Building an Anti-Inflammatory Spice Cabinet

Chronic inflammation. I can scarcely think of any combination of words that has had such a profound effect on modern health than this. Chronic inflammation is the root of many lifestyle diseases running rampant in our society including: type two diabetes, many cancers, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, depression, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and many more. 

Inflammation is a natural process that is actually protective, in the right  context. Recall the last time you sprained your ankle or banged your leg off of the coffee table, remember that swelling, heat, redness, and pain that accompanied? That's inflammation at work. Inflammation surrounds an injury with protective padding in order to protect, immobilize, and allow healing. The problems begin to arise when this response doesn't let up after an injury has healed. This can lead to systemic inflammation, or inflammation that is spread throughout the body. 

Fortunately, there are many foods and spices that that work to counteract this over-reactive inflammation trap your body may fall into. Use this guide to build your own anti-inflammatory spice cabinet to not only improve your cooking, but also improve your health! 

Best Anti-Inflammatory Herbs and Spices

1. Ginger

Found in many Asian dishes, ginger is a spicy root that has been used for medicinal purposes for literally thousands of years. Ginger is known to calm gastrointestinal upsets, boost memory, and work as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Some studies have even shown ginger to work as a pain reliever. While it can be eaten raw, many people choose to add it to dishes such as stir-fries to dilute the spicy flavor. It can also be steeped in hot water and taken as a tea. 

2. Turmeric

If you're a fan of curry or other Indian dishes, chances are you've eaten turmeric. Turmeric is another root, and is best known for giving curry its yellow color. Researchers say that Turmeric is a stronger immune booster than Vitamin C, its active compound, Curcurmin, is known to be deadly to cancer cells, fight diabetes, boost mood, and support brain health. Plus, it's a powerful anti-inflammatory. Turmeric is great in curries (duh!) and also good in smoothies, soups, or ever over sauteed veggies. 

3. Basil

Most often associated with Italian dishes, basil is a beautiful herb with incredible flavor. Basil boasts the anti-inflammatory compound eugenol, and is known to provide relief to many inflammatory illnesses, especially rheumatoid arthritis.

4. Cinnamon

Some of cinnamon's many health benefits include: supporting brain function, fighting cancer, aiding in digestion, fighting diabetes, and more! Cinnamon also has compounds that block the inflammation linked to neurodegenerative diseases. Try some sprinkled on your morning oatmeal, or over a chai latte. 

5. Cilantro

One of my absolute favorite herbs, cilantro is commonly found in a lot of Mexican dishes. Cilantro is known to help the body detoxify heavy metals, as well as aid in digestion, mental health, and skin health. Of course, cilantro is also a powerful anti-inflammatory. Sprinkle some on fresh salsa or put it through a juicer with some other citrus fruits! 

This list is by no means all-encompassing. In fact, most herbs and spices have at least some anti-inflammatory properties to tout! The takeaway? Spice up your world to avoid chronic inflammation!