5 Anti-Inflammatory Herbs You Need To Try


We are lucky to have the heavy hitters of the pharmaceutical world, but if you suffer from inflammation, starting with anti-inflammatory herbs first is a great idea as they usually have no unwanted side effects. Many of our over-the-counter medications originated from the plant world (such as aspirin).

What is inflammation?

Digestive issues and conditions that affect mobility are what we primarily think of when we think of inflammatory conditions. However, inflammation is present in any ill health, and it can take a while to work out how to support your body’s ability to recover from chronic inflammation. 

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Anything that makes you feel unwell, sore or uncomfortable will be from or caused by inflammation. Your body is fantastic at keeping you as well as it can be, but sometimes when you overdo it with exercise or work, your body will start to feel the effects of inflammation as it tries to bring you back to ‘normal’. This can also occur after you have not slept as well as you need or if you have been ill or injured. Inflammation in response to these things is normal and healthy. 

Your body produces chemicals, hormones and mediators to help fight whatever is making you feel out of balance - the side effect of that can be increased inflammation. Sometimes that inflammation is short-lived and you recover quickly, but other times you may find that inflammation sticks around and starts to cause more issues.

What does inflammation look like?

Inflammation can present as discomfort, bloating, soreness, pain and loss of mobility. It can also look red, sore, itchy and even present as mood issues. Inflammation affects everything, so working to balance it is crucial. If you suffer from inflammation, here are five anti-inflammatory herbs you can add to your toolkit.


5 anti-inflammatory herbs

1. Turmeric

Turmeric is one of the most commonly known anti-inflammatory herbs. Its main therapeutic actions come from volatile oils known as curcuminoids i.e. curcumin. 

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Curcumin, however, is notoriously difficult to absorb and utilise. You would need to eat a lot of turmeric to get a therapeutic dose. This is why people look to extracts and supplements as the more efficient way to take curcumin. Studies have shown that pairing turmeric with black pepper increases absorption. Black pepper has an active ingredient called piperine that works as a ‘bio enhancer - so when taken with turmeric the piperine increases the curcumin’s bioavailability.

We use turmeric in our Anti-Flam Tonic, which has three different forms of turmeric (tincture, fresh and dried) as well as black pepper for absorption.


Curcumioids are strong antioxidants that help the body recover from oxidative stress caused by diet, lifestyle or illness. The strong antioxidant action can also help reduce inflammation - as it can help neutralise inflammatory agents caused by free radical damage that can cause inflammation and tissue damage.

This 2014 study compared the safety and efficacy of turmeric and ibuprofen and found that turmeric was as effective as ibuprofen but with fewer side effects. 

2. Ginger

Ginger belongs to the same plant family as turmeric, and they are often found in formulas together to support inflammation levels (like our Anti-Flam).

Ginger is a warming, anti-inflammatory herb that supports circulation, digestion and has been used traditionally to support nausea and digestive discomfort. Ginger’s active constituents can help support circulation by dilating blood vessels and helping reduce high blood pressure.

This increased circulation helps relieve inflamed joints by helping to cool the area. Gingerol, the active constituent in ginger, helps to reduce inflammatory mediators, leukotrienes and prostaglandins that stimulate inflammation and pain.

3. Cayenne

If you've cooked with cayenne pepper, you know how hot this plant is. This heat can help sluggish circulation and digestion and 'warm' the body. It's also an anti-inflammatory herb that can be used internally (in SMALL doses) and topically. Capsaicin, the active compound in chilli peppers, is found in prescription creams for pain and pain relief.

Topical cayenne works as a counter-irritant and helps to increase the blood flow to the affected area. It can be irritating, but the heat of cayenne works by distracting the nerve receptors from sending pain signals. Instead, the body sends signals that say the area is really hot and this provides short-term pain relief. We use cayenne in our Fire Cider as well as turmeric, ginger and horopito.

4. Horopito

Horopito is another hot anti-inflammatory herb. This plant is one of the many New Zealand natives we use in our formulas, and it helps to move circulation around the body in much the same way that cayenne does.

Horopito has been used traditionally in Aotearoa to help with pain. It was used topically for toothaches, swollen joints and internally for headaches and stomach issues. The traditional method was as a decoction or infusion (tea).

The active constituent that gives horopito its anti-inflammatory abilities is called polygodial. Polygodial is a strong peppery tasting compound that can impart analgesic (pain relieving) effects.

It also has counterirritant actions so it can be beneficial when used topically for symptomatic relief in inflammatory muscle or joint pain. We use horopito, along with turmeric and ginger in our Anti-Flam Tonic.


5. Akeake

Akeake is a fast-growing shrub that flowers in late autumn and will often self-seed. It is found all over the world and is used in many cultures to help support inflammation levels. In Dunedin, you can find it as part of shelter belts.

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Traditionally akeake has been used to help with painful swelling and rheumatic joints. The active constituent within akeake that helps with pain and inflammation is called hautriwaic acid, and this has been shown to help reduce pain and inflammation levels. You can also use akeake topically to help with toothaches, headaches, joint pain and skin issues.

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