Drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofren are among the top-selling pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, using these drugs long-term can lead to chronic conditions that require further medication. Read Christopher Vasey’s latest book, Natural Remedies for Inflammation(Healing Arts Press, 2014), to guide your use of natural anti-inflammatory remedies. This excerpt from chapter 5 showcases four safe and effective anti-inflammatory plants.
Numerous medicinal plants are effective against inflammation. Those presented here are known for being highly effective and easy to use. They can be divided into three major groups.
1. The first group includes the plants that stimulate the body to produce hormones that reduce or remove inflammation. These anti-inflammatory hormones are members of the cortisone family, for which reason these plants are described as having “cortisone-like” action.
2. The second group consists of plants that work by directly supplying the body with substances that block the inflammatory process.
3. The third group contains plants that have an antihistamine effect. The inflammation mediators—in other words the substances that trigger inflammation—consist not solely of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins but include a good many others. Among them, histamine figures prominently. It is involved in allergic inflammatory disorders like hay fever, for example. As their name indicates, these antihistaminic plants reduce blood histamine levels, and thereby the inflammation. The other anti-inflammatory plants do not do this; they act on the effects of histamine, but not on its concentration in the body.
Herbs for Inflammation
The profiles of the plants in these three groups are broken down into subsections that make it possible to easily find the information you are looking for.
Black Currant (Ribes nigrum)
The black currant is a small bush that can grow to more than 4 feet tall. It produces small, black spherical fruits.
History: Black currant leaves have been used for several centuries for their antiarthritic properties. In the twentieth century, black currant buds were found to contain concentrated levels of these same properties. The recommended preparations are glycerin maceration or mother tincture.
Parts Used: Buds, leaves
Active Principles: Bioflavonoids
• Adrenal stimulant
• Powerful anti-inflammatory
Target Organs: All organs, particularly the respiratory tract and joints
Respiratory tract: Hay fever, allergies to dust and animal hair, allergenic asthma
Joints: Acute and chronic arthritis
Urinary tract: Cystitis, prostatitis
General inflammation: Hives, hemorrhoids, et cetera
Glycerin maceration or mother tincture (buds): Take 30 to 50 drops with water three times a day before mealtime. For hay fever and other seasonal allergies, maintain this dosage throughout the season when the pollen to which you are sensitive is present. In the event of an isolated attack, take 50 drops in a glass of water at once. You should start feeling its effects within half an hour.
Herbal tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 10 grams of dried leaves, and let steep for fifteen minutes. Drink 2 or 3 cups a day. The tea’s effect is primarily antiarthritic and diuretic; it is not antiallergic.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Basil grows in clumps of stems that range from 8 to 20 inches in height. The leaves are an intense light green and the flowers small and white. This plant gives off a strong and pleasant odor. While native to the tropics, it now grows throughout the world.
History: The word basil comes from the Greek basilikon, meaning “royal.” The plant is regarded as a royal remedy. It relieves tension and offers great assistance in all disorders affecting the digestive tract. Basil is also a popular culinary herb used in everything from salads and soups to meat dishes and pastas (especially the famous Italian pesto).
Parts Used: Flowering tops, leaves
Active Principle: Chavicol
• Extremely potent anti-inflammatory
• Powerful antispasmodic
• Powerful antiviral
Target Organs: Digestive tract, nerves, urinary tract, joints
Digestive tract: Gastritis, heartburn and acidic stomach, enteritis, colitis, diarrhea, spasms, et cetera
Urinary tract: Cystitis, prostatitis
Joints: Arthritis, tendinitis
Herbal tea: Pour 1 cup boiling water over 3 to 4 fresh leaves and let steep for ten minutes. Drink 3 or 4 cups a day.
Essential oil: Take 1 or 2 drops in honey or cold-pressed oil three times a day, for a maximum of five days.
Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)
This is a low-lying plant whose fruits are equipped with long, curved hooklike growths. Hence the plant’s name: harpago in Latin means “hook,” and phytum means “plant.” In other words, the plant with hooks.” As is the case with many plants, the purpose of these hooks is to aid in the dissemination and propagation of the plant. When they become stuck in the feet and fur of animals, the seeds are carried far. However, the hardened nature of these hooks injures the soft portions of the hooves of livestock, which can lead to infection and disease, and so the plant’s origin was attributed to the devil.
History: Devil’s claw is native to the hot, dry regions of southern Africa. It grows in South Africa and in the Kalahari Desert that bestrides Namibia and Botswana. The inhabitants of this region use it to treat many health problems, particularly arthritic pain. Westerners discovered the medicinal virtues of devil’s claw in the early 1900s, and it has been used since that time in Europe and America. Studies conducted to pinpoint its properties offer evidence of this plant’s great effectiveness against inflammatory disorders, which has caused its popularity to boom. Today it is among the bestselling medicinal plants in the world.
Part Used: Root
Active Principle: Harpagoside
• Powerful anti-inflammatory; several studies have shown it to be as effective as the various anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals
Target Organs: Joints, muscles, tendons
Joints: Arthritis, osteoarthitis, gout
Muscles: Back pain, lumbago
Nerves: Sciatica, neuritis
Herbal tea: It is possible to make an infusion of devil’s claw, but its bitterness is an obstacle to the regular and sufficient consumption of the tea.
Mother tincture: Take 20 to 30 drops in a little water three times a day.
Capsules: Capsules or tablets of the powdered root are the most common and practical means of use. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, which generally instruct users to take 1 or 2capsules or tablets three times a day, with food.
Contraindications: Avoid devil’s claw in cases of gastric or duodenal ulcer.
Black Cumin (Nigella sativa)
This widely cultivated nigella is an annual of some 14 to 20 inches in height that is distinguished by its feathery leaves, in other words leaves that are cut into narrow threads or lashes, creating an intricate tangle. Its flowers are blue and its seeds are deep gray to black, from which its name of black cumin arises (though it has nothing in common with the cumin used in Indian and North African cuisine). It is now also widely referred to as nigella or nutmeg flower.
History: This plant is cultivated in the East and in central Europe for its seeds. These seeds have a bitter, burning taste and are widely used to impart flavor to breads and the string cheeses that can be found in eastern European and Jewish delicatessens. In Germany they are used to make pancakes, among other dishes, to which they impart a peppery taste. The seeds’ antihistaminic properties were discovered only recently, but they have quickly become one of the primary herbal remedies for lowering blood histamine levels.
Part Used: Seeds
Active Principle: Nigellone
Target Organs: Respiratory tract, blood vessels of the head
Respiratory tract: Hay fever, allergies, allergic asthma
Blood vessels: Headaches, migraines
Mother tincture: Take 10 to 30 drops in water, three times a day.
Reprinted with permission from Natural Remedies for Inflammation(Healing Arts Press, 2014) by Christopher Vasey, N.D.