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Anti-inflammatory supplements

10 supplements that fight inflammation

Inflammation is one of the leading drivers of many common diseases. Here are 10 supplements that can reduce inflammation, backed by science.

Evidence-based
This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.
Last updated on November 21, 2022, and last reviewed by an expert on November 6, 2022.

Inflammation is a normal short-term immune response to trauma, illness, and stress.

However, long-term inflammation can be caused by poor diet choices and lifestyle habits like inadequate sleep, smoking, and lack of physical activity. This chronic inflammation may increase your risk of health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Anti-inflammatory foods, exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management may help reverse chronic inflammation. In some cases, getting additional support from supplements may also be helpful.

Here are 10 supplements that research shows may help reduce inflammation.

1. Curcumin

Curcumin is a compound found in the spice turmeric, commonly used in Indian cuisine, and known for its bright yellow hue. It provides several impressive health benefits.

Curcumin may help decrease inflammation in diabetes, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer, among other conditions.

It also appears to be beneficial for reducing inflammation and improving osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

One randomized controlled trial found that people with metabolic syndrome who took curcumin had significantly reduced levels of the inflammatory markers C-reactive protein (CRP) and malondialdehyde compared with those who received a placebo.

In another study, when 80 people with solid cancerous tumors were given 150 mg of curcumin daily for 8 weeks, most of their inflammatory markers decreased much more than those of the control group. Their quality of life scores also increased significantly.

While these benefits are possible, curcumin is poorly absorbed into your bloodstream because its bioavailability (the rate at which your body absorbs a substance) is limited.

Black pepper — and a component of black pepper called piperine — can significantly boost the absorption of curcumin. For this reason, many curcumin supplements also contain piperine.

When cooking, you can use turmeric and black pepper together to ensure optimal absorption of the curcumin.

Up to 500 mg of curcumin per day is safe, but people taking higher doses in studies have reported symptoms including nausea, diarrhea, and headache.

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2. Fish oil

Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, vital for good health. They may help decrease the inflammation associated with diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions.

The two primary omega-3s in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Your body converts them to ALA, which is an essential fatty acid.

DHA, in particular, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects that reduce cytokine levels and promote gut health. It may also decrease inflammation and muscle damage after exercise, but more research is needed.

Some studies show that DHA supplementation can significantly reduce levels of inflammatory markers compared with a placebo.

Fish oil dosages containing less than 2 grams combined of EPA and DHA are safe, but fish oil may cause fishy burps, bad breath, heartburn, or gastrointestinal upset.

If you have a compromised immune system or you’re taking a blood thinner, talk with a healthcare professional before taking fish oil.

3. Ginger

Ginger root is commonly used in cooking and has a history of use in herbal medicine. It’s also a home remedy to treat indigestion and nausea, including morning sickness during pregnancy.

Two components of ginger, gingerol, and zingerone may help reduce inflammation related to several health conditions, including type 2 diabetes. Ginger consumption may also positively impact HbA1c (blood sugar control over 3 months).

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One study noted that when people with diabetes were given 1,600 mg of ginger daily for 12 weeks, their blood sugar control improved, and inflammation levels decreased significantly compared with the control group.

Another study found that women with breast cancer who took ginger supplements had lower levels of the inflammatory markers CRP and interleukin-6 (IL-6) compared with a placebo group, especially when ginger supplementation was combined with exercise.

Up to 2 grams of ginger daily is safe, but higher dosages may have a blood-thinning effect. If you’re taking a blood-thinning medication, speak with a healthcare professional before supplementing with ginger beyond amounts that would typically be used in cooking.

4. Resveratrol

Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in grapes, blueberries, and other fruits with purple skin. It’s also found in red wine, dark chocolate, and peanuts.

It’s been widely studied for its anti-inflammatory potential in people with chronic conditions like liver disease, obesity, and ulcerative colitis (UC) and those without chronic conditions.

In one study, researchers gave people with UC (a type of inflammatory bowel disease) 500 mg of resveratrol or a placebo daily for 6 weeks. The resveratrol group experienced improvements in quality of life, UC symptoms, and inflammation.

In another study, resveratrol supplements lowered inflammatory markers, triglycerides, and blood sugar in people with obesity.

Additionally, a review that examined the effects of resveratrol linked it to increased calorie burn and the potential to help lower body fat. But due to its limited bioavailability, more research is needed.

Most resveratrol supplements contain 150–500 mg per serving and have no significant side effects. However, you should speak with a healthcare professional before using resveratrol if you’re taking a blood thinner.

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5. Spirulina

Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae with potent antioxidant effects. Studies have shown that it reduces inflammation, promotes healthy aging, and may strengthen the immune system.

Although most research has investigated spirulina’s effects on animals, studies in older adults have shown that it may improve inflammatory markers, anemia, and immune function.

Up to 8 grams of spirulina per day is safe, and many people add it to their shakes or smoothies because it comes in powder form.

There are no known significant side effects, but people with autoimmune conditions may want to avoid it because it may worsen their condition due to its potential immune-strengthening properties.

6. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble nutrient that plays a key role in immune health and may have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

In several studies, researchers have noted a link between low vitamin D levels and the presence of inflammation.

In a small, high-quality study of 44 women with low vitamin D levels and premenstrual syndrome, researchers noted that taking 50,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin D every 20 days for 4 months led to decreased inflammation compared with a control group.

Similar findings have been noted in people with vitamin D deficiency and obesity.

Over the long term, adults shouldn’t take more than 4,000 IU daily. Fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K are stored in fat cells and can build up over time, potentially leading to toxicity.

7. Bromelain

Bromelain is a powerful enzyme found in pineapple that gives the fruit its astringency. Bromelain is why pineapple leaves a burning sensation if you eat too much.

However, it also has some potential anti-inflammatory properties. Bromelain has the same anti-inflammatory capacity as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) but with the bonus of fewer side effects.

Little research in humans has been done on bromelain’s anti-inflammatory properties, but it does appear to help reduce postoperative inflammation in people undergoing wisdom tooth removal.

Most bromelain supplements contain 500 mg of bromelain per serving and have no reported side effects.

8. Green tea extract

Green tea has long been used in traditional medicine, and it’s rich in compounds that may provide many health benefits, such as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), caffeine, and chlorogenic acid.

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One potential benefit is that it’s exceptionally anti-inflammatory.

One small study in overweight men noted that 500 mg of green tea extract per day for 8 weeks, paired with exercise three times per week, significantly reduced inflammation compared with exercise alone or a placebo group performing no exercise.

Researchers theorize that green tea’s anti-inflammatory benefits come from the EGCG it contains. EGCG acts as an antioxidant, so it can help prevent oxidative damage to your cells caused by free radicals, leading to a decrease in inflammation.

You can buy EGCG or green tea extract supplements, but be aware that green tea extract supplements will contain caffeine unless labeled otherwise.

9. Garlic

Garlic, like ginger, pineapple, and fatty fish, is a common food rich in anti-inflammatory compounds.

Garlic is exceptionally high in a compound called allicin, a potent anti-inflammatory agent that may help strengthen the immune system to better ward off disease-causing pathogens.

In one high-quality study, 51 adults with obesity received either 3.6 grams of aged garlic extract or a placebo daily for 6 weeks. Researchers found significant improvements in the inflammatory markers tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and IL-6.

They theorized that long-term aged garlic supplementation might help reduce the risk of inflammation-related chronic diseases.

Garlic supplements come in various dosages, which are fairly safe and have few side effects (except for garlic breath). Additionally, you may experience some anti-inflammatory benefits from eating just 2 grams of fresh garlic daily, which is about one clove.

10. Vitamin C

Vitamin C, like vitamin D, is an essential vitamin that plays a huge role in immunity and inflammation. It’s a powerful antioxidant, reducing inflammation by neutralizing free radicals that cause oxidative damage to your cells.

It also helps optimize the immune system in several other ways, which can help regulate inflammation — because inflammation is an immune response.

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In addition, high doses are commonly given intravenously to hospitalized patients with severe respiratory illnesses — like influenza, pneumonia, and even COVID-19 — to help reduce inflammation.

In healthy people, doses higher than 2,000 mg may lead to diarrhea. Other than that, vitamin C supplements are safe and relatively symptom-free.

However, it’s also easy to meet your vitamin C needs through diet alone — green, red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables are all rich sources.

Summary

Chronic inflammation may increase your risk of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders.

Many supplements — consisting of anti-inflammatory nutrients, antioxidants, or other compounds — may help reduce inflammation in your body.

If you want to try any of them, it’s essential to:

Ideally, it’s best to get your anti-inflammatory nutrients from whole foods, but supplements may help — especially if your diet lacks nutrients and antioxidants.

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