Fortunately, you have no shortage of options when it comes to anti-inflammatory foods and herbs. Science has yet to identify the most powerful natural anti inflammatory substance, though we can certainly list a few items we believe are a must-use for inflammation relief.
How to Define the Strongest Natural Anti Inflammatory Agents
It’s tricky to pinpoint the most potent compound for alleviating inflammation. Are foods generally better than herbs? If comparing herbs, is rosemary a better anti-inflammatory agent than chamomile?
To be honest, we don’t particularly like comparing different foods or herbs and saying that one is better than the other for treating X or Y. When people ask us what to take for inflammation, we never suggest a single compound. Rather, we recommend a balanced diet that includes anti-inflammatory foods and herbs as well as the exclusion of pro-inflammatory foods. Our philosophy is to never rely on a singular linear approach.
READ MORE: Top 7 Anti-Inflammatory Foods of 2018
Nevertheless, people insist on wanting to know if there is a single item we recommend if we can only name one. It’s a tricky question and one we will do our best to answer. For the sake of the article, we will limit the strongest natural anti inflammatory foods/herbs to those that have been shown to be just as effective as NSAIDs for pain relief. We believe this is a good starting parameter. While we don’t recommend NSAIDs due to their side effects and possibility of addiction, they are certainly effective, at least temporarily.
Most Powerful Natural Anti Inflammatory Foods and Herbs Comparable to NSAIDs
Here is our list of personal favorites based on the wide number of published independent studies available. In some of the studies, researchers compare the compound’s effectiveness to the relief from a typical NSAID.
We have talked extensively about turmeric for relieving arthritis pain. This is all the more reason to use turmeric for your dishes, and if you happen to like spicy flavors with a bit of tang, then that’s an added bonus.
The power lies in the curcumin, which studies1 have proven to be a potent antioxidant for treating inflammation and associated auto immune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Curcumin is known to inhibit the pro-inflammatory pathway NF-kB and suppress the pro-inflammatory gene COX-2.
In a research from Oregon State University, 18 RA patients went on a curcumin supplementation for two weeks. After the trial, subjects reported less joint swelling, less morning stiffness and increased walking time. The results were comparable to a separate group that took the NSAID phenylbutazone for the same duration. In another randomized study2, 45 RA patients reported less swelling and tenderness after eight weeks of curcumin supplementation. The results mirrored that of a second group that supplemented with the NSAID diclofenac.
Ginger, not to be confused with ginseng, is another compound with numerous medicinal uses. It inhibits pro-inflammatory pathways while also flooding your body with a host of potent antioxidants. You can take ginger in capsule form, consume as a tea, or even eat ginger in its raw form. It makes for a nice flavoring with meat.
How is ginger one of the most powerful natural anti inflammatory agents? In one double-blind clinical trial3, 67 patients with molar pain and cheek swelling were given ginger, Ibuprofen or a placebo. Both the ginger and Ibuprofen group reported similar levels of pain relief after five days. All the patients eventually received dental treatment; the placebo group required significantly more rescue medication during operation compared to the ginger and NSAID group.
Frankincense is an oil resin extracted from the Boswellia tree. We recommend seeing our post on frankincense for arthritis. We cover the numerous studies that prove the compound’s effectiveness for treating both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. It’s also proven useful for other conditions, such as Crohn’s disease and colitis. The key lies in its ability to inhibit 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX) production, an enzyme linked to inflammation, respiratory problems and allergies.
Frankincense contains chemical compounds that modulate T-lymphocytes. One such chemical is known as 3-O-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA). AKBA is believed to work similarly as NSAIDs, though it actually targets different inflammatory enzymes. Studies4 show that AKBA provides similar levels of relief and may help patients wean off of NSAIDs. AKBA also does not carry the risk of toxicity or compromise the integrity of the gut lining as is the case with NSAIDs.
Diversify Herbal and Food Choices for Maximum Inflammation Relief
These are just three choices we listed if we had to name the strongest natural anti inflammatory agents off the top of our heads. By no means should you only stick to these. Not everyone even responds to these the same way, which is why you need to consume a combination of healthy foods and herbs for best results.
Alternatively, you can supplement with Total Relief, which includes turmeric, frankincense and a few other proven compounds. Just as inflammation can be triggered through various mechanisms, anti-inflammatory compounds fight inflammation via varying pathways.