More and more is being learned about the harmful effects of chronic inflammation -- and its connection to everything from arthritis and diabetes to heart disease and cancer. Yet, most people don’t have an effective strategy for fighting it.
What you can do: In addition to making appropriate lifestyle changes, consider taking one or more herbal remedies that have shown significant anti-inflammatory properties in clinical trials. These herbs have been used for centuries as natural remedies.
Curcumin, a powerful antioxidant, is one of the most active biological agents in the herb turmeric, which is used as an ingredient in curries and mustard. For general inflammation prevention, it helps to eat foods containing curry, as well as yellow mustard -- which, unlike Dijon mustard, is rich in turmeric.
Anti-inflammatory benefits: Turmeric is thought to inhibit eicosanoids, signaling molecules that play a key role in the inflammatory response.
In one controlled study of 18 people with rheumatoid arthritis, those taking 1,200 mg of curcumin daily for two weeks found it to be just as effective as 300 mg daily of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) phenylbutazone (Butazolidin) in reducing morning stiffness and joint swelling.
Other studies have found that curcumin supplements reduce levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a general inflammation marker linked to arthritis and cardiovascular disease.
Cancer-fighting benefits: Curcumin also has been shown to kill cancer cells in laboratory studies. Phase II clinical trials are currently under way to study its benefits for colorectal cancer. In addition, researchers are investigating curcumin’s role in possibly preventing pancreatic cancer and multiple myeloma.
Neurological benefits: In people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, research shows that curcumin may inhibit formation of the harmful beta-amyloid plaque that accompanies the disease.
Recommended products: Meriva-SR, available at NEEDS (800-634-1380, www.Needs.com)... or Curamin, which also contains the anti-inflammatory herb boswellia, described later, manufactured by EuroPharma (866-598-5487, www.Curamin.com).
Ginger, which is commonly known to help relieve nausea and dizziness associated with motion sickness and chemotherapy, is related to turmeric and has similar anti-inflammatory properties.
For general anti-inflammatory benefits, drink fresh ginger tea and use fresh ginger in cooking stir-fry vegetables and other Asian dishes. For more powerful benefits, take capsules of ginger extract.
Anti-inflammatory benefits: Ginger helps prevent the body from manufacturing compounds known as prostaglandins and leukotrienes, both of which trigger inflammation. Studies have found that ginger extract reduces inflammation, swelling and pain associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Recommended product: New Chapter’s Daily Ginger. It is available from New Chapter, Inc. (www.NewChapter.com), or call 800-543-7279.
Zyflamend is a popular herbal anti-inflammatory product that contains extracts of turmeric, ginger and rosemary (which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties). Among the other herbs found in Zyflamend are holy basil (used in India’s traditional Ayurvedic medicine for its immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties) and the Chinese herb polygonum cuspidatum (a rich source of resveratrol, the powerful antioxidant that also is found in grapes).
Anti-inflammatory benefits: Zyflamend lowers the body’s general inflammatory response.
Cancer-fighting benefits: Zyflamend has been studied as a therapy for a type of prostate inflammation called high-grade prostatic intra-epithelial neoplasia (HGPIN), which is associated with precancerous changes in prostate cells. Zyflamend may be able to return these precancerous cells back to their normal state. Zyflamend may inhibit the proliferation of human prostate cancer cells, as well.
To purchase Zyflamend: Go to the Web site of the manufacturer, New Chapter, Inc. (www.NewChapter.com), or call 800-543-7279.
An extract of a certain type of rose hip called Rosa canina is especially high in the anti-inflammatory chemical glycoside of mono and diglycerol.
Anti-inflammatory benefits: Clinical trials have shown rose hip extract to benefit osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, wrist and neck. Another trial of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers showed significant improvement in their pain, movement and quality of life after six months of treatment with rose hip extract.
Recommended product: Swanson Ultra Danish Rose Hips i-flex (dried powder of a special type of rose hip), available from Swanson Health Products (800-824-4491, www.SwansonVitamins.com).
Boswellia extract is another herb used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Its active ingredient is boswellic acid.
Anti-inflammatory benefits: Boswellia inhibits production of inflammation-promoting chemical agents without the gastrointestinal side effects of steroid drugs and NSAIDs.
Recommended products: Nature’s Way Boswellia Standardized, available at Nature’s Way (800-962-8873, www.NaturesWay.com)... or Curamin (described earlier).
Important: You may need to experiment to find which supplement (or supplement combination) works best for your condition. Take the supplements described in this article as directed on the product labels. Consult your doctor first if you take medication -- some herbs may interact with it.