Which herbs and spices fight inflammation?

Αρωματικά φυτά - Βότανα - Μπαχαρικά

The “Cretan diet”
The “Cretan diet” is considered based on scientific data as one of the healthiest eating practices. Often, the almost synonymous term “Mediterranean diet” means a diet based on increased variety, frequency and quantity of vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, legumes, whole grains. However, the role of spices or seasonings is often overlooked. The herbs of the Cretan land, moreover, have traditionally been the cornerstone for the preparation of any kind of food, infusion or decoction.

Herbs and spices in inflammation
The role in the health of herbs and spices has been illuminated in the last decade by a number of new data from interesting discoveries in the biomedical sciences. What are the herbs and spices that seem to be able to deal with inflammation, which is at the root of almost all diseases that afflict humans, from the autoimmune to the cardiovascular and degenerative?

An important study
In 2012, for the first time, a study was conducted that compared more than 10 different herbs and spices to show their antioxidant activity, having already been absorbed by the human body through the mouth, controlling their activity in the blood, ie their haste. And even with indicators related to protective antioxidant cellular actions (eg DNA protection) and protective mechanisms to reduce inflammation.

Which herbs and spices were tested
So they tested on 13 different groups of volunteers – each group received a different one of the 13 spices for a week, with doses corresponding to the usual amounts consumed with the diet – the following: black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, turmeric, oregano , sage, rosemary, ginger, clove, cumin, cinnamon, oregano after heat treatment and turmeric after heat treatment. All of the above herbs and spices were given for research purposes in a special capsule form.

The conclusions of the study
Before referring to the findings of this study, it is worth noting that 13 of the 50 most antioxidant foods that have been recorded are herbs and spices. The difference in this study is that their action is measured based on their bioavailability. So the conclusions are as follows: the herbs with the strongest anti-inflammatory action by inhibiting the inflammatory factor TNF-α were clove, rosemary, ginger and turmeric. The herbs that best protected DNA from oxidative damage were paprika, rosemary, ginger, turmeric after heat treatment, sage and cumin. In addition, paprika protected the cells from the normal process of apoptosis, ie the planned cell death. In fact, the group that consumed ginger had the best results in all 3 indicators of inflammation that measured both TNF-α and interleukin 1a (IL-1α), and interleukin 6 (IL-6).

Perspectives on medical use for herbs and spices
The importance of the above findings in the ability to use the mentioned herbs and spices in a number of diseases related to oxidative stress and inflammation is obvious. The side effects, contraindications and interactions of these herbs with other medicinal substances, although present, are limited. In addition, they could be a future option for the regulation of inflammatory diseases for which medicinal substances (monoclonal antibodies – biological agents) are usually currently used, which inactivate the TNF-α factor, for diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or inflammatory enteropathy, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriasis and more. Of course, studies that address these questions are necessary. In some of these that have already been done, we will refer to the following articles.

1. Susan S. Percival, John P. Vanden Heuvel, Carmelo J. Nieves, Cindy Montero, Andrew J. Migliaccio & Joanna Meadors (2012) Bioavailability of Herbs and Spices in Humans as Determined by ex vivo Inflammatory Suppression and DNA Strand Breaks, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 31: 4, 288-294

2. Bente L Halvorsen, Monica H Carlsen, Katherine M Phillips, Siv K Bøhn, Kari Holte, David R Jacobs, Jr, Rune Blomhoff, Content of redox-active compounds (ie, antioxidants) in foods contained in the United States, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 84, Issue 1, July 2006, Pages 95–135

3. Aggarwal, B.B., Gupta, S.C. and Sung, B. (2013), Curcumin as TNF blocker. Br J Pharmacol, 169: 1672-1692

G. Spanakis MD, MSc