Addressing inflammation and oxidative stress with ancient botanicals

If one word could describe the history of humanity, it is adaptation. It seems odd, since most people don’t like facing change, but that single word conveys how humans as a species find themselves living longer and better than their ancestors across thousands of years. As technology and science have developed, so has the knowledge and ability to make specific adaptations to lifestyles and nutrition to address specific weaknesses for better health. The deliberate choices each consumer makes to personalize their nutrition is key to the future of increased life span and health span.

While the idea of personalized nutrition has developed in many different directions and continues to grow, at its core, it is the process of adapting diets to meet individual needs. This may include something as simple as addressing a specific condition, but can also involve diving into the complexity of the human genome to understand how the body reacts to different foods and beverages.

As consumers have become more educated, they have shifted from a reactive to a proactive mindset. Personalized nutrition provides great potential to help them address needs, but as companies navigate current challenges to specifically dial-in precise finished products for each individual, a novel approach would be to begin by using ancient botanicals to address two of the most common issues all people face: inflammation and oxidative stress. When either of these areas of health becomes out of balance, an increased likelihood of future complications exists.

A Foundational Focus on Inflammation and Oxidative Stress

Inflammation normally plays a role in helping the immune system maintain good health by fighting against harmful irritants or infections, but sometimes there is too much of a good thing. When inflammatory cytokines in the body begin to overproduce, the imbalance of inflammation causes damage to escalate and more serious conditions to arise. Variables such as age, poor diet and food sensitivities, smoking, physical and emotional stress, sleep loss and excessive weight all negatively influence the body’s ability to properly manage an inflammation response.

An abundance of oxidative stress can be just as easy to unknowingly accumulate as inflammation. Oxidative stress occurs as the body is exposed to an increase of unregulated free radicals—molecules with an unpaired electron—which can cause cellular damage by targeting DNA, proteins, carbohydrates and lipids. It is impossible to avoid exposure to free radicals, as they are derived from essential metabolic processes, in addition to external sources such as through pollutants in the air and common chemicals found in foods, soaps and cosmetics. What’s more, inflammation itself generates free radicals and vice-versa, once again supporting the need for people to address both issues for overall better health outcomes.

Ancient Remedies, Modern Research

To support the body’s efforts to normalize inflammation levels and maintain a healthy inflammatory response, improving diet and exercise habits is a must. Increasing antioxidant defenses through diet is also necessary in order to balance out the accumulation of free radicals. But ancient medicinal methods of using natural herbs and botanicals can also be used to supplement those efforts.

One of the oldest recorded uses of botanicals for better health is found in the Quran. “The blessing seed” was considered a powerful agent to address a wide variety of health concerns. Now known as black cumin seed (Nigella sativa), this botanical has been the subject of more than 50 human clinical studies for a variety of conditions, including showing support for a healthy inflammatory response and increased antioxidant activity.

A main active phytochemical compound found in black seed oil, thymoquinone, plays a large role in helping suppress inflammatory cytokines by supporting the inhibition of nitric oxide (NO) production. Studies have additionally shown that consumption of black cumin seed oil was connected with increased levels of glutathione. Combining its ability to support a healthy inflammatory response with the antioxidant support it provides, black cumin seed oil is an ancient botanical that science is proving to truly be a modern blessing. Additionally, according to TriNutra’s unpublished investigations, cold-press black cumin seed oil with low free fatty acid content (<2.5%) and standardized to 3% thymoquinone is key for product performance.

According to the book, “Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects,” turmeric is another ancient botanical that has been used for around 4,000 years both as a culinary spice and a traditional medicine. Clinical studies of curcumin, the main active compound in turmeric, have shown promising results. Curcumin can scavenge reactive oxygen species (ROS) and help regulate antioxidant activity of glutathione and superoxide dismutase in support of neutralizing free radicals.6 In addition to helping balance levels of oxidative stress, curcumin has been shown to help block activation of signaling molecule nuclear factor kappaB (NF-κB) through the suppression of inflammatory cytokines, thereby providing significant support to maintain a healthy inflammatory response.

Science and research continue to provide evidence of what people have known for thousands of years— that the gifts nature provides can be powerful sources of better health. As consumers look to the past, they can find a plethora of potent yet simple resources, like black cumin seed oil and turmeric, that can start them on a path toward better health through a personalized approach to inflammation and oxidative stress management.

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