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The word inflammation usually conjurers the thought of arthritis or similar maladies. Yet, inflammation has far greater reaching consequences for the vast major of the western world. When thinking about our bodies in terms of inflammation, name a body part and add the modifier “-itis” to the back of it.
Sinusitis, Rhinitis, Bursitis, Arthritis, Tendonitis, Colitis, Cystitis, Bronchitis, Conjunctivitis, Dermatitis, Tonsillitis.
Well you get the idea. When you add up all the body’s “-itis” that becomes your total inflammatory burden. Inflammation is measured via many laboratory tests including the two most common: C-Reactive Protein (CRP) and Sedimentation Rate (ESR/Sed Rate). But wait, there is far more ways to test for inflammation in the blood including: Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Interleukin-1 beta (IL-1b), Tumor Necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a) and Interleukin-8.
Each of these inflammatory markers reflect different biochemical responses within the human body to infection, inflammation, injury, generalized or specific illnesses. The culmination of inflammatory processes within the body are a risk to wellbeing, but also puts one at higher risk of heart disease, immune dysfunction, depression, anxiety, aches and pains along with overall increased risk of a shorter lifespan. Clinically, it is believed that the longer inflammation goes unchecked – or unquenched - the greater the damage to the body as a whole.
Address the Cause
It makes sense that addressing the cause of inflammation in your body should always be the foremost goal. When lecturing to healthcare providers around the country I often pose this question to the audience: If a patient comes into your office and complains of a finger that has been hurting for the last couple of weeks, what might you recommend? The answers range from immobilize until it feels better, put ice on it, use as single herb or homeopathic, or use an over the counter drug that controls pain.
I will then ask the rhetorical question, Wouldn’t it be better to remove the splinter that is the source of the pain and inflammation? In short, getting to the root cause of any sign or symptom in your body is of paramount importance.
Casting the Anti-Inflammatory Net Wide
Since there are so many markers and biochemical pathways that can contribute to inflammation it makes sense to employ a broad approach when pursuing relief. As a clinician that utilizes botanicals in my practice, I find that harnessing the synergy of herbal combinations when targeting the body’s “itis” burden is generally most successful. Let’s explore some the herbs that are popularly used for quenching the inflammatory flare ups.
Ginger, Turmeric, Oregano, Rosemary and Ginger all share the common ability to help control the COX (cyclooxygenase) LOX (lipoxygenase) inflammatory pathways. They do this via their ability help modulate the prostaglandin pathways, which not by chance also are impacted, in part, by whether an individual is consuming sufficient essential fatty acids. This is why most savvy healthcare providers will ask if you are consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish, flax and other seeds.
The international research community has been actively researching the benefits of Turmeric, which contains naturally occurring curcuminoids and other constituents that help inhibit an alphabet soup of inflammatory pathways.
Oregano is not only an amazing cooking spice it has long been used in traditional medicine to help reduces inflammation. With its high antioxidant properties, it can help quench free radicals that can abound when inflammation is not sufficiently controlled.
In turn Rosemary possesses carnosol, a compound that has been studied along with curcumin (Turmeric) to help control inflammation. Rosmarinic Acid has been shown to increase the production of an anti-inflammatory prostaglandin (E2), while decreasing the production of inflammatory leukotrienes.
Like Oregon’s Wild Harvest, many researchers have studied botanical combinations to measure the synergy and broader impact of harnessing the natural strengths of herbal blends.
There is another botanical that I am surprised is not more appreciated for its potential to help with the battle and quest to control inflammation. This is Nettle. Unlike many herbs, Nettle works to help suppress NF Kappa B- an inflammatory cytokine.
It is always important to remember that as human beings with modern science, concentrates of botanicals are more readily available than ever. Yet, there is still an importance that needs to be revered that whole plants possess a multitude of active components that can get lost in the pursuit of a single, believed to be active ingredient. An example is that Green Tea is more efficacious than epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in inhibiting TNF-a release by enhanced incorporation of the tea polyphenols into the cells, which help to block IL-6 and COX-2.
In summary, these herbs have been used support the body’s ability to help combat any inflammatory response when used in combination with a good diagnosis, health promoting diet and lifestyle. It is important to remember, when fueling your body with food, that food is the fuel that will either enhance your body’s ability to thrive or will sabotage your wellness goals.
Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D., has 24-years of experience practicing as a Naturopathic Doctor in Portland, Oregon. He is dedicated to using his vast knowledge about alternative medicine to help his patients and generously give to those in need. He has written over a dozen books and 100's of national articles, and was named Naturopathic Physician of the Year in 2003 by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Read more about Dr. Meletis here. Or, visit our "Ask Dr. Meletis, N.D." page for additional articles.
*Statements herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to treat or diagnose any disease or health condition. The information on this website, and provided by Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D., is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is recommended that patients check with their doctors before taking herbs, to ensure that there are no contraindications with prescription medications. There is additional information linked within this site to HealthNotes®, a third party educational source, containing the latest research on health and supplements. Oregon's Wild Harvest will not be held accountable for this information and consider it an education reference only.