The 10 Best Herbs for Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is considered one of the leading factors for disease-related deaths in the world.  This article looks at the scientific research behind the best herbs for inflammation and supporting …

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Written by: Siobhan Mendicino
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Medical Review by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Chronic inflammation is considered one of the leading factors for disease-related deaths in the world. 

This article looks at the scientific research behind the best herbs for inflammation and supporting a balanced inflammatory response.

herbs for reducing inflammation

Inflammation Overview: 

Inflammation is a key part of your body’s natural healing process. It’s a biological response controlled by the immune system that works to protect and heal the body.

There are two different types of inflammation: acute inflammation and chronic inflammation.

Acute Inflammation

Acute inflammation, also known as short-term inflammation, happens quickly and supports the transportation of immune cells to a recently injured area. Redness to an injured area indicates that there is an influx of blood and immune cells are being rushed to the area to support the healing process.

Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation occurs over time and is a result of the body’s inability to heal or overcome an injury. Consistent inflammation can cause tissue to harden, die off, and scar. This can lead to a number of health complications that will often trigger degrading or fatal diseases.

Causes of Inflammation:

The inflammatory response happens when the body is exposed to trauma, toxins, infection, and/or physical overuse.

Typical symptoms of inflammation include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Warmness
  • Stiffness

Health complications can often lead to inflammation and are characterized by the suffix “-itis” in the medical community (i.e. “arthritis”).

Common causes of inflammation include: 

  • Bacteria, fungi, or viruses
  • Blunt or penetrating trauma (scrapes, wounds, bruises, etc…)
  • Radiation or chemical exposure
  • Persistent and consistent use of a body part
  • Autoimmune diseases (recognizing a normal part of the body as a foreign invader)

Negative Effects of Inflammation:  

While acute or short-term inflammation supports the body’s healing process, continuous inflammation or chronic inflammation is the body’s signal that something is wrong.

If inflammation persists, it could lead to disease complications or it could be a sign that there is an underlying disease or injury.

Without proper treatment, inflammation symptoms can cause a number of different ailments, such as: 

  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Obesity  
the top herbs for inflammation - boswellia

Best Herbs for Inflammation:

Below are the best herbs for inflammation.

1. Ginger

Ginger is one of the most well-known natural remedies for inflammation. It’s a plant that is used as both a food and medicine worldwide.

In particular, ginger contains the active constituents gingerol and shogaol, which appear to be the main cause of ginger’s anti-inflammatory effects. 

Researchers found that powdered ginger was effective in reducing the number of pro-inflammatory proteins in participants with osteoarthritis. The researchers noted that gingerol and shogaol seem to be responsible for ginger’s anti-inflammatory effects.

Ginger extract showed promising effects for anti-inflammatory therapy when administered at 3g daily for one month. Participants with tuberculosis experienced a significant decrease in both lung inflammation and in various pro-inflammatory biomarkers.  

An animal study involving ginger extract discovered that shogaol inhibited inflammation in the lungs of mice with asthma. The extract was also able to relax the smooth muscle of the airway. 

In another animal trial using ginger extract, the gingerol content showed promising anti-inflammatory effects against IBS. Ginger reduced the number of pro-inflammatory biomarkers which in turn could prevent IBS-induced chronic inflammation.

Researchers found that shogaol was effective in reducing swelling and inflammatory response in rats with osteoarthritis. Shogaol was more effective than the placebo in reducing inflammatory markers. However, the anti-inflammatory drug, indomethacin, was shown to be more effective than shogaol.

Summary:

Research indicates that ginger may have strong anti-inflammatory properties. It may be especially helpful for IBS-related inflammation.

2. Boswellia

Boswellia, also known as Indian Frankincense, is an herb that has been traditionally used to reduce inflammation for thousands of years. 

Evidence shows that the resinous “sap” from the Boswellia serrata tree may reduce inflammation caused by gastrointestinal ailments, arthritis, and asthma. 

Researchers believe that these anti-inflammatory effects may be attributed to the terpenes and triterpenic acids present in boswellia. 

A recent study discovered that Boswellia serrata extract (containing 30% boswellic acids) reduced pain and inflammation in patients with osteoarthritis (OA). The extract increased knee mobility due to its ability to reduce the level of proteins that encourage inflammation. 

In a separate knee osteoarthritis study, boswellic acid combined with MSM had an anti-inflammatory effect on participants with pain and mobility issues. Not only did the subjects experience pain-free mobility while taking the combination, but these benefits continued for 4 months post-treatment. 

A trial uncovered that Boswellia serrata resin reduced chronic inflammation in subjects with ulcerative colitis. Researchers found that boswellic acids had an inhibitory effect on enzymes that triggered an inflammatory response. Participants took 350mg of resin 3x/day for 6 weeks – this put 82% of subjects into remission, while the placebo put 75% into remission. 

In an in vitro study, Boswellia serrata extract was able to neutralize inflammation in cell cultures. The extract also exhibited a protective effect in healthy cells.

Summary:

Clinical studies indicates that the boswellic acids in boswellia resin may help to reduce inflammation. It may be especially helpful for osteoarthritis-based inflammation.

3. Turmeric

Another effective anti-inflammatory herb is turmeric

Turmeric is a stimulating, warming herb that is used to manage inflammation that stems from arthritis and gastrointestinal issues. 

Turmeric belongs to the ginger family, Zingiberaceae, and thrives in tropical, humid areas.

A small study administering 375mg of curcumin (an active constituent of turmeric) 3x/day found that turmeric was significantly effective for treating inflammatory eye disease. When the study concluded, 4 of the 5 patients were cured.

Researchers found that curcumin capsules were helpful for reducing bowel inflammation in patients with dormant ulcerative colitis. The curcumin group also had a reduced risk of relapse. 

In a trial where curcumin was administered for 3 months, participants with ulcerative proctitis and Crohn’s disease showed a decrease in inflammation. There was an improvement in various health markers, such as frequency of bowel movements, formation of stools, and subjects saw a reduction in abdominal pain and cramping.

Summary:

Turmeric appears to be helpful in reducing inflammation within the body.

4. Garlic

Garlic is one of the best herbs for reducing inflammation.

Researchers have discovered that aged garlic extract helps to reduce inflammatory markers in obese individuals. After 6-weeks of administration, researchers noted that garlic extract reduced the immune system’s inflammatory response.

In a study involving indivduals with kidney disease, it was disocvered that taking garlic extract twice a day for 8 weeks significantly reduced inflammatory markers. There were no adverse side effects, and researchers found this to be a safe natural remedy for inflammation.

In a clinical trial involving healthy subjects, it was discovered that aged garlic extract helped to reduce flu-induced inflammation. The garlic extract was able to increase immune cell function and change the immune response, this resulted in less severe symptoms. 

Another clinical trial showed that aged garlic extract was able to reduce various inflammatory markers in the study participants. Researchers noted this effect lasted 12 months of supplementation.

Summary:

Research shows that garlic may help to reduce the body’s inflammatory response.

5. Calendula

Calendula has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, especially for skin health.

One randomized, comparative trial involved 66 infants with diaper dermatitis, which is a moderate skin rash. Infants were either treated with aloe vera cream or calendula ointment. By the end of the study, it was found that the infants treated with calendula ointment had significantly fewer rash sites than the aloe vera group.

A clinical study involved 170 participants with gastroduodenitis or duodenal ulcers. Researchers found that the participants treated with an herbal combination of calendula and comfrey experienced a total elimination of stomach ulcers and fewer symptoms of duodenal ulcers.

An animal study performed on rats with skin wounds found that calendula extract reduced inflammation throughout the healing process. This anti-inflammatory effect was attributed to the triterpenes found in calendula.

An animal study noted that calendula extract was found to reduce inflammation levels in rats with induced edemas, which may have been the result of calendula’s ability to inhibit various pro-inflammatory biomarkers.

In an animal trial involving rats with ulcerative colitis, it was found that calendula extract eliminated the atrophy and inflammation caused by ulcerative colitis.

German Commission E, a government organization, approves the use of calendula for treating mouth and throat inflammation.

Summary:

Studies indicate that calendula may be able to significantly reduce inflammation and soothe inflammatory skin conditions. Additional research is needed to verify these findings.

6. German Chamomile

German chamomile is a well-loved herb that is known as one of the best herbs for inflammation. 

Chamomile belongs to the daisy family, Asteraceae, and has shown promising anti-inflammatory effects when applied topically. 

This relaxing herb is known for its ability to support skin health and wound healing. 

In a trial involving skin oedemas, topically applied German chamomile extract was able to reduce inflammation. Researchers believe chamomile’s anti-inflammatory potential has to do with the inhibition of a specific gene expression. 

A few lab studies provided evidence that chamomile has an anti-inflammatory effect. One showed that chamomile had an influence on enzyme activity, which is similar to the mechanism found in non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Another discovered that daily topical therapy of fluid chamomile extract was able to reduce inflammation in rats. 

A 2009 lab study found that chamomile demonstrated the same mechanism of action as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug. Chamomile showed an anti-inflammatory effect through the inhibition of an enzyme that triggers an inflammatory response.

Summary:

Research indicates that German chamomile may be helpful in reducing inflammation. It appears to be especially beneficial for reducing skin-based inflammation.

7. Echinacea 

Echinacea has been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. 

These anti-inflammatory effects are attributed to its alkylamide content.

Echinacea extract showed promise for decreasing inflammation in an in vitro study. Researchers explained that this effect occurred through the reduction of cytokine expression. 

In an animal study, echinacea worked to reduce the effects of inflammation. Further, echinacea was able to decrease the perceived pain in rodents as well.

Another animal study showed that Echinacea purpurea essential oils had promising topical anti-inflammatory effects. The essential oils significantly reduced pro-inflammatory markers in mice with paw edemas.  

A lab study using lung cells discovered that an echinacea extract was able to reverse or alleviate the inflammatory effects of an induced flu-like virus. The effects were the same when the extract was applied before and after the virus was induced.

Summary:

Lab-based studies show that echinacea may help to reduce inflammation. It appears to be especially helpful for flu-related inflammation.

8. Devil’s Claw  

Devil’s claw is best known for its anti-inflammatory and pain management effects

The active constituents, iridoid glycosides, are thought to be the main reason for its anti-inflammatory support. 

In an animal study, aqueous extracts of devil’s claw significantly reduced the inflammation of induced-edema. It should be noted that the anti-inflammatory effects were only produced when the rats received the extract via injection. When they were fed the extract orally, the results were not recreated.  

Another animal study found that devil’s claw reduced inflammation in rats. It was administered at 800 mg/kg and the inflammation was reduced by 76%-89%. 

Lab studies have shown that devil’s claw carries the potential to inhibit inflammatory cytokines. In addition, it has demonstrated its ability to reduce arachidonic acid metabolism, leading to COX-2 inhibition and in turn, reducing inflammation.  

Researchers found that an active constituent of devil’s claw, harpagoside, was responsible for inhibiting inflammatory markers in an in vitro study. It should be noted that it took the devil’s claw extract 14 days to show significant anti-inflammatory signs.

Summary:

Research indicates that devil’s claw may help to reduce inflammation in the body. It appears to be especially helpful for inflammation related to low back pain.

9. Oat Straw

Oat straw may work to benefit inflammation.

Research indicates that both oat straw and the oat plant are rich in beta-glucan, which is a plant compound known for regulating and reducing inflammation.

A clinical study involving children diagnosed with eczema discovered that treatment with oat cream led to significant reductions in the size and redness of rashes.

A review of plants that can be used to treat inflammatory skin diseases states that oat straw is effective for skin disorders that are commonly associated with itching.

A review mentions that oat straw’s polyphenols are behind its anti-inflammatory properties.

David Hoffman, American Herbalist Guild registered herbalist, recommends using oat straw in baths to benefit “irritated skin conditions.”

The German Commission E approves the external application of oat straw in cases of inflammatory, itchy skin diseases.

Persian medicine explains that oats and the oat plant were applied topically because of their ability to soothe skin. Oat was added to baths, creams, and poultices to treat irritated or itchy skin.

Summary:

Several reviews of oat straw indicate that this herb may benefit inflammatory skin conditions. Human clinical studies are needed for confirmation.

10. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is also an important herb for inflammation.

A 2012 lab study found that cinnamon is a strong anti-inflammatory. It’s thought that cinnamon’s anti-inflammatory properties are due to two phytochemicals, cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic aldehyde.

Another lab study found that cinnamon essential oil reduced the production of nitric oxide, as well as levels of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), macrophage inflammatory protein-1α (MIP-1α), TNF-α, IL-1β, and IL-6.

A variety of other studies show that cinnamon may help to modulate the body’s inflammation response.

Summary:

Research indicates that cinnamon may be effective in reducing inflammation. Additional human clinical trials are needed in order to verify these findings.
cinnamon is one of the best herbs for inflammation

Conclusion:

Chronic inflammation has been linked to a number of negative health outcomes.

A combination of healthy lifestyle choices, such as clean eating and regular exercise can go a long way towards helping your body thrive.

Adding natural herbs to reduce inflammation can help to add balance.

Clinical evidence shows that the herbs listed above may be the best herbs for reducing inflammation.

As with all supplements, it is important to consult a medical professional prior to making any changes to your standard routine.

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About Siobhan Mendicino

Siobhan is a herbal researcher and writer. She has a bachelor of science in communications as well as having completed a post-baccalaureate certificate in herbal studies.

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