The best anti-inflammatory herbs & foods

gingerRedness, pain, swelling – these are the classic signs of inflammation. Reaching for over-the-counter pain relief may be effective for relieving the symptoms, but  long-term side effects of these medications can be very serious and are frequently understated. Cardiovascular events, ulcerations of the digestive system and liver damage are some of the more significant implications which are unfortunately, quite common.

The commonly known and documented side effects of NSAID medications[1]

  • Increased risk of infection
  • Osteoporosis
  • Dermatitis Stomach ulcers
  • Fluid retention/oedema
  • Increased appetite
  • Fat deposits in face/upper back/stomach
  • Reduced wound healing
  • Mood changes
  • Depression
  • Hypertension
  • Weight gain                      

There are plenty of clinical trials that prove natural supplements are far more effective at controlling pain and inflammation: They are “disease modifying” agents rather than disease proliferating. Keeping people sick and in pain is BIG business.

Natural products get to the source of the disease and produce not only a reduction in symptoms, but often a reduction in the severity of the disease, and even remission in some cases.

Natural remedies are effective for resolving pain at the source

Most herbs and nutrients commonly prescribed by naturopaths & herbalists have both direct and indirect actions on inflammation. They are multi-talented and cover off a broad range of applications, unlike pharmaceuticals which usually have limited effectiveness and a large array of side effects.   

  1. Turmeric – This herb controls inflammation by regulating cellular function, making it extremely valuable for all types of inflammatory conditions. Turmeric has shown to be more effective than most of the leading pharmaceutical drugs used to treat arthritis. [2]Other inflammatory conditions like fibromyalgia, gut dysfunction and even autoimmune disorders also show significant improvement following treatment with Turmeric[3].
  1. Ginger – Research studies confirm ginger has excellent anti-inflammatory properties. One in particular noted that ginger produced “a marked relief of symptoms” for osteoarthritis sufferers. [4]Ginger is incredibly good at relieving pain associated with premenstrual syndrome and providing blood vessel, circulation and lymphatic support.
  2. Boswellia – Effective treatment for both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, Boswellia regulates immune response, thus controlling inflammation at the source. Studies on osteoarthritis show that pain, stiffness and ease of physical function all improved following supplementation with Boswellia.[5]But its usefulness doesn’t stop there! It s also used to treat gut conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease & ulcerative colitis.
  3. Fish oil –Fish oils (when given in the correct dose) are some of the most effective readily-available, natural anti-inflammatories. They influence natural prostaglandin production to inhibit inflammation and minimise the action of degenerative enzymes on structural components of the body (ie. Bone and joints). The best source of these is from foods such as fish (particularly oily fish like sardines), avocados & walnuts.

Include anti-inflammatory foods with every meal

Diet should be our main source of phytochemicals (compounds from plants that influence health. Meals should be based on vegetables, with a handful of protein-based food. Inflammatory conditions warrant a low carbohydrate intake. Avoid sugary, starchy foods, like breakfast cereals, bread, pasta and white rice. These foods increase blood sugar levels and inflammation, contributing to disease. Breakfasts especially should be high in protein, with limited carbohydrate.


This is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. Exercising daily reduces inflammation, increases circulation, regulates metabolism and creates the right environment for good health to flourish.

Nepean Naturopathic Centre – making health easy


[1] Maroon, J.C et al. (2010). Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief. Surgical Neurology. Published online 2010 Dec 13

[2] Chandran, Binu & Goel, A. (2012). A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytotherapy Research. 2012 Nov;26(11):1719-25.

[3] Han, F. (2014).  Curcumin ameliorates rat experimental autoimmune neuritis. Journal of Neuroscience Research. 92(6):743-50

[4] Therkleson, T. (2014). Ginger Therapy for Osteoarthritis: A Typical Case. Journal of Holisitic Nursing. 29;32(3):232-239.

[5] Belcaro, G et al. (2014). FlexiQule (Boswellia extract) in the supplementary management of osteoarthritis: a supplement registry. Minnerva Medical Journal. 105(6 Suppl 2):9-16.