Natural Substances That Fight Inflammation
Inflammation occurs in many diseases and is defined as an immune response to injury or irritation of tissues. It involves a series of events in the body that causes arterioles to dilate, blood flow to increase and white blood cells to migrate to the area of injury. This is what causes the redness, swelling, heat and pain that we associate with inflammatory conditions such as allergies, autoimmune disease, arthritis, and chronic pain.
There are many natural substances that may help relieve inflammation.
Studies on rheumatoid arthritis patients have shown that omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil or flax seed oil may suppress the inflammatory process by inhibiting the production of arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid is the precursor to inflammatory prostaglandins. When we take acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) and ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) we are taking medications that inhibit the production of inflammatory prostaglandins.
Natural substances such as tumeric, rosemary, ginger and the Chinese herb Hu Zhang may behave in a similar way to conventional pain medications such as Vioxx because they act like COX-inhibitors. The COX-2 enzyme is involved in the inflammatory process. An herbal COX-inhibitor containing these herbs is currently being studied at the urology department of Columbia University.
Tumeric is a spice that has been used in traditional medicine in both China and India. In China, tumeric is classified as a “blood mover” and can be used either topically or internally to treat pain. Curcumin, one of the active ingredients of tumeric has been shown to inhibit mediators of inflammation, including thromboxanes and leukotrienes.
Ginger has also long been used as a natural painkiller. In studies, ginger has shown inhibitory effects on inflammatory mediators and can be used to treat intestinal spasms, arthritis and painful menstruation.
Bromelain is a mixture of pineapple enzymes that digest proteins. It can be used as either an anti-inflammatory or a digestive aid. If taken between meals, it helps to block the production of inflammatory compounds fibrin and kinins. There have been studies that show that bromelain may help with chronic bronchitis, not just for its anti-inflammatory effects but also for its anti-tussive and mucolytic properties. Bromelain can also be used to treat arthritis, headaches, sinusitis and sport injuries such as sprains.
These are just a few of the natural substances that can be used to treat inflammation. Determining which substance is the most appropriate for an individual depends on the individuals specific health needs and condition.