By now, most of us know that chronic inflammation is the largest culprit when it comes to the onset of chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, etc. Inflammation is the body’s response system to injury or disease. It acts as a protective element, rushing blood, white blood cells, pain, and heat to the element of injury or disease in an effort to eliminate it. Acute inflammation would be a sprain, cut, or cold. In these situations, inflammation often causes painful or frustrating symptoms (like a stuffy nose or fever in the case of a cold), but it’s these symptoms that help eliminate the injury or disease from your body. However, inflammation can also stick around and bring with it more chronic health conditions, which can linger in the body for years, leading to a decline in overall quality of life. With our ever-present on the go lifestyles, we’ve experienced increases in consistently high cortisol levels like never before. High cortisol, along with poor diet, decreased physical activity, and poor sleep lead to high levels of chronic inflammation. It’s for this reason, and many others, that we should add anti-inflammatory foods and beverages wherever we can. In addition, there are also many anti-inflammatory medicinal herbs we can look at.
Adding diverse and copious amounts of herbs and spices is a great way to increase the overall anti-inflammatory potential (as well as the overall taste) of your food. Many herbs carry with them a bevy of health benefits beyond just simply reducing inflammation. A few of my favorites include:
Turmeric: Turmeric, mostly due to its main constituent curcumin, has been argued to be one of the most powerful disease-fighting spices in the world. It’s been used for thousands of years to reduce inflammation as well as treat digestive disorders. It’s also been shown to prevent blood clots, reduce symptoms of depression, speed wound healing, reduce acne, combat arthritis, prevent certain types of cancer, prevent obesity, lower cholesterol levels - the list goes on and on!
Green Tea: Green tea has long been known for its ability to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer. It’s also now known as one of the best anti-aging beverages. Its powerful anti-inflammatory constituents fight cell oxidation (goodbye, wrinkles!), arthritis, cognitive decline, and vision loss. It can also help fight inflammation of the gut, preventing inflammatory bowel disorders, leaky gut, and poor nutrient absorption. It’s recommended to drink 3-4 cups of green tea a day in order to take full advantage of its therapeutic potential. It’s important to note that while adding local honey could serve a different therapeutic function, adding sugar is not advised, as sugar is a top contributor to overall inflammation.
Chili Peppers: Chili peppers rank high on the list of anti-inflammatory herbs and spices due to their capsaicin content. Capsaicin has been shown to benefit digestive health, blood pressure levels, decrease adiposity (body fat), and block pain receptors.
Rosemary: In addition to being highly anti-inflammatory, rosemary is known to have extremely high levels of antioxidant potential. It’s been used for thousands of years to improve memory, improve digestion, boost the immune system, fight cancer, and provide relief to arthritis pain. It’s also been used more recently to help prevent hair loss and as a liver cleanser.
Chronic inflammation is hands down the largest contributor to the plethora of chronic diseases we increasingly face as a western society. Adding a few of these into your diet could be very beneficial. But as always, the main consideration in all of this is quality sourcing as well as eating a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables. We’re so fortunate here at Woodside Farms that we have a diverse selection of seasonal vegetables literally in our own backyard. Swing by every Wednesday evening and Saturday morning for our farm stands, and fill your farm bags with some tasty healthcare!