Classification of economic important herbs – Part 3
Today, I am going to classify the herbs according to their more specific medical uses.
To do this I will be grouping the herbs and spices into the following five groups: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune boosters, enzymes (anti-enzymes) and specifics (herbs that are used for treating specific disease conditions).
To begin today, I shall present the anti-inflammatory herbs and as is usual in this column, we shall first of all discuss the condition known as INFLAMMATION so that we can understand why we should be studying herbs that are “anti” to this condition.
Inflammation: This is a biological response of the body to try to deal with something that is harmful or irritating to it.
It is a defense mechanism of the body against an attack. It involves the immune system of the body in recognizing pathogens, foreign bodies and other harmful irritants.
In other words, inflammation is part of the body’s immune system. Inflammation was intended to be beneficial to the body, especially in the short term.
There are times when the inflammation process may last a bit longer leading to destruction of tissues and cells, causing more harm than good.
Types of inflammation
Inflammation may either be acute or chronic.
The onset of an acute inflammation is usually rapid and progresses to become severe in a short space of time.
Signs and symptoms of an acute inflammation include: redness of the inflamed area, swelling, pain, warmth and loss of function (immobility).
Acute inflammation is usually seen on the external parts of the body such as the skin and the symptoms may last for a few days or rarely for a few weeks.
Like I mentioned earlier, inflammation is the body’s defense against an attack. When this happens, the area where the attack occurred will become red as more blood flows into the capillaries supplying the inflamed area.
With this increase in blood flow, the area becomes swollen as fluid begins to infiltrate the area from the blood vessels.
Together with the fluids filtering out of the blood vessels are neutrophils, a type of white blood cell involved in the immune response.
The swelling that ensues causes pain as the pressure increases, pressing on the surrounding tissues. As expected, the inflamed area will feel warm because of accumulation of blood.
There may be loss of function in the area because of the pain and swelling associated with the inflammation.
An acute inflammation can last for a few days turning into an abscess and heals or it may progress to chronic inflammation.
Diseases and conditions that may result in acute inflammation are a bruise or cut in the skin, acute appendicitis, acute bronchitis, sore throat, sinusitis etc.
This type of inflammation is more commonly seen in the deeper structures of the body, like the organs. The symptoms associated with chronic inflammation differ from those encountered in acute inflammation.
There may not be pain because the deeper structures do not have sensory nerve endings, which can respond to pain.
Other symptoms of chronic inflammation are tiredness, fever, skin rash, joint pain, mouth sores, abdominal pain, chest pain etc.
The onset of chronic inflammation is slow and can last for months or even years. Chronic inflammation may lead to hardening and scarring of tissues and even tissue death.
In some cases, it may result in other chronic degenerative diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, diabetes, atherosclerosis and cancer.
Disease conditions associated with chronic inflammation include rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, tuberculosis, hepatitis, chronic peptic ulcer, Crohn’s disease etc.
Now that we have received a brief introduction into what inflammation is, we can now go on to discuss the anti-inflammatory herbs.
From our discussion so far, we can see that acute inflammation can be associated with pain, swelling and loss of function.
On the other hand chronic inflammation can result in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (an auto-immune disease), asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes and cancer.
An anti-inflammatory herb can prevent these symptoms and diseases.
I shall be discussing 10 anti-inflammatory herbs in next Thursday’s edition of the Guardian Newspaper.
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