Humans have long been searching for the fountain of youth.
And while we haven’t found that fountain just yet… we have discovered that there are populations of people that live for a very long time with great health.
By studying these populations of the world’s longest-living people, there are a few similarities we can find in how they live and how they eat that may explain their overall health.
Aging is a normal and inevitable part of life. But inflammation and oxidative stress contribute to a slow decline in health as we age.
These two things are also responsible for many chronic and lifestyle-related health conditions (1).
So by beating inflammation and oxidative stress, we may improve our overall health and enjoy healthy aging and longevity.
And the good news is that these powerful antioxidant compounds can be found at your local grocery store and supermarkets.
Inflammation and Aging
Inflammation is normal and our body’s natural response to injury and firing up the immune system.
The inflammatory response helps us fight infection and sickness, and can help repair injuries.
In fact, the redness and warmth you may feel around a skin wound are signs of inflammation.
But like everything else, when experienced in excess, it is not such a beneficial thing.
Over time, long-term excess inflammation is tied to health issues such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (2).
Lifestyle factors, like a poor diet, little to no physical activity, excessive stress, and poor sleep all play a role in excess inflammation.
So by tamping down inflammation, we may be able to ward off these diseases that claim lives all too soon. These herbs and spices may also help us enjoy a long, full, and healthy life!
Anti-Inflammatory Herbs and Spices for Longevity
7 Best Anti-Inflammatory Spices for Longevity
This Mediterranean herb does more than lend a delicious flavor to savory meals. Rosemary is also extremely anti-inflammatory.
This is largely due to certain active compounds called polyphenols, specifically rosmarinic acid, carbonic acid, and carnosol.
Rosemary has been found to decrease inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
It may also help with rheumatic diseases, certain types of arthritis like osteoarthritis, and decrease joint inflammation and joint pain in those with this chronic condition (3, 4, 5, 6).
Rosemary can be used in baking, as well as with poultry, fish (hello Omega-3 fatty acids!), white beans, and in salads, soups, and stews.
Thyme is an herb that is used in many savory dishes and breads. It is often the perfect addition to roasted chicken.
This delicious spice also helps to fight inflammation in the body!
Researchers found that thyme essential oil was one of several oils that suppressed the COX-2 enzyme in a way that was similar to resveratrol, another powerful antioxidant found in red wine.
Additionally, another anti-inflammatory compound found in thyme oil, carvacrol, may help protect the heart (7, 8).
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory spices out there, all thanks to the special compound curcumin.
A 2018 clinical study found that older adults with mild memory issues who took turmeric for 18 months showed improvement in their memory and attention, compared to a placebo.
It is thought that the antioxidant impacts of curcumin helped to reduce oxidative stress in the body (9).
Numerous studies have also found that it may improve pain and inflammation associated with arthritis conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, as it has been shown to have a significant reduction of arthritis symptoms like stiffness and swelling in joints (10).
Additionally, those with osteoarthritis have reported that taking curcumin provided similar pain relief to common over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen and diclofenac (11).
Studies have found that taking curcumin can improve markers of inflammation in the blood, like interleukin 6 (IL-6) and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), when compared to a placebo (12).
This brilliant yellow spice can be sprinkled on many foods, used in marinades, salad dressings, and dips like hummus, or can be added to your morning smoothie.
This popular spice is often used in Indian cuisine in curries. To increase curcumin’s efficacy, take it with black pepper.
Ginger is one of the longest-used spices in the world. It is known for helping with nausea and aiding digestion.
But it also may help promote longevity because of powerful anti-inflammatory compounds found in ginger: gingerol and shogaol (10, 13).
There are several studies linked to the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger. It has been shown that it may help reduce pain, in addition to reducing inflammation (14).
Research has also found that taking ginger daily helped with osteoarthritis (15).
In a review of 16 studies, it was found that taking ginger daily from 4-12 weeks helped to reduce inflammatory markers in the blood, such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α). (16)
Ginger root can be enjoyed steeped as a popular herbal tea, or the fresh root can be sliced into smoothies, soups, stews, and stir-fries.
Garlic is one of the world’s most beloved herbs or spices. It’s actually a member of the onion or Allium family!
There are many, many health benefits associated with garlic, and it has been used for centuries in traditional medicine.
This bulb has also been linked to longevity. It is an anti-inflammatory agent and may help to boost our immune system as well (17).
Garlic has been shown to fight against the common cold (18). This may be why chicken noodle soup helps to fight off colds.
Garlic has been shown to also improve cholesterol levels and high blood pressure (19).
Many of its health benefits are from the sulfur compounds like allicin, diallyl disulfide, and S-allyl cysteine (SAC), which are anti-inflammatory (20, 21).
A review of 17 studies found that people who took garlic supplements from 4-48 weeks saw improvements in the inflammatory markers CRP and TNF-α (22).
Garlic is used in so many cuisines around the world. It is truly versatile. It can be used in soups, stews, and simmered in sauces for pasta dishes.
It is also great in stir-fries, marinades, dressings, and dips like hummus. It elevates any roasted or grilled vegetable.
In order to allow the powerful natural compounds to reach their full potential, allow the chopped or sliced fresh garlic to sit for 10 minutes before cooking.
If you like to sprinkle cinnamon on your oatmeal or coffee in the morning, here’s some good news.
Cinnamon appears to have anti-inflammatory effects. Research has primarily been done on two types of cinnamon: Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon.
In a review of 12 studies, those that took cinnamon had a significant decrease in the inflammatory markers CRP and MDA. It also raised antioxidant levels in the body (23).
This may also help conditions where CPR is elevated, like type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis (24).
The average adult should not consume more than a teaspoon or 2.5 grams of cinnamon per day, as too much of it can have negative side effects like lowering blood sugar levels too much (25, 26).
Studies have shown that cassia cinnamon is most effective, and it tends to be the more prevalent kind of cinnamon on the market.
Saffron is one of the most desired spices, as it is harvested from the crocus flower. Saffron is used for its ability to color food and fabric, as well as give a delicate flavor to foods.
But it has also been used in traditional medicine. It is rich in carotenoids that may help boost immune response. This is likely due to active compounds in saffron called crocin, crocetin, and safranal (27).
Saffron has also been found to improve inflammatory markers like TNF-alpha, TNF-α, interferon-gamma, and interleukin-6, -12, and 17A (27).
It has also been found to tamp down pro-inflammatory enzymes like myeloperoxidase (MPO, and inducible nitric oxide synthase iNOS, as well as cyclooxygenase-2 COX-2. (27)
Overall these antioxidants help to reduce oxidative stress in the body and quench free radicals. These two things play a role in the development of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes (28).
Saffron goes extremely well in rice dishes or couscous.
There are many herbs and spices that are enjoyed throughout the world.
When populations that enjoy long, healthy lives are studied, it seems that they too enjoy many of these herbs and spices as a regular part of their everyday anti-inflammatory diet.
And now research has shown that these herbs and spices do in fact possess many health-promoting natural compounds that help to fight inflammation and stop oxidative stress, two things that contribute to chronic disease and premature aging.
These may also help with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
While it is a good idea to include these herbs and spices in your everyday cooking, it’s important to note that many studies use specific, isolated compounds in their tests, or give participants supplements or capsules that contain highly concentrated amounts of these herbs and spices.
Before starting any supplement, please speak with your doctor and/or pharmacist to make sure they do not negatively impact any other medication you may take regularly, or worsen any prior health conditions.
That said, using these herbs and spices in regular cooking is generally accepted as safe, and they do still contain anti-inflammatory properties.
And while these herbs and spices show promise, there is nothing that can undo the damage of smoking, eating a poor diet, lack of exercise, stress, and poor sleep. Include these herbs and spices as part of a healthy lifestyle.
- Harman D. Free radical theory of aging. Mutation Research/DNAging. 1992: 275 (3-6); 257-266. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/092187349290030S
- Furman, D., Campisi, J., Verdin, E. et al. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nat Med 25, 1822–1832 (2019). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-019-0675-0
- Sánchez-Camargo A, Herrero M. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) as a functional ingredient: recent scientific evidence. Current Opinion in Food Science. 2017: 14; 13-19.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2214799316301825
- Lukaczer D, Darland G, Tripp M, et al. A pilot trial evaluating Meta050, a proprietary combination of reduced iso-alpha acids, rosemary extract and oleanolic acid in patients with arthritis and fibromyalgia. Phytother Res. 2005;19(10):864-869. doi:10.1002/ptr.1709
- Rašković A, Milanović I, Pavlović N, Ćebović T, Vukmirović S, Mikov M. Antioxidant activity of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) essential oil and its hepatoprotective potential. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014;14:225. Published 2014 Jul 7. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-225
- Connelly AE, Tucker AJ, Tulk H, et al. High-rosmarinic acid spearmint tea in the management of knee osteoarthritis symptoms. J Med Food. 2014;17(12):1361-1367. doi:10.1089/jmf.2013.0189
- American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. (2010, January 14). Thyme oil can inhibit COX2 and suppress inflammation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 8, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100113122306.htm
- Hotta M, Nakata R, Katsukawa M, Hori K, Takahashi S, Inoue H. Carvacrol, a component of thyme oil, activates PPARalpha and gamma and suppresses COX-2 expression. J Lipid Res. 2010;51(1):132-139. doi:10.1194/jlr.M900255-JLR200
- Small G, et al. Memory and Brain Amyloid and Tau Effects of a Bioavailable Form of Curcumin in Non-Demented Adults: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled 18-Month Trial. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2018: 26 (3); 266-277.
- Ghasemian M, Owlia S, Owlia MB. Review of Anti-Inflammatory Herbal Medicines. Adv Pharmacol Sci. 2016;2016:9130979. doi:10.1155/2016/9130979
- Kuptniratsaikul V, Thanakhumtorn S, Chinswangwatanakul P, Wattanamongkonsil L, Thamlikitkul V. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts in patients with knee osteoarthritis. J Altern Complement Med. 2009;15(8):891-897. doi:10.1089/acm.2008.0186
- Tabrizi R, Vakili S, Akbari M, et al. The effects of curcumin-containing supplements on biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytother Res. 2019;33(2):253-262. doi:10.1002/ptr.6226
- Anh NH, Kim SJ, Long NP, et al. Ginger on Human Health: A Comprehensive Systematic Review of 109 Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2020;12(1):157. Published 2020 Jan 6. doi:10.3390/nu12010157
- Rayati F, Hajmanouchehri F, Najafi E. Comparison of anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of Ginger powder and Ibuprofen in postsurgical pain model: A randomized, double-blind, case-control clinical trial. Dent Res J (Isfahan). 2017;14(1):1-7. doi:10.4103/1735-3327.201135
- Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Naderi Z, Dehghan A, Nadjarzadeh A, Fallah Huseini H. Effect of Ginger Supplementation on Proinflammatory Cytokines in Older Patients with Osteoarthritis: Outcomes of a Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. J Nutr Gerontol Geriatr. 2016;35(3):209-218.
- Morvaridzadeh M, Fazelian S, Agah S, et al. Effect of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on inflammatory markers: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Cytokine. 2020;135:155224. doi:10.1016/j.cyto.2020.155224
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- Mirzavandi F, Mollahosseini M, Salehi-Abargouei A, Makiabadi E, Mozaffari-Khosravi H. Effects of garlic supplementation on serum inflammatory markers: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Diabetes Metab Syndr. 2020;14(5):1153-1161.
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