Tried and true practices of ancient cultures and civilizations form the basis of the traditional wisdom that has translated into the discoveries and rediscoveries of some of the most powerful and versatile herbal remedies on earth. These herbs continue to endure as they have stood the test of time and their benefits are being validated by modern science. Two such remedies are black seed oil and ashwagandha. Used for millennia, these beneficial plant-based therapies support a host of organs and systems, and have rejuvenating effects on the body. While scientists and researchers have determined that each possesses a broad range of mechanisms by which they impact health, one key ability of both is their propensity to reduce inflammation. By keeping inflammation in check, these herbs impact the brain, heart, stress response, lung health, immune function and so much more.
What is Black Seed Oil?
Dating back to the time of the Egyptian pharaohs, Nigella sativa (commonly referred to as black seed or black cumin seed) has tremendous historical significance and therapeutic potential. Black cumin seed oil has been used so broadly across the Middle East and Asia that it is considered as a panacea for all conditions. Researchers in the last few decades have begun to investigate the potential health benefits of this “miracle herb” and have identified several active constituents, some of the more well-known being thymoquinone and nigellone. Studies looking at the mechanism of action of the active compounds have shown that they possess powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities and play a role in directly modulating immune function.
With these benefits, studies have shown that black seed oil improves allergies; researchers found that thymoquinone has anti-allergic properties through potent antihistamine effects, preventing its release from immune cell membranes. Additional research shows that black cumin seed oil for lung health has a profound bronchodilation effect (relaxation of the smooth muscle tissue lining the airways of the lungs), ensuring clear, relaxed airways for easy breathing and helps with relieving coughing. Black seed has further demonstrated cardioprotective effects with an ability to keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range, and support for general cellular health and function.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is receiving a lot of attention for its repute as a stress relieving remedy. However, most individuals are unaware of this herb’s traditional history and how it works. The ashwagandha plant is a botanical that is well-renowned in the Ayurvedic medical tradition where it is classified as a rasayana. To Ayurvedic practitioners this means that it has a reputation for invigorating the body and contributes to healthy aging by promoting a healthy lifespan. Often considered as a true elixir, the herb has a documented history of use dating to 6000 BC and is widely used to benefit many health conditions. Often called Indian ginseng, ashwagandha falls into the category of adaptogens, herbs that help the body adapt to stressful situations and contribute to a feeling of balance. Traditionally, this balancing property is what lends to its ability to support health. One of its biggest benefits is that it acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. Ashwagandha can decrease C reactive protein, a marker for inflammation levels in the body, indicating that it can have a positive impact on chronic inflammation. Ashwagandha supports stress management, heart health, joint health, mood, sleep, and is a general herb for rejuvenation of the entire body.
Reducing Inflammation in the Body
Inflammation is one of the body’s natural mechanisms to protect tissues from external challenges. However, when inflammation becomes excessive or chronic, it causes health issues and contributes to chronic disease. There are several ways to reduce the impact of inflammation on the body. These include dietary and lifestyle practices that support anti-inflammatory effects. However, herbs such as black seed oil and ashwagandha also offer real promise as natural anti-inflammatory therapeutics.
Recent research into black seed oil show several beneficial effects for inflammation. One of the major active compounds in black seed is thymoquinone. Studies show that thymoquinone can suppress the production of inflammatory mediators as well as oxidative stress. In immune cell studies, thymoquinone was found to inhibit 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX) and its byproducts, leading to a strong anti-inflammatory effect. While 5-LOX is a key enzyme promoter of inflammation and inhibition of 5-LOX is an essential target of several anti-inflammatory therapies, the downstream effects of reducing 5-LOX activity by black seed oil also caused a reduction in the production of eicosanoids, additional chemical messengers of the inflammation response. Thus, one of the real benefits of black seed oil is suppression of inflammation in the body.
Additional studies in immune cells found that the administration of black seed extracts reduced the production of cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, supporting the ability of black seed oil to reduce inflammation by targeting multiple key pathways.
The anti-inflammatory effects of black seed are also supported by the results of studies in humans. In one study, participants with joint health issues who supplemented with black seed for one month showed lowered levels of pro-inflammatory white blood cells, improved joint function, and a reduction of joint swelling and stiffness versus placebo. These effects indicate a potent reduction of inflammation with black seed supplementation.
Further research suggests that black seed extracts can have a direct impact on normalizing inflammation in the lungs. In an animal study on allergic asthma, black seed reduced lung inflammation and peripheral blood eosinophil counts.
While black seed acts a natural anti-inflammatory, ashwagandha is also no slouch when it comes to moderating the inflammatory state of the body. Due to its active compounds known as withaferins, several studies suggest that ashwagandha can target multiple inflammatory mechanisms in the body to reduce overall inflammation. Recent research has uncovered the ability of withaferins from ashwagandha to impact two primary signaling markers of inflammation in humans, nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) and nuclear factor erythroid 2 related factor 2 (Nrf2). These signaling molecules cause a downstream release of inflammatory proteins that serve to increase inflammation and oxidative stress throughout the body. By targeting these pathways specifically, ashwagandha suppresses the overall inflammatory state.
Several chronic disease states are impacted by these signaling pathways where these inflammatory markers cause an increase in chronic inflammation. Conditions like diabetes, obesity, and arthritis, among others, are influenced by an increased inflammatory state caused by the activity of these signaling molecules. Since ashwagandha targets these pathways, it is likely that it could have a significant benefit for individuals who have chronic inflammatory conditions.
Tried and true ancient remedies are being proven to be useful for supporting health in the face of the chronic diseases society faces today. Two of the most promising are black seed oil and ashwagandha. Among other beneficial health effects, these herbs possess anti inflammatory properties. By offering support for reducing inflammation in the body, they hold substantial promise for improving human health.
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