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  • Diane Lawton

natural anti-inflammatories hiding in the spice draw

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

I know through studying nerdy books at college, that anti-inflammatories don't just come from the pharmacy. You can also find them in the kitchen.

If you have a hangover, arthritis, pain after a workout, swelling and burning sensations of the muscles, wounds, dental infections, colds and flu’s, or post-surgery, you probably need an anti-inflammatory.

Inflammation is a protective response in the body. Chronic inflammation, or inflammation that persists, can be from an infection, an autoimmune response, post-surgery, or from an allergy. Arthritis is inflammation in the joints.

I am no doctor. If you need medical advice, make an appointment with your health provider. I find food research and knowledge sexy because I like looking after my body. I always incorporate natural anti-inflammatories into my diet with lots of fruit, vegetables and oily fish.

Nuts and chocolate are a natural anti-inflammatory. However today, I take my lead from Indian cuisine, it uses the following seven spices in nearly every dish.

  1. Black pepper

  2. Cayenne

  3. Cinnamon

  4. Cloves

  5. Garlic

  6. Ginger

  7. Turmeric

Black pepper

It’s cool to know that black pepper can flavor, as well as have antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory benefits. You may not need to know that the chemical compounds of black pepper, are called, piperine. Sprinkle black pepper on everything you put salt on, from French fries to roasts and pizza. White pepper contains more piperine than black, yet most of the research on its health benefits has been on black pepper. Grinding black peppers in a pepper mill are slightly more beneficial than ready-ground.


What are 10 to 20 cm long, thin, mostly red-colored, with curved tips and rippled skin? Yes, you guessed. Cayenne and other hot chili peppers. They have been used as a hot spice and natural remedy since 7,000 BC. They are a natural anti-inflammatory, stimulant, and digestive.

Caution. Use just a dash in your dish. Too much can cause acute heat in the mouth. To counteract a reaction, gargle with milk, not water, which can make it worse. My absolute favorite is to sprinkle a pinch in a Vodka and tonic.

Odd thought of the day. To ward off attackers. Fill a spray gun with lemon juice, curry powder, and cayenne pepper. Can you imagine that in your eyes? Read this link to find the various heat strengths in peppers.


Cinnamon is more than just a delicious treat in cakes. This spice has natural anti-inflammatory properties, in abundance. Sprinkle it in your coffee, tea or hot chocolate, on your breakfast cereal, on grapefruit, in all egg dishes, sauces, pasta and pizzas, desserts, or ice-cream. If I am making a stock or soup, I often throw in a cinnamon stick while cooking and remove it before blending the mixture.


Cloves have been used to treat upset stomach, nausea, and inflammation for centuries. Exciting research shows that they are also natural anti-inflammatory. Put powdered clove work in baked goods and savory dishes. Pop a few cloves in your blender and sprinkle in soups and stews, or infuse into hot drinks like tea, coffee, and herb teas. Or use whole (don't forget to remove them before serving) I often spear them into roast meat along with thin slices of garlic.


The natural anti-inflammatory properties of garlic have been proven to ease arthritis. Use fresh, crushed, sautéed garlic in almost any savory dish for added flavor and health benefits. Simmer a head of garlic in hot water or roast a head of garlic for a sweeter, milder flavor. A friend of mine pops raw garlic into pitted dates as a snack (one a day). If I am roasting potatoes, I throw in a couple of heads of garlic at the same time. This is a delicious food combination, as roast garlic and potatoes are naturally sweet.


Ginger is a sexy spice used in many cuisines. You can buy it powdered or as a fresh root in most supermarkets. Ginger has been used as a traditional medicine to treat stomach upset, headaches, and infections. The best bit is that it can also improve your sex drive. Cut a thin slice every morning and put it in a hot cup of water, with or without lemon and honey. The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger have been praised for centuries in India, and recent scientific studies have confirmed it.


Turmeric is the beautiful yellow spice in Indian cuisine. You will find it in any supermarket. Turmeric has been used as a medicine for centuries to naturally treat wounds, infections, and colds. Studies show that curcumin, a compound in turmeric, helps reduce inflammation. Caution: this yellow spice can stain everything, so handle with care. It is also possible to buy it in health food shops as a supplement. I must admit I sprinkle it into my morning herb tea along with a pinch of all the above.

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