-262.
- Kuptniratsaikul, V., Thanakhumtorn, S., Chinswangwatanakul, P., Wattanamongkonsil, L. and Thamlikitkul, V., 2009. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts in patients with knee osteoarthritis. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine, 15(8), pp.891-897.
- Shep, D., Khanwelkar, C., Gade, P. and Karad, S., 2019. Safety and efficacy of curcumin versus diclofenac in knee osteoarthritis: a randomized open-label parallel-arm study. Trials, 20(1), pp.1-11.
- Shep, D., Khanwelkar, C., Gade, P. and Karad, S., 2020. Efficacy and safety of combination of curcuminoid complex and diclofenac versus diclofenac in knee osteoarthritis: a randomized trial. Medicine, 99(16).
- Tayyem, R.F., Heath, D.D., Al-Delaimy, W.K. and Rock, C.L., 2006. Curcumin content of turmeric and curry powders. Nutrition and cancer, 55(2), pp.126-131.
- Prasad, S., Tyagi, A.K. and Aggarwal, B.B., 2014. Recent developments in delivery, bioavailability, absorption and metabolism of curcumin: the golden pigment from golden spice. Cancer research and treatment: official journal of Korean Cancer Association, 46(1), pp.2-18.
- Bode, A.M. and Dong, Z., 2011. The amazing and mighty ginger. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.
- Anh, N.H., Kim, S.J., Long, N.P., Min, J.E., Yoon, Y.C., Lee, E.G., Kim, M., Kim, T.J., Yang, Y.Y., Son, E.Y. and Yoon, S.J., 2020. Ginger on human health: a comprehensive systematic review of 109 randomized controlled trials. Nutrients, 12(1), p.157.
- Morvaridzadeh, M., Fazelian, S., Agah, S., Khazdouz, M., Rahimlou, M., Agh, F., Potter, E., Heshmati, S. and Heshmati, J., 2020. Effect of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on inflammatory markers: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Cytokine, 135, p.155224.
- Mozaffari-Khosravi, H., Naderi, Z., Dehghan, A., Nadjarzadeh, A. and Fallah Huseini, H., 2016. Effect of ginger supplementation on proinflammatory cytokines in older patients with osteoarthritis: outcomes of a randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of nutrition in gerontology and geriatrics, 35(3), pp.209-218.
- Bartels, E.M., Folmer, V.N., Bliddal, H., Altman, R.D., Juhl, C., Tarp, S., Zhang, W. and Christensen, R., 2015. Efficacy and safety of ginger in osteoarthritis patients: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Osteoarthritis and cartilage, 23(1), pp.13-21.
- Kazemi, S., Yaghooblou, F., Siassi, F., Rahimi Foroushani, A., Ghavipour, M., Koohdani, F. and Sotoudeh, G., 2017. Cardamom supplementation improves inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers in hyperlipidemic, overweight, and obese pre‐diabetic women: A randomized double‐blind clinical trial. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 97(15), pp.5296-5301.
- Daneshi-Maskooni, M., Keshavarz, S.A., Qorbani, M., Mansouri, S., Alavian, S.M., Badri-Fariman, M., Jazayeri-Tehrani, S.A. and Sotoudeh, G., 2018. Green cardamom increases Sirtuin-1 and reduces inflammation in overweight or obese patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nutrition & metabolism, 15(1), pp.1-12.
- Souissi, M., Azelmat, J., Chaieb, K. and Grenier, D., 2020. Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) extracts: Potential therapeutic benefits for periodontal infections. Anaerobe, 61, p.102089.
- Verma, S.K., Jain, V. and Katewa, S.S., 2009. Blood pressure lowering, fibrinolysis enhancing and antioxidant activities of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum).
- Bayan, L., Koulivand, P.H. and Gorji, A., 2014. Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, 4(1), p.1.
- Borlinghaus, J., Albrecht, F., Gruhlke, M.C., Nwachukwu, I.D. and Slusarenko, A.J., 2014. Allicin: chemistry and biological properties. Molecules, 19(8), pp.12591-12618.
- Zarezadeh, M., Baluchnejadmojarad, T., Kiasalari, Z., Afshin-Majd, S. and Roghani, M., 2017. Garlic active constituent s-allyl cysteine protects against lipopolysaccharide-induced cognitive deficits in the rat: Possible involved mechanisms. European journal of pharmacology, 795, pp.13-21.
- Arreola, R., Quintero-Fabián, S., López-Roa, R.I., Flores-Gutiérrez, E.O., Reyes-Grajeda, J.P., Carrera-Quintanar, L. and Ortuño-Sahagún, D., 2015. Immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic compounds. Journal of immunology research, 2015.
- Mirzavandi, F., Mollahosseini, M., Salehi-Abargouei, A. and Mozaffari-Khosravi, H., 2020. Effects of garlic supplementation on serum inflammatory markers: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, 14(5), pp.1153-1161.
- Li, M., Yan, Y.X., Yu, Q.T., Deng, Y., Wu, D.T., Wang, Y., Ge, Y.Z., Li, S.P. and Zhao, J., 2017. Comparison of immunomodulatory effects of fresh garlic and black garlic polysaccharides on RAW 264.7 macrophages. Journal of food science, 82(3), pp.765-771.
- Colín-González, A.L., Santana, R.A., Silva-Islas, C.A., Chánez-Cárdenas, M.E., Santamaría, A. and Maldonado, P.D., 2012. The antioxidant mechanisms underlying the aged garlic extract-and S-allylcysteine-induced protection. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2012.
- Butt, M.S., Pasha, I., Sultan, M.T., Randhawa, M.A., Saeed, F. and Ahmed, W., 2013. Black pepper and health claims: a comprehensive treatise. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 53(9), pp.875-886.
- Kumar, S., Malhotra, S., K Prasad, A., V Van der Eycken, E., E Bracke, M., G Stetler-Stevenson, W., S Parmar, V. and Ghosh, B., 2015. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of Piper species: a perspective from screening to molecular mechanisms. Current topics in medicinal chemistry, 15(9), pp.886-893.
- Umar, S., Sarwar, A.H.M.G., Umar, K., Ahmad, N., Sajad, M., Ahmad, S., Katiyar, C.K. and Khan, H.A., 2013. Piperine ameliorates oxidative stress, inflammation and histological outcome in collagen induced arthritis. Cellular Immunology, 284(1-2), pp.51-59.
- Kim, S.H. and Lee, Y.C., 2009. Piperine inhibits eosinophil infiltration and airway hyperresponsiveness by suppressing T cell activity and Th2 cytokine production in the ovalbumin‐induced asthma model. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 61(3), pp.353-359.