- Guggul is classically used as a detoxifying herb in Ayurveda. The resin secreted by the guggul tree are found to have anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering effects comparable to commercial drugs such as ibuprofen, a type of NSAID , and clofibrate, a drug used for reducing serum cholesterol, in some studies. It may also be useful in relieving pains due to fibromyalgia and rheumatism.
Guggul can be found in their raw forms as gums and resins, and in powder, capsules and tablets. As with any other medicinal herb, consult a knowledgeable herbalist or physician before self-medicating.
Note: Guggul has blood-thinning effects and therefore, should not be used together with other medications that reduce platelet aggregation.
- Also called Indian frankincense or Salai, boswellia is traditionally used to treat arthritis, respiratory problems and digestive symptoms. Modern studies have now supported these uses with the identification of active anti-inflammatory compounds in boswellia called boswellic acids. These acids were found to deter the formation of enzymes that can lead to inflammatory disorders such as bronchial asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Boswellia is commonly available in tablets and capsules. Though toxicity associated with this anti-inflammatory herb is rare, follow the dosage recommendation on the bottle to ensure safety.
3. Holy Basil
- A type of basil native to India, holy basil or tulsi not only plays an important role in Ayurveda, it’s also revered by worshipers as a symbol of a deity. Traditionally, this herb is used in cooking and also as a medicine to treat cold, flu and sore throat. Holy basil oil is found to possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and other medicinal properties that are effective against arthritis, diabetes, high cholesterol, peptic ulcers as well as chemotherapy and radiation poisoning.
Dried or grounded holy basil leaves can be found in specialty stores as well as on the Internet. Zyflamend , a popular anti-inflammatory herbal formula in the US, also contains holy basil in its unique blend. In places where holy basil is not available, sweet basil can also be used.
Note: Avoid this herb if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.
- Known as the ‘Divine Tree’ in India, neem oil is used in Ayurvedic medicine to calm inflammatory skin conditions, joint pains and muscle aches. Extracts of neem leaves and seeds have also demonstrated anti-fungal, antibacterial, anti-diabetic and anti-viral properties in various studies.
All parts of this amazing tree can be used. Neem shoots and flowers are eaten as vegetables in India, while the leaves are added to foods as a spice to impart a unique bitter flavor. Neem oil can also be applied topically to treat skin irritations, and sprayed on plants to control pests.
Note: Despite the healing properties of neem, women who are pregnant or wanting to become pregnant should avoid using this herb.
5. Aloe Vera
- Well known for healing wounds and soothing skin burns, aloe vera ‘s anti-inflammatory properties work internally as well. When ingested, aloe cools inflammation in the digestive tract such as in the case of peptic ulcers, and it may also be beneficial for other inflammatory conditions. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, aloe vera is prescribed when there’s excessive heat in the liver.
Aloe vera gel can be consumed internally, or used topically to treat burns and other skin irritations such as acne and psoriasis. The juice obtained from the gel is also a popular detoxification beverage.
Note: Powdered aloe vera leaf is a strong laxative and should be used with caution. Expecting mothers should only use aloe vera under physician’s supervision, or if unsure, avoid it altogether.
- Also known as liquorice , the sweet root of this plant is commonly used to make candies. Healing-wise, the strong anti-inflammatory compounds found in licorice root have been found to be effective against coughs, colds, mouth ulcers, peptic ulcers and even chronic hepatitis infection.
Licorice is available as chopped roots, which can be brewed as tea, and also in powder and capsule forms.
Note: Ingesting too much licorice root can lead to high blood pressure. So use this herb with care and preferably under the supervision of a trained health-care provider.
7. Saw Palmetto
- Native to the southeastern United States, this small palm tree shows promising anti-inflammatory activity against the enlargement of the prostate gland in men (a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH).
Extracts of saw palmetto berries are widely available as tablets and capsules. If you intend to use this herb for BPH, do discuss with your health-care provider first to determine the effective dosage.
- Related to the chrysanthemum, feverfew produces pretty daisy-like flowers with white petals and yellow centers. As its name implies, this anti-inflammatory herb can help to lower fever, and it’s also effective in reducing the severity and frequency of headaches and migraines. But taking feverfew during a migraine attack is unlikely to help, as it takes time for the herb to take effect. As such, it’s more useful as a preventive measure.
Capsules and tablets of feverfew are readily available. Seek advise from a trained health-care adviser before using this herb.
Note: There are some side effects associated with this herb, including mouth ulcers, mild digestive disorders and a rebound in headaches after stopping feverfew. It’s also not suitable for expecting mothers.
9. Slippery Elm
- A tree with diverse uses, the bark of slippery elm has been used to address a wide range of health concerns, such as cough, sore throat, irritable bowel syndrome, gastritis, arthritis as well as other inflammatory conditions. It is also commonly used as an ingredient in lozenges and herbal teas.
Slippery elm is a safe and gentle herb with no contraindications. You can find it in powder form and in capsules.