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By Tilman Nathaniel, Founder of Superfood Box
Bromelain, the protein-splitting enzyme found in pineapples is traditionally used a meat tenderizer and is a popular digestive aid supplement. It has been shown to decrease inflammation in ulcerative colitis, murine inflammatory bowel disease, and has been used clinically as an anti-inflammatory agent in rheumatoid arthritis, soft tissue injuries, colonic inflammation, chronic pain, and asthma. Bromelain is most potent in the Pineapple’s stem.
(in the form of black walnut extract) have been included in formulations for US patents such as a “Method and composition for treating oral bacteria and inflammation,” and “Methods for treating inflammatory conditions.” Both of these patents also include aloe vera.
- H. Davis, the Author of Aloe Vera: A Scientific Approach, has conducted many studies on aloe vera’s health benefits. His work demonstrates its anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as its ability to restore proper bone growth, heal wounds, and inhibit pain.
Also known as whortleberry, bilberries are rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoids including proanthocyanidins and anthocyanidins. Studies have shown anti-inflammatory effects from Bilberry juice and Medox, a Norwegian anthocyanidin supplement made from Bilberries.
Although noni berries are not the best tasting berries on earth, they do have some positive health benefits. They can reduce pain perception, and according to one study, Noni juice has anti-inflammatory effects comparable to Celebrex, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
Short for beetroot, beets are one of a handful of fruits and veggies that contain the bioactive pigments called betalains, which have demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in many human and animal studies. They also promote blood flow to the brain and reduce blood pressure. Betalains are also in cactus pears, rhubarb, chard, amaranth, and red dragon fruit.
Many vitamins and nutrients in spinach and kale are known to inhibit inflammation such as lutein, beta-carotene, and B vitamins. They are also more alkaline/less acidic foods which are another important factor in maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet.
A study on fenugreek seeds demonstrated that the seeds strongly suppressed the production of inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are small secreted proteins released by cells that have a specific effect on the interactions between cells. As seen in Fenugreen’s FreshPaper, Fenugreek can be used to keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer and prevent mold build up. It is also used to stimulate breast milk supply in nursing mothers and is found in anti-aging supplements.
One of my go-to sources for nutritional information and a big inspiration in creating Superfood Box’s themed collections is Michael Sharon’s book Complete Guide to Nutrients. He describes evening primrose oil as having many beneficial effects including alleviating arthritis, improving eczema and acne (see it in our Skin Health Box), aiding weight loss without dieting, and helping irritable bowel syndrome. It is a rich source of a fatty acid known as gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) which helps our body prevent hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, menstrual cramps, allergies, asthma, and migraines.
Sharon explains how infusions of alder leaves can be used to treat inflammation, while tea made of alder bark can easy rheumatic joints, relieve constipation and stimulate bile secretion (helps to digest fats). It’s difficult to find either of these for sale online but they can be available from large health food stores or herbalists.
The combination of three different parts of sea cucumber has been patented for their anti-inflammatory properties by Peter Donald Collin of Coastside BioResources. Check out his sea cucumber arthritis supplement ArthriSea, patented sea cucumber based companion animal treats including SeaFlex for cats, as well as Sea Jerky, NutriSea Jerky with Sweet Potato and Salmon, and Sea Bones for dogs. He even has a Sea Soap for dogs.
Agrimony is an herb with anti-inflammatory effects on the intestines and can treat oral infections.
Like aloe vera gel, an infusion made from arnica roots can be anti-inflammatory when applied in the nasal passages or applied topically to the skin. However, Sharon warns not to use arnica on open cuts or bruises. One study found that arnica gel was as effective as ibuprofen gel in treating osteoarthritis of the hands.
Barley can soothe inflammation in the stomach and intestines. Barley grass contains more chlorophyll, vitamin A, enzymes and adds anti-inflammatory effects from its antioxidant enzyme SOD and mucopolysaccharides.
The purple-black skin of blackcurrant berries is an excellent source of anthocyanidins, a type of antioxidants with an anti-inflammatory effect. Black currant seed oil contains, even more, gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) than primrose oil.
Blueberries are also a very rich source of anthocyanidins and were found to be beneficial in preventing Alzheimer’s.
Borage oil is another great source of gamma-linoleic acid, containing up to 20% GLA. It can also reduce high blood pressure.
Butcher’s broom (pictured below) is a shrub, traditionally used to treat vein disorders like varicose veins or hemorrhoids. The berries are not edible but the roots and stems of the plant contain steroidal saponins which are extracted from the plant and have demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects.
Cherries are another source of anthocyanidins like blueberry and blackcurrant berries, and they contain proanthocyanidins.
Cucumber juice helps internal inflammation, including kidney, stomach, and sore throats.
Active ingredients found in the berries of elder and black elder trees are anti-inflammatories, diuretics, blood vessel dilators, blood purifiers, and mild laxatives. Tea made from elderflowers can also be used to support rheumatism, or “any disease marked by inflammation and pain in the joints, muscles, or fibrous tissue, especially rheumatoid arthritis.”
Feverfew (pictured above) is most well known for its benefit to migraine headaches. However, the active ingredient in feverfew leaves called parthenolide is claimed to relieve inflammation better than aspirin. Parthenolide was the key ingredient included in a government-funded Louisiana State University patent to relieve severe inflammatory disorders.
Four Sigmatic makes some awesome Reishi Elixirs, coffees and Hot Cacao drinks. The reishi mushroom is a favorite in Chinese medicine that contains compounds with anticancer, anti-inflammatory, stress relieving, liver regenerating, allergy alleviating, heart disease reducing, and antiviral properties.
The st johns wort root is well known for anxiety relief, hence the inclusion in our No Worries Box. However, research out of the Department of Neuroscience and Vision at University of Verona in Italy collaborating with the Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany suggested that “extracts from SJW may be a promising anti-inflammatory principle in chronic inflammatory diseases.” St John’s wort is typically available as a tea, tincture, or supplement.
To learn more than you’d ever want to know about the anti-inflammatory effects of eating broccoli and broccoli sprouts, check out Dr. Rhonda’s video on Youtube, describing the in-depth research on sulforaphane here.
Turmeric is a common spice in the Ginger family, frequently used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. It will dye your food yellow and is actually used in fabric dyes. Medicinally, it is used to aid digestion and liver function, reduce inflammation, prevent and treat cancer, relieve arthritis pain, regulate menstruation, heal the skin, and has a beneficial effect on the treatment of AIDS. You can find turmeric soap, extract, capsules, bulk turmeric powder, spice, and Thrive Market even has day cream, night cream, tea, creamer, facial mist, spot treatment, shower gel, lotion, deodorant, snack bars, and many forms of curcumin, the most active ingredient in turmeric and source of its health benefits.
Cumin, not to be confused with curcumin in turmeric, is a flowering plant whose seeds are often used as a spice. Some studies have shown its inflammation support potential. If you’d like freshly ground spices delivered quarterly, check out Raw Spice Bar.
Black cumin seed from the plant Nigella sativa is yet another anti-inflammatory food due to its active ingredient thymoquinone. Add black cumin seed oil or ground black cumin seeds to your cooking routine today.
The anti-inflammatory mechanisms at work in pomegranates and pomegranate juice are summarized in Polyphenols in Human Health and Disease.
In a study published in Rheumatology, cod liver oil helped rheumatoid arthritis patients limit their intake of NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs by over 30%. Another clinical trial found that supplementation with Cod liver oil approximately half of the patients reported decreases in morning stiffness, 40% had reduced swollen joints, and 67.5% had reduced pain intensity.
Collagen type II, a protein extracted from the sternal cartilage of chickens, is another supplement that can benefit patients suffering from arthritis by rebuilding damaged joint cartilage. In one study, four patients had complete remission of their rheumatoid arthritis after supplementing with collagen type II for three months.
A review of fourteen studies on devil’s claw reported that “the higher quality studies suggest that Devil’s Claw appeared effective in the reduction of the main clinical symptom of pain.”
Guggul, pronounced with a “guh” sound (not like google) is an Eastern Indian plant used in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for arthritis. Gum extracted from the plant contains biologically active compounds called gugglesterones. A paper published in Phytotherapy Research found that “considerable scientific evidence indicates the use of gum guggul as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of inflammation.”
A meta-analysis of rosehips published in Australian Family Physician, explains that rosehips have an anti-inflammatory action due to their galactolipid content. The author cites consistent pain reduction across many trials and explains that rosehips don’t have the side effects of NSAIDs or aspirin, such as ulcerogenic effects.
Sesame oil may be another possible anti-inflammatory food, according to research in animals models. A study of mice fed a sesame oil diet for three months found that atherosclerosis, a chronic inflammatory disease, showed that plasma inflammatory cytokines were significantly reduced, demonstrating the anti-inflammatory property of sesame oil. Tahini, a condiment made from sesame seeds, can be mixed with water to make sesame milk.
Finally, it’s advisable to include sulfur-rich foods in your diets such as eggs, onions, broccoli, watercress, alfalfa or cabbage. Sulfur is needed to form collagen and rids the body of harmful toxic elements. Sulfur is used with proteins to form the amino acids cysteine, taurine, and methionine. Cysteine and methionine help form antioxidant enzymes and can help prevent arthritis.