Posted: 18 Jun 2014 09:19 AM PDT
[You can fight inflammation with common ingredients from your own kitchen. Here's a list of the top nine anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, plus some of my favorite recipes using them.] You may think that “inflammation” only occurs after a bee sting, when you scald your hand on a hot…
Turmeric: This common spice used so often in Indian cooking (it’s the main ingredient in curry powder, and what lends it its golden hue) has been noted over and over as a top anti-inflammatory herb. The reason is curcumin, the pigment that provides that glorious color. Curcumin has been shown to improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, reduce the risk of various cancers, and even help with liver function. as well as showing promise preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric has a very subtle, slightly nutty and fragrant taste.
Ginger: You’ve probably heard that ginger can help treat nausea and improve digestion, but its anti-inflammatory properties are also impressive, courtesy of compounds called gingerols. But note that the powdered form is more effective than the fresh to treat inflammation. According to Studio Botanica, ginger pairs up with turmeric as the two most potent anti-inflammatory spices.
[Watermelon-Basil Cooler --basil]
Basil:The base of your favorite pesto is also a potent anti-inflammatory, shown to work in a similar fashion to anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or Tylenol. In addition, the natural oils in this herb are anti-bacterial and can help fight infection. Plus, like most herbs, basil is chock full of vitamins and minerals, too.
Black Pepper: Yes, it does more than make you sneeze! Black pepper not only decreases inflammation, but also helps to reduce the pain associated with it. Interestingly, it also helps improve digestion by preventing intenstinal gas; and it can help to increase the bio-availability of turmeric by up to 1000 times when the two are ingested together. So don’t pass by the pepper grinder next time you have that plate of pasta, soup or salad.
Cloves: I love cloves in all kinds of festive baked goods and puddings, so I was thrilled to discover their anti-inflammatory properties, too. Like many other spices or herbs, the major benefits are derived from cloves’ volatile oils, which contain eugenol, an anti-inflammatory compound. Clove oil has long been known as a remedy for toothache pain, providing both analgesic and antibacterial properties to soothe pain and prevent infection. There’s also some evidence that, when combined with other existing anti-inflammatory compounds, cloves will increase the overall effects of the other spices or herbs. Gingerbread, anyone?
[Grown-Up Superfood Cookies--cinnamon]
Cinnamon: This common household spice is not only slightly sweet tasting, fragrant and delicious; it also helps to keep blood sugar stable, lowers cholesterol, is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, and possesses a slew of other health-promoting properties. Among these, of course, is that it decreases inflammation in the body.
Garlic: Garlic is another staple household superfood that confers multiple health benefits along with its anti-inflammatory properties. Containing sulfur compounds called allicins, garlic (and to a lesser extent, onions) work to prevent the body’s inflammatory response from following through, much the way nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen) do. The anti-inflammatory effects also work to help prevent heart disease and perhaps even obesity.
Cayenne: Spice lovers, rejoice! Feel free to sprinkle your cayenne pepper with abandon, knowing that the compound called capcaisin in it helps to decrease inflammation in your body. It’s even been used topically for arthritis with good results. Furthermore, contrary to what many people may think, cayenne is actually good for stomach upset and may even help to protect against ulcers due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
[Roasted Squash and Apple Bisque--rosemary]
Rosemary: Perhaps the least familiar ingredient in this list, this herb from an evergreen shrub is another useful anti-inflammatory food that works by inhibiting the pro-inflammatory response in the body. Rosemary has been shown to reduce pain, to reduce cortisol levels (which are raised by stress) and–perhaps most interesting–to stimulate hair growth! It’s also a delicious addition to many vegetable-based dishes.
Of course, there are many other foods that can help reduce inflammation, such as Omega 3 fatty acids (the most common source is fish oils, but walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and seaweeds and many other foods are also good sources); nettle and licorice (both available as tasty teas); berries; or cruciferous vegetables; all topics for a future post!
Not sure how to incorporate these powerhouse herbs and spices into your daily regime?? Here’s a list of some of my favorite recipes that contain them.
Carob-Buckwheat Breakfast Bake (cinnamon)
My All-time Favorite Tofu Scramble (turmeric)
Almost Instant Pumpkin Porridge (cinnamon)
Baked Pumpkin-Cranberry Oatmeal Pudding (cinnamon, cloves, ginger)
Watermelon-Basil Cooler (basil)
Holiday Nog (cinnamon)
Meal-in-a-Bowl Pesto Bean Topped Salad (basil, garlic)
Apple and Red Wine Soup (cinnamon, cloves)
Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad (basil, garlic)
Roasted Squash and Apple Bisque (rosemary)
Almond “Feta Cheese” (rosemary)
Raw Gingersnap Cookie Bon Bons (ginger)
Soba Noodles with Ginger, Chard and Walnuts (garlic; use gluten-free noodles–and forgive the awful photo!)
Vegan Cassoulet (garlic, cloves)
Vegan Tortière (cinnamon, cloves)
African Sweet Potato Stew (turmeric, cayenne)
Gingered Potatoes with Browned Onions and Tomato (ginger, turmeric)
Tempeh “Bourguignon” (garlic, cloves)
Grown Up Superfood Cookies (cinnamon)
Cinnamon-Crumb Coffee Cake (cinnamon, of course!)
Cinnamon-Spiced Coconut Bark (yep, more cinnamon)