I would be greatly surprised if you have not taken an anti-inflammatory herb or drug in your life. It is the ‘cool’ thing to do. So many symptoms we experience from our illnesses are due to inflammation so we are always needing anti-inflammatory products. If you are eating a healthy diet, rich in various colored plants, you are probably getting plenty of antioxidants to help reduce your bodies inflammatory load. Learn more about how to prevent inflammation with your food and more about the causes of inflammation you experience on a daily basis.
Most herbs work through the same means of reducing inflammation as the drugs we take for inflammation. NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) reduce the production of cytokines, a little molecule that tells the body that inflammation is needed. With out the cytokines, our body does not experience the higher levels of inflammation. Generally, inflammation is something our body is supposed to do. It can get out of control and that is when we turn to herbs and drugs. Always remember: Inflammation should be treated as a reminder to eat, sleep, and exercise properly on a regular basis as these things, when out of balance, are what tend to lead to inflammation in the body.
If you have been following TDH for a while, you have probably heard me talk about the anti-inflammatory actions of calendula. It is a flower that is excellent to take internally as well as use topically for inflammatory skin conditions. Internally, calendula is great for relieving inflammation and congestion of the digestive tract and liver systems. I like to think of calendula as an herb to turn to when the inflammation is due to stress as it is great at calming the entire body’s over reaction.
Hawthorn is a lovely fruit that is packed full of antioxidants. I primarily think of hawthorn’s anti-inflammatory actions occurring due to it’s antioxidants. Hawthorn is primarily supportive for the cardiovascular system, both protecting and strengthening the heart and vessels. Because of these actions, hawthorn should be taken cautiously with cardiovascular drugs in case of interactions.
This is a fun plant to find when out hiking. It has many small hairs on it’s leaves and stems that like to attach to passers by and go for a walk with them. It makes a great head dress to keep away the insects. Cleavers anti-inflammatory action comes into play when it supports the lymphatic system. Much of the lymphatic system acts to store waste and remove it from the body. As you can imagine, as waste gets moving the body may get irritated and have an immune response. Cleavers is also supportive of the urinary tract, another system involved in waste removal.
Licorice root is a bit different than the candy but has a very old tradition of usage. Some of the molecules in licorice are broken down by our body into molecules that are very similar to adrenal hormones. It is possible that this is why licorice has anti-inflammatory actions. Our adrenal hormones, raised when we are stressed, have a huge impact on our body’s inflammatory load. Licorice is also commonly used for inflammation of the respiratory tract and digestive system. It is important to note that there are some cautions around taking more than 1g a day of licorice root. If needed, deglycerrhizinated licorice can be found for higher doses needed for support of the digestive system.
For more information on herbs that are anti-inflammatory, please consult the book “Medical Herbalism” by David Hoffmann. If you are interested in using these and other herbs on a daily basis, please consult with a professional herbalist.