As an immune response, inflammation is helpful and necessary. However, when your body continuously produces chronic low-grade inflammation (triggered by conditions like chronic pain, ongoing infections, viruses or allergies), it can cause long-term damage. Research shows that those affected by chronic inflammation are at a higher risk of all sorts of diseases; including heart conditions, arthritis, diabetes and even certain types of cancer.
How the immune system reacts
What happens when your body is damaged in some way? The immune system reacts. In ancient medicine there are five cardinal signs of inflammation: redness, swelling, heat, pain and loss of function.
It all starts with inflammation. Inflammation is part of the initial process of the immune system fighting off things such as infections, injuries, and toxins in an attempt to heal itself. Your body releases chemicals that trigger a response from your immune system. This response includes the release of antibodies and proteins, as well as increased blood flow to the damaged area. The whole process usually lasts for a few hours or days in the case of acute inflammation.
Inflammation can be a sign of greater issues in the body. The food we eat and the way we live can cause or increase inflammation. Chronic inflammation happens when this response lingers, leaving your body in a constant state of alert. Over time, chronic inflammation may have a negative impact on your tissues and organs, putting you at risk for future disease.
Prevention is better than cure
There are quite a few things in our modern day life that make us more susceptible than ever to these risks. Stress, lack of physical activity and food that lacks essential nutrients can all play a part in the long term build up to chronic disease. Today many people suffer from arthritis or inflammatory conditions that result from diets high in “white carbs”, too much meat and too little fruit and vegetables.
It is never too late to start preventative measures to safeguard your body. The best part is that it can be quite simple. Nature, as usual, has got us covered.
Lifestyle changes like including natural anti-inflammatory foods in your daily diet, staying hydrated and managing your weight can all help to keep inflammation under control. Many foods and plants have active anti-inflammatory properties. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables also help to keep alkaline levels in the blood and to help your body heal. Foods rich in fatty acids will help lubricate the joints and relieve the inflammation and pain.
You are more than what you eat
Food alone may not be enough if you are at a higher risk for chronic disease. This is where more potent healing plants come into play.
Traditional African medicine has always been holistic. It focuses on the whole body and internal systems and acknowledges the complexity of the human body. Unlike chemical pharmaceuticals, plant medicine works in synergy with your whole body. When you consume herbal medicine, it has an ‘entourage effect’, whereby the remedy comes with the entire intelligence of the plant. The powerful way that the many plant chemicals work together and interact with the whole body makes a huge impact on prevention of disease.
Some historically celebrated African plants and anti-inflammatory traditional African remedies have recently been scientifically proven to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. What the ancestors knew and what generations of anecdotal evidence suggests is finally recognised by the scientific and medical communities.
– Devils claw
Devils Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is one of the most important medicinal plants used by the Khoi-San people as a multi-purpose tonic, traditionally used to treat pain and as a bitter remedy to improve liver and gallbladder complaints. The plant works to indirectly remove waste products from the circulatory system that results from oxidation and inflammation through its digestive stimulating effects on the gallbladder and liver as well as its analgesic (pain relieving) effects.
Devil’s claw has been studied as a potential remedy for inflammatory-related conditions, such as arthritis and gout. The exact ways in which this medicinal plant works in the body are still being studied by researchers.
So far, laboratory studies have found compounds which demonstrate anti-inflammatory effects. Extracts from the plant root were observed to block several pathways which cause joint inflammation. These anti-inflammatory properties are thought to be due to its active ingredient, harpagoside. But animal studies found that its painkilling properties can’t be explained by this ingredient.
“Devil’s claw is used for back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and other conditions… Taking devil’s claw by mouth seems to reduce pain. Devil’s claw seems to work about as well as some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),” says WebMD.
Traditionally, the tubers of the plant are dug out of the ground and consumed for medicinal purposes. The main roots are left in-tact so that the plant can continue to survive. It is important to note that the sustainable harvesting of devils claw is imperative to protecting the plant for future generations.
Turmeric, called Haridra in Tamil, is an ancient plant medicine of India. It is now natural in Africa. Until recently, Turmeric was not well known for its beneficial effects by the Western cultures. It has been used in Indian folk medicine for centuries for treating all manners of illness and repairing the body. It has now been employed in the Western world as an all-round tonic healing plant. Found useful for lowering cholesterol, arthritic pain, cystic fibrosis, as a brain tonic increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) as well as for the possible prevention of Alzheimer’s disease by inhibiting amyloid-B aggregation.
Ginger and African Wild Ginger have anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain relieving) properties. African ginger can be used “as an anti-inflammatory. It can be effective in treatment of dyspepsia, migraine headache, morning sickness, nausea (chemo-induced), post-operative nausea and/or vomiting, osteoarthritis, respiratory infections, rheumatoid arthritis and for SSRI taper/discontinuation,” according to RxList, a popular pharmaceutical website that identifies and explains the uses of medicinal compounds.
– Pineapple flower
Umathunga or Pineapple flower has a long history in African traditional medicine in healing internal wounds probably due to its special flavonoids (healing plant chemicals) it contains. It is used to treat low backache and recovery after operations. Thus, it has powerful healing chemicals that work internally to quicken recovery time after accidents or injuries.
What do we know?
In the end, we all have some degree of internal inflammation. Even if you are at risk for chronic disease, there are still ways you can help your body to fight and prevent chronic inflammation. Let us not discard age old wisdom when we are looking for simple ways to keep our bodies healthy. The answer to your problems might be growing in your own garden!
To learn more about African medicines and traditional plant-based remedies, please do not hesitate to contact us. Source of Health is a manufacturer of Traditional African Medicines under the brand Isiphethu Sempilo. We use biomedicine processes to create herbal remedies, combined with scientific methods to ensure the finest quality and trustworthy herbal extracts.
Source of Health offers a range of herbal products that are effective as natural remedies for pain, depression, illnesses and more. The use of medicinal plants as part of traditional African healthcare is one of the oldest and most assorted of all therapeutic systems. It has been used through the ages to maintain health, as well as to prevent, diagnose, improve or treat physical and mental illnesses.
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Disclaimer:These medicines have not been evaluated by SAHPRA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. These plants have been used in various cultures for many years, by traditional healers, to treat certain ailments.