14 Natural Supplements to Help Fight Inflammation: A Comprehensive Guide

Inflammation is a common physiological response, but if left untreated, it may lead to a series of diseases such as allergic dermatitis, meningitis, keratitis, rhinitis, pharyngitis, arthritis, enteritis, gastritis, and so on.

Ant-inflammatory drugs are usually the treatment of choice for inflammation. In addition, an increasing body of research suggests that anti-inflammatory supplements are also a good choice as they can effectively reduce inflammatory responses.

Recently, we have compiled 14 types of supplements that studies show can potentially have anti-inflammatory effects, including vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements. These supplements can help alleviate inflammation symptoms and promote overall health.

Anti-inflammatory vitamins

  • Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. It plays an important role in controlling the immunopathological mechanisms of allergic diseases.

Studies have found that it can treat allergic rhinitis and asthma by reducing the severity of inflammatory responses [1]. Additionally, in injured tissues, it can stimulate epidermal renewal, increase re-epithelialization, and promote wound healing.

  • Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is a common dietary supplement and clinical medication. Increasing evidence suggests that it has anti-inflammatory activity.

It can inhibit the expression of iNOS and COX-2 at the mRNA and protein levels in RAW 264.7 macrophages induced by lipopolysaccharides [2].

High-dose intake of vitamin B6 by patients with rheumatoid arthritis can lower levels of proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 and TNF-α [3]. Clinical trials have found that supplementation with B vitamins (folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12) can slow down brain-wide atrophy and reduce atrophy in specific brain regions in Alzheimer’s disease patients [4].

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a common dietary fiber supplement found in a variety of vegetables and fruits. Most people associate a lack of vitamin C with sailors who died of scurvy during the Age of Discovery. Therefore, vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid.

It is a potent antioxidant. Studies have found that vitamin C and its two-electron oxidative product, dehydroascorbate (DHA) constructs an efficient redox cycle with the aid of intracellular glutathione and copper ions, thereby facilitating the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the ROS-dependent inhibition against the NF-κB-mediated inflammation [5].

  • Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential steroid hormone that exists in two forms, namely vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Humans mainly rely on sunlight exposure on the skin to synthesize vitamin D3, but it can also be obtained from food or nutritional supplements.

Studies have found that vitamin D can inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and cell aging induced by advanced glycation end-products in human gingival fibroblasts. In addition, vitamin D reduces the induction of reactive oxygen species by advanced glycation end-products in a dose-dependent manner. Vitamin D supplementation can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation via the upregulation of Nrf2 signaling [6].

  • Vitamin E

Vitamin E is widely recognized as an effective antioxidant that can prevent lipid peroxidation and eliminate free radicals.

Multiple studies have shown that vitamin E can inhibit the secretion of inflammatory mediators such as leukotrienes and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) [7, 8]. Additionally, it also inhibits pro-inflammatory signaling pathways such as nuclear factor kappa beta (NF-kβ) and signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT-3) mediated pathways [9].

  • Vitamin K

Vitamin K, also known as the clotting vitamin, was discovered in 1929 as a substance necessary for blood coagulation. It includes vitamin K1 (phylloquinone), vitamin K2 (menaquinone), and vitamin K3 (menadione). Vitamin K1 can inhibit lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in rats [10].

Additionally, vitamin K suppresses the lipopolysaccharide-induced expression of inflammatory cytokines in cultured macrophage-like cells via the inhibition of the activation of nuclear factor κB through the repression of IKKα/β phosphorylation [11].

Anti-inflammatory minerals

  • Zinc (Zn)

Zinc is a common trace element in the human body. This mineral can regulate immune responses and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.

In vitro studies have shown that zinc decreases NF-κB activation and its target genes, such as TNF-α and IL-1β, and increases the gene expression of A20 and PPAR-α, the two zinc finger proteins with anti-inflammatory properties [12].

  • Selenium (Se)

Selenium is an essential micronutrient that plays a vital role in various physiological processes and on the immune system.

Studies have shown that selenium supplementation modulates the inflammatory response in respiratory distress syndrome patients by restoring the antioxidant status of the lungs and suppressing the IL-1β and IL-6 levels [13].

In addition, dietary selenium supplements can increase the transcription of anti-inflammatory enzymes and downregulate pro-inflammatory inducible enzymes, pro-inflammatory cytokines, and pro-inflammatory chemokines. Se can potentially help in switching the arachidonic acid pathway from pro-inflammatory expression to anti-inflammatory responses and reduce the risk of cancer, arthritis, and other cardiovascular diseases [14].

  • Magnesium (Mg)

Magnesium is an important mineral. Approximately 600 enzymes require magnesium ions as a cofactor. It is crucial for energy metabolism, protein and amino acid synthesis, and maintaining the electrical potential in tissues and cell membranes. Additionally, it is involved in bone mineralization, muscle relaxation, and nerve transmission.

Supplementation with Mg2+ has an anti‐inflammatory response by reducing the levels of nuclear factor kappa B (NF‐κB), interleukin (IL) ‐6, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Furthermore, Mg2+ supplementation improves mitochondrial function and increases the antioxidant glutathione content, reducing oxidative stress [15].

Anti-inflammatory herbal supplements

  • Turmeric

Turmeric also known as Rhizoma Curcumae Longae is the dried rhizome of Curcuma longa L. (Zingiberaceae). It is a relatively practical and common Chinese herbal medicine. It is often used to treat dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, rheumatoid arthritis, and bruises.

Turmeric contains curcumin, which exhibits a wide range of biological activities including antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effects. It can inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in BV2 microglia cells stimulated by lipopolysaccharide [16]. Additionally, it has antiviral activity against various viruses, including influenza virus, adenovirus, hepatitis, human papillomavirus (HPV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2), and Zika virus.

  • Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a common edible spice that is mainly produced in China, India, Laos, Vietnam, and Indonesia. It is often used to treat various diseases such as impotence, uterine cold, cold pain in the waist and knees, spermatorrhoea, enuresis, frequent night urination, and more.

Its methanol extract can inhibit an acetic acid-induced increase in vascular permeability and carrageenan-induced paw edema in mice [17].

Furthermore, it contains cinnamaldehyde. Research has found that cinnamaldehyde inhibits psoriasis-like inflammation by suppressing the proliferation and inflammatory response of keratinocytes via inhibition of NF-κB and JNK signaling pathways [18].

  • Pepper

Pepper is a common seasoning that comes in two varieties: black pepper and white pepper.

It contains piperine, which has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects [19]. In addition, piperine is an effective antioxidant that can scavenge superoxide anions, DPPH radicals, and ABTS radicals, as well as inhibit lipid peroxidation.

  • Ginger

Ginger is a perennial herbaceous plant in the ginger family. It is also a common seasoning in Southeast Asian cuisine and is widely used in food, cosmetics, and other fields.

Some studies have shown that it is the most widely used herb in many countries and is often used to treat nausea, vomiting, motion sickness, and other ailments.

It can inhibit xylene-induced ear swelling and ovalbumin-induced foot swelling in mice. In addition, it contains multiple active ingredients that can effectively alleviate symptoms of chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, psoriasis, and others [20].

  • Perilla Fruit

Perilla Fruit is the dried mature fruit of Perilla frutescens. It is a dual-use medicinal and edible plant. Clinically, it is used to treat cough, asthma, bronchitis, and constipation.

It contains alpha-linolenic acid, an Omega-3 fatty acid. Some clinical trials have shown that taking Omega-3 supplements in conjunction with standard rheumatoid arthritis drugs and other treatments may help control rheumatoid arthritis [21].

In addition, its essential oil can inhibit ethyl phenylpropiolate-induced ear swelling in mice as well as water immersion stress, HCl/ethanol, and indomethacin-induced gastric ulcers in rats [22].