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Natural anti-inflammatory

Which is the most effective natural anti-inflammatory?

Herbal medicine has several strings to its bow when it comes to fighting inflammation. But is there one particular natural anti-inflammatory that’s more effective than all the others?

Reminder: what exactly is inflammation?

Inflammation is the immune system’s organized response to harmful stimuli (bacterial or viral infections, contact with an allergen, tissue damage, compression of the sciatic nerve…), the aim of which is to stimulate the healing process (1). It is characterized in the acute phase by redness, edema, or localized pain.

Sometimes, however, an inflammatory state can set in over time, very often silently, in which case we talk about low-grade or chronic inflammation. This forms the backdrop to disorders such as osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, allergies, cardiovascular conditions and auto-immune diseases (2).

A non-exhaustive list of powerful, natural anti-inflammatories

Before we get to the most effective natural anti-inflammatory of all, let’s take a look at two or three natural ingredients known for their anti-inflammatory effects.

Boswellia, the natural anti-inflammatory for the joints

Also known as the ‘frankincense tree’, Boswellia serrata is primarily associated with easing joint discomfort, though it also supports respiratory and intestinal function (3).

Its resin, boswellin, has a high content of boswellic acids, including 3-O-acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA) which is extremely biologically active (4). It is thought to have a positive effect on 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX) and human leukocyte elastase (HLE), two enzymes involved in the inflammatory cascade (the supplement Super Boswellia is therefore standardized to 20% AKBA for maximum efficacy) (5).

Ginger, the star ingredient of home-made anti-inflammatory herbal teas

An infusion made from ginger (Zingiber officinale) is an iconic remedy in traditional Chinese medicine. And rightly so as this antioxidant and anti-inflammatory rhizome acts on all fronts: supporting immune, digestive, and respiratory health, maintaining energy and vitality, regulating glucose metabolism (6-8)…

More recently, studies evaluating ginger’s efficacy in people prone to osteoarthritis and rheumatism (9-10) have produced encouraging results. This is thought to be because it inhibits the biosynthesis of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, two inflammatory mediators (plenty of reasons than to take Super Gingerols, a natural ginger extract standardized to 20% gingerols).

Meadowsweet, a natural anti-inflammatory for the muscles

The flowerheads of meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) produce salicylic acid, the ‘natural aspirin’ largely responsible for the reputation of white willow bark. Meadowsweet has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties which help relieve muscle soreness, properties thought to be due to various inhibitory mechanisms (including the enzyme COX-2 and the NF-κB signaling pathway) (11). It’s worth noting that its flavonoid glycosides may also interact with the gut microbiota, adding to its efficacy.

What is the most effective natural anti-inflammatory of all?

While the world’s pharmacopeia list dozens of plants that can help combat inflammation, there is one rhizome that stands out, both in terms of efficacy and safety: turmeric.

The star of Ayurveda, this spice ranks among various Asian systems of medicine as a rare natural systemic anti-inflammatory able to act on all aspects of health. It is its main curcuminoid, curcumin, which is at the root of its various biological activities (12).

Several studies note its ability to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory mediators (interleukins, TNF-α, G‐CSF, MCP-1…) and to interfere with certain inflammatory signaling pathways (13). Turmeric also protects immune function by acting as an immunomodulator that can rebalance cell populations: in particular, it is believed to restore balance to the ratio between regulatory T lymphocytes which suppresses the inflammatory response and Th17 lymphocytes which induce it (14). Some studies also mention how, by boosting the activity of antioxidant enzymes, it helps neutralize the reactive oxygen species (ROS) that generate oxidative stress and insidiously maintain inflammatory processes (15).

Turmeric and its ingredient curcumin are well-tolerated, and are currently the focus of many clinical trials investigating various diseases with an inflammatory component. Researchers are looking at potential applications in chronic intestinal inflammation, skin imbalances, joint discomfort, severe mood disorders and arterial stiffening (16-20).

How is turmeric best-absorbed?

While turmeric seems like the perfect natural remedy for inflammation, there is a ‘but’: curcumin unfortunately has low bioavailability. Manufacturers of high-quality supplements have, however, found several ways of countering this:

  • by offering large amounts of turmeric while maximizing the concentration of active principles per capsule (such as in Natural Curcuma, each daily dose of which contains 2500mg of turmeric standardized to 95% curcuminoids);
  • by combining the turmeric with natural phosphatidylcholine to boost its absorption (using this innovative process, the patented supplement Super Curcuma offers a level of uptake 29 times higher than standard supplements) (21) ;
  • by presenting the curcumin in micelle form to improve its solubility in intestinal fluids and make it easier for it to cross the intestinal wall (185 times more absorbable than standard curcumin, Curcumin Solution is currently the most bioavailable curcumin supplement on the market) (22).

Finally, it’s worth remembering that we all react differently to anti-inflammatories (natural or otherwise). They seem to be more effective in some people than others depending on individual sensitivity. It, therefore, makes sense to use a broad spectrum of active compounds to maximize your response (the powerful synergistic supplement InflaRelief combines turmeric with 11 other carefully-selected natural substances such as cat’s claw, nettle, tulsi and rosemary) (23-26).

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References

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