There are many natural ways to lower inflammation and pain in the body. Many people turn to supplements for this purpose, but which ones are backed by strong clinical evidence? Learn more here.
Many people who suffer from chronic inflammatory conditions are always looking for foods, lifestyle changes, and supplements that might help them improve their quality of life. In this post, we discuss natural substances that have produced promising results in clinical trials.
Keep in mind, however, that none of these substances have been approved by the FDA for the purpose of decreasing inflammation, and none should be used in place of a medication your doctor prescribes. If you’re interested in using any of these as a complementary strategy, talk to your doctor first to avoid adverse effects and unexpected interactions.
Curcumin is an active component of turmeric, which has been the subject of extensive research into its anti-inflammatory effects.
In a study of 89 patients with ulcerative colitis, 1 g of curcumin in addition to typical drugs (sulfasalazine or mesalamine) reduced relapse rates .
In 45 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, 500 mg of curcumin improved tenderness, joint swelling, and other symptoms better than diclofenac sodium (50 mg) .
In 241 patients with hay fever, 500 mg of curcumin daily improved symptoms (sneezing, itching, runny nose, and congestion) after 2 months .
Curcumin is available as emulsions, tablets, capsules, powders, nanoparticles, and liposomal encapsulations.
It has limited bioavailability due to poor absorption and rapid breakdown. Combining curcumin and piperine (from black pepper) may increase curcumin’s bioavailability by as much as 2000%, which is why many supplements contain both substances [4, 5].
Boswellia, also known as Indian frankincense, is an extract taken from the Boswellia serrata tree. It reduces inflammation by blocking 5-lipoxygenase, similar to corticosteroids. Traditional practitioners use boswellia against chronic inflammatory conditions, and there’s some clinical evidence to back them up [6, 7].
Boswellia is most promising as an anti-inflammatory in arthritis. In a meta-analysis of 260 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, 400 mg of boswellia extract reduced swelling, pain, and stiffness. Patients were also able to reduce painkiller (NSAIDs) intake and required fewer emergency treatments .
In 102 patients with Crohn’s disease, 400 mg of boswellia extract was comparable to the standard treatment for IBD (mesalazine) .
70% of patients with asthma showed improvement when taking 300 mg boswellia extract, compared to only 27% in the placebo group .
Boswellia is available as a capsule, tablet, or its bark decoction orally .
3) Cat’s Claw
Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) is a vine found in tropical areas of South and Central America. It is under investigation as a potential anti-inflammatory supplement, with the strongest evidence coming from studies of osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis.
In a study of 45 patients with osteoarthritis, cat’s claw reduced pain with no significant side effects .
Another study of 40 patients with rheumatoid arthritis found that cat’s claw extract reduced the number of reported painful joints after 24 weeks .
It decreased inflammation and pain in rats with arthritis .
According to cell studies, its mechanism is similar to that of prednisone: it inhibits NF-kB) and blocks other inflammatory compounds (TNF-alpha and IL-1alpha, IL-1beta, IL-17, and IL-4) [14, 15, 16].
Cat’s claw is available as capsules, extracts, tinctures, decoctions, and teas .
In two studies of 267 patients with osteoarthritis, ginger extract (250 and 255 mg) reduced knee pain [17, 18].
In another study of 64 patients with type 2 diabetes, ginger supplementation decreased markers of inflammation like TNF-alpha and hs-CRP .
Ginger may fight inflammation by blocking:
- The production of inflammatory components (COX-1, COX-2, 5- lipoxygenase, NF-κB, prostaglandin, and leukocytes) [20, 21]
- Immune cells from arriving at the site of inflammation 
However, in a study of 75 osteoarthritic patients, 170 mg ginger extract had no benefits compared to placebo. These conflicting results are among the reasons why ginger has not been approved for this purpose, and additional research is required .
You can use fresh or ground ginger in cooking. Supplements are available as pills or tinctures .
Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapples. In 77 patients with rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, bromelain (400 mg) improved overall symptoms, reduced stiffness, and improved physical function .
In mice with acute asthma, bromelain decreased eosinophils, leukocytes, and autoimmune response .
According to cell studies, bromelain blocks inflammatory compounds during excessive inflammation (COX-2, PGE-2, IL-1beta, INF-alpha, IL-6, and TNF-alpha) .
However, bromelain also activates these compounds in a healthy immune response, which makes is an immunomodulator .
Bromelain is available as tablets, capsules, creams, powders, and tinctures .
6) Fish Oil
DHA-rich fish oil is one of the products with the best evidence of anti-inflammatory benefits.
In a study of 42 teenagers with painful menstruation, fish oil supplements significantly reduced symptoms and the reported need for NSAIDs .
Fish oil also reduced stiffness, pain, and NSAID requirements in multiple studies of patients with rheumatoid arthritis [28, 29, 30].
DHA, an active compound of fish oil, reduced markers of inflammation in healthy men (both untrained and athletic) after exercise [31, 32].
Fish oil supplements are most commonly available as capsules.