Although associated with pain, heat, swelling and redness, inflammation is actually part of the body’s immune system response to rid the body of harmful stimuli so the body can begin the healing process. In an acute inflammation response, the body increases blood to the injured tissues or affected area for healing which is why redness, swelling, pain, and heat are evident.
Although inflammation usually implies pain and swelling, inflammation is really a healing response. Inflammation is the body’s first defense against injury, bacteria, virus, or fungi. Acute inflammation in response to an injury or potential illness is normal. This includes inflammation from physical injury, infection, burns, hormones, and food sensitivities.
Inflammation becomes chronic inflammation when the immune system does not stop and actually begins to damage the body. Unfortunately, once a body has killed off a disease, the immune system may attack other parts of the body. Chronic disease may result. Chronic inflammation leads to more progressive medical conditions such as heart disease. For example, high readings of C-reactive protein associated with inflammation can also be an indicator for heart problems.
Chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to colon cancer. When we develop bone spurs or arthritis, the immune system may be attacking cartilage exposing the bone.
The older we get, the more likely that a history of inflammation is present. Some examples of inflammation are bronchitis, allergies, asthma, arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, and diabetes. Other causes of inflammation can be emotional stress, environmental stress, viruses, bacteria, and foods.
To reduce inflammation, it is important to follow these guidelines.
- Get adequate sleep. Reduced sleep and insomnia does not allow the body time enough to repair and heal during the night.
- Limit physical and emotional stress and anxiety. Reducing your stress or anxiety helps reduce the inflammatory response in your body.
- Eat a healthy diet. Plenty of water, fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates reduce inflammation. Avoid the foods to which you are sensitive as these can trigger inflammation. Adding healthy fats such as omega 3s and olive oil to your diet will also help reduce inflammation. There are particular foods that fight inflammation, including salmon, walnuts, onions, blueberries, sweet potatoes, spinach, garlic, pineapple, ginger, wolfberries, clove and turmeric. Vegetables and fruit have the lowest inflammatory reaction in the body. Foods high in sulfur create a body odor but lower inflammatory process.
- Detoxify.Detoxifying the lymphatic system of pollutants and chemicals reduces inflammation.
- Exercise. Exercise removes toxins from the lymph system and reduces inflammation.
- Take Supplements/Vitamins. Folic acid, B vitamins, and vitamins C, D and E have anti-inflammatory effects for the body. Fish oil, MSM, and glucosamine are all helpful to reduce inflammation.
- Help your immune system. Support your immune system with probiotic and enzyme supplements for a healthy intestinal tract.
If you like natural remedies to reduce or prevent inflammation consider essential oils which have been documented to reduce inflammation for various conditions in the body. Essential oils contain many different medicinal properties that are documented to help the physical and emotional body. They easily penetrate the skin and can be carried throughout the blood and tissues within minutes as they by-pass the digestive system.
Also, they help with sleep, stress, and anxiety which are key to keeping inflammation in check.Many essential oils contain high levels of COX-2 enzyme inhibitors and nitric oxide (NO) inhibitors. COX enzymes are responsible for the inflammatory process in the body. COX inhibitors suppress this process and relieve pain and inflammation. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, Celebrex (and the former Vioxx) are COX-2 inhibitors.
Top COX inhibitors in essential oils are: thyme essential oil, myrrh, fennel, cinnamon bark, clove, eucalyptus (variety of types), bergamot, and rose. One Japanese study found that a combination of these oils reduced COX enzymes as much as 75%. Thyme was found to be the most effective in inhibiting COX-2 enzymes responsible for inflammation.
Essential oils which reduce inflammation created by nitric oxide are also very helpful. In the inflammatory process nitric oxide is produced. This nitric oxide inflames and damages tissue. Nitric oxide (NO) plays a role in blood flow and is produced by numerous cells in the body. But when abnormal production of NO occurs, it greatly affects blood flow and other vascular functions of the body. This contributes to inflammation which is attributed to heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
Essential oils documented to inhibit NO are: oregano, peppermint, lemongrass, melaleuca ericifolia, nutmeg, dill. Other essential oils that were shown to have intermediate nitric oxide inhibition were: lemon, frankincense, tangerine, myrtle, lavender, patchouli, eucalyptus polybractea, juniper, clove, and orange.
If you are choosing to use essential oils for inflammation remember these safety rules.
- Never take essential oils internally
- Avoid the eyes and mucous membranes.
- Do not use essential oils undiluted on the skin. Dilute with carrier oil such as grape seed OR sweet almond oil.
- Do not use any if you are pregnant, suffer from epilepsy or have high/low blood pressure.
- Half the dose for the elderly, convalescent, and young.
- Blend three or less essential oils.
- Dilute 3 to 4 drops to 2 teaspoons of oil, cream, or lotion.
- Apply the diluted essential oil to the body area which is intended for a particular purpose. Consult with an aromatherapy reference book, aromatherapist, naturopath or holistic health practitioner to determine which essential oil or combination is most effective for you.