Inflammation in our bodies can be a good thing, or it can be a bad thing. It all depends on what the source is and what part of the body is being affected. Inflammation occurs when your immune system is activated and initiates a healing process, whether it be because of an infection, an injury, or even as a reaction to a food allergy.
Your body detects there is a problem, and so it sends blood cells to the affected area to assist in the healing process while “standing guard” and thwarting any other invading agents looking to compound the problem. Here’s the thing, though: per healthline.com, your body can’t readily distinguish between whether something is really physically wrong or if some stressor – like an issue at work or at home – is inadvertently kicking your immune system into action.
That unwanted, unnecessary inflammation in our bodies is what we want to combat, as well as the kind of inflammation that is a source of joint pain, such as, rheumatoid arthritis in our knees or hands. There are medicines and supplements that can help us fight back against such painful inflammation, but what many people might not realize is that there are oils and fats – yes, fats found in some foods and supplements – that can reduce the pain or lessen the flare-ups that typically accompany inflammation.
Good vs. Bad Inflammation
As mentioned earlier, not all inflammation is harmful. Per mindbodygreen.com, we rely on acute inflammation as a healing aid when we sprain an ankle or accidentally cut ourselves, such as while chopping carrots or onions in the kitchen. The eventual – albeit usually rapid – discoloration and swelling we see in the affected area is our immune system at work, producing inflammation that starts the healing process.
Chronic inflammation, which can be manifested in symptoms such as bloating, digestive problems, acne and other skin issues such as eczema, or even damaged arteries, can be the result of a poor diet, stress, or environmental problems such as air pollution. The immune system is overreacting, perhaps unable to turn itself off, and so we can also get an autoimmune disorder like leaky gut or irritable bowel disease, per draxe.com.
Oils as Anti-Inflammatory Remedies
For thousands of years, medical practitioners have been using herbs and essential oils sourced from plants and trees to treat many inflammatory diseases, per theconsciouslife.com. Leave it to modern-day scientists to study these oils and isolate the properties that make essential oils effective anti-inflammatory agents, which work much like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in that they can inhibit cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzymes that are responsible for the inflammation, swelling, and pain you feel in your body.
Following are nine essential oils commonly identified as those particularly good for combating painful inflammation:
- Thyme. Its anti-inflammatory prowess is quite robust, capable of reducing COX-2 enzymes by as much as 75 percent. Thyme’s key active ingredient for fighting back against inflammation is the compound carvacrol. Another thing to like about thyme – per theconsciouslife.com, studies have shown oil of thyme to be a strong antibacterial in fighting microorganisms that have developed resistance to medicinal antibiotics.
- Chamomile. Known as one of the most “calming” oils, chamomile oil has been shown to be effective in soothing painful joints, sprains and muscular aches and pains, among other conditions, in part because of its sedative properties, per livestrong.com.
- Tea tree oil. This native-to-Australia oil is both an antiviral and antibiotic especially useful for countering skin inflammation. A few drops in the water while drawing a bath for you to soak in will help stimulate your immune system against infection and inflammation.
- Ginger. This versatile herb/oil makes a good massage oil, useful for countering the effects of arthritis, strains, and sprains, among other painful conditions. It stimulates blood flow and warms the skin, providing relief from the pain and stiffness of inflammation.
- Rosemary. Known mostly for its antidepressant and sedative qualities, it has recently been shown to work well as an anti-inflammatory.
- Eucalyptus. With a scent that is reminiscent of Vicks VapoRub, eucalyptus can work well against stomach aches and chest congestion, and its anti-inflammatory reputation is well-earned as well.
- Bergamot. This citrus fruit resembles a lemon, per theconsciouslife.com, but it is not for eating or for direct application to the skin. But it does work as an anti-inflammatory.
- Clove. This is a spice used in Indian and Mexican cuisine for its strong taste and aroma, and in Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medical practices it has often been used to warm the digestive system and handle digestive issues. Its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities also has made it useful in relieving the pain of sore gums and toothaches.
- Fennel. Its active component of anethole is believed responsible for its anti-inflammatory capabilities.
Fats as Anti-Inflammatory Remedies
Just like there is good inflammation and bad inflammation, there are also good fats and bad fats when it comes to choosing what foods to eat in regard to your health. Following are several food fats that work well fighting inflammation:
- Nuts. Almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin and hemp seeds, in particular, per mindbodygreen.com. But go easy on them – that fat and calories quickly add up, per webmd.com.
- Fatty fish. These are fish that contain omega-3’s, which are robust anti-inflammatory substances, per draxe.com, demonstrating a reliable source of inflammation relief. Think salmon, for starters, preferably wild-caught over farm-raised.
- Avocadoes and olives. This includes their hard-pressed oils, such as olive oil (great on salads).