Herbs have been used since the beginning of mankind as food but also in medicine to soothe, heal, and treat all sorts of aches and pains. Plants are still at the root of many traditional medicines today and most molecules found in drugs discovered today are taken from plants. Concerning inflammation relief, common pharmaceutical treatments are usually NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) that are linked to a high load of side effects if taken in the long term. When talking about inflammatory diseases, we are facing chronic long-term suffering and safer treatments than NSAIDs must be found to relieve symptoms.
Nowadays, more and more people are coming back to basics, rediscovering their connection to nature and the power lying behind the use of its untransformed remedies. At the same time, there is continuous research shedding light on the safe use of plants to treat anti-inflammatory disorders.
Anti-inflammatory herbal teas may be made from the leaf, the root, the bark, or the bud. Each part of the plant is composed of different active principles that will have a different effect on our metabolism. If you pick them, it is important to know which part of the plant is good for you.
Why can herbal teas help reduce inflammation?
When you suffer from inflammation your immune system produces inflammatory cytokines (inflammation messengers situated in your gut). What we eat and drink can help to limit the production of these messengers. Herbal teas are the means to reduce inflammation by acting directly at the gut level.
The anti-inflammatory power of green tea
The anti-inflammatory benefits of green tea are found in its phenolic compounds. Phenols are anti-inflammatory molecules found in plants, such as flavonoids. Green tea contains 30-40% of phenols, whilst black tea only around 5%. Green tea also has high amounts of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (up to 59%). These specific catechins have been shown to be beneficial in reducing inflammation.
Green tea has a second extraordinary power: that of directly acting on healing the gut lining. Leaky gut and inflammation are directly connected. Tightly sealing the gaps in our intestine will help to hinder the immune and therefore inflammatory response. Green tea and other bitter astringent herbs are one of the keys to lessening inflammation.
The anti-inflammatory power of Rooibos tea
Rooibos Tea may be less famous than its green counterpart but it has excellent health benefits, is totally caffeine-free, and is considered an excellent anti-inflammatory tea. It is cultivated in South Africa and is easily distinguishable by its reddish hue and warm sweet flavor. Few people are aware of its high content in anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory components. Rooibos is commonly used in South Africa as an anti-inflammatory beverage, its high levels of phenols and quercetin also rank it amongst efficient remedies used in cases of allergies and asthma. According to the American Botanical Council, "Rooibos is the only known source of aspalathin", an antioxidant that helps protect against vascular inflammation. A cup of Rooibos is much more than just a cup of tea! A daily intake of 2 to 3 cups a day is a great means to keep inflammation low.
Devil's Claw or Harpagophytum
Devil's Claw grows in parts of the Southern hemisphere (South Africa, Namibia, Madagascar). The plant is named after the hooked shape of its fruit and has been used in traditional medicine as an anti-inflammatory drink to cure muscle and joint pain, arthritis, and fever.
Research has confirmed the anti-inflammatory power of the plant due to its iridoid glycoside content. These glycosides hamper the inflammatory process by slowing the production of inflammatory prostaglandins. Devils Claw also contains anti-oxidant components such as bioflavonoids and phytosterols which confer anti-spasmodic properties to the plant and justify its use in cases of digestive issues.
It is best to use Devil’s Claw as an anti-inflammatory background treatment over a period ranging from 3 weeks to 3 months. Herbal tea is made by infusing a teaspoonful of the ground root in boiling water for about 12 to 15 minutes. A daily amount of 2 to 3 cups a day is advised to treat chronic inflammation.
Blackcurrant leaf tea
You may be used to picking and eating blackcurrants or drinking blackcurrant juice without being aware of the extraordinary anti-inflammatory powers of the blackcurrant leaf.
The blackcurrant leaf is rich in polyphenic and flavonoid substances (such as quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin) but also proanthocyanidins that are responsible for the high anti-inflammatory property of the herbal tea. It has long been used in traditional herbal medicinal for the relief of minor articular pain and is often combined with hibiscus leaves that are naturally rich in anthocyanins, a bioactive red-colored pigment with anti-oxidant actions.
Plants are a major source of antioxidants, anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory agents, and should be used daily as a regular nutritional source of phenols, flavonoids, tannins, and anthocyanins. Drinking herbal teas is an effective way to reduce inflammation in the body. Whether you suffer from acute inflammation or chronic inflammation, a few cups of herbal tea a day will help soothe the symptoms.
And if you are not prone to inflammation, drinking anti-inflammatory herbal teas is a great way to prevent oxidative stress from settling in.
Remember to always ask the advice of a specialist.
Author: Marie-Noëlle Bourgeois, Nutritionist at Bounce Up Micronutrition
Further Reading :
Ohishi T, Goto S, Monira P, Isemura M, Nakamura Y. Anti-inflammatory Action of Green Tea. Antiinflamm Antiallergy Agents Med Chem. 2016;15(2):74-90. doi: 10.2174/1871523015666160915154443. PMID: 27634207.
Chrubasik S. Wirksamkeit pflanzlicher Schmerzmittel am Beispiel des Teufelskrallenwurzelextrakts [Devil's claw extract as an example of the effectiveness of herbal analgesics]. Orthopade. 2004 Jul;33(7):804-8. German. doi: 10.1007/s00132-004-0675-7. PMID: 15150687.
Viljoen A, Mncwangi N, Vermaak I. Anti-inflammatory iridoids of botanical origin. Curr Med Chem. 2012;19(14):2104-27. doi: 10.2174/092986712800229005. PMID: 22414102; PMCID: PMC3873812.
Rooibos Tea: Research into Antioxidant and Antimutagenic Properties
by Laurie Erickson, HerbalGram. 2003; 59:34-45 American Botanical Council