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Tradition of healing: A historical and cultural approach to herbs and botanicals

Ancient tradition lacks today’s technology and knowledge, but current research is showing us the health value of botanicals like black seed oil, frankincense and ginger, which have been used for centuries to counter inflammation.

Throughout the centuries, man has relied on herbs to address an abundance of health challenges. Without their direct knowledge, many of the health issues they were addressing had an underlying link to inflammation—conditions associated with pain in the muscles, tendons, bones or even common illnesses. In modern times, scientists and researchers have studied the mechanism of action of these botanicals to identify their precise action in the body to inhibit inflammatory processes, such as signaling by nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB).1 Black cumin seed, ginger and frankincense were revered for thousands of years and we now know these three ancient botanicals play an important role in the body’s ability to fight inflammation.

An herbal remedy

Ginger has been used for thousands of years, originally produced in India and China as a flavoring agent and eventually recognized for its medicinal properties. It was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to treat many ailments and became a highly valued commodity in Europe, the Middle East and, eventually, across the globe. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the value of a pound of ginger was equivalent to the cost of a sheep, according to the McCormick Science Institute.

Because of ginger’s medicinal history, a lot of research has developed over the years to determine the extent to which it benefits human health. Recent studies have found ginger provides extensive support for a balanced inflammatory response as it has demonstrated an ability to reduce the biosynthesis of leukotrienes—compounds made from arachidonic acid that activate immune and inflammatory responses—and pro-inflammatory cytokines (signaling molecules), such as interleukin (IL)-1, IL-8, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and NF-kB.2 Other studies have shown ginger is able to actively inhibit cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression, which increases formation of prostaglandins—lipids that control processes such as inflammation, blood flow and the formation of blood clots—thereby promoting a healthier inflammatory response, as evidenced in the 2011 book “The Amazing and Mighty Ginger.” There is a significant amount of data that suggests ginger plays an important role in helping manage inflammation. Human in vivo studies continue to provide further support.

Inner health and peace

The history of frankincense, a resin of the Boswellia species of plants, is religious in nature. In ancient times, Hindus, Babylonians, Persians, Romans and other civilizations used frankincense to find inner peace and connect with their gods. Most often produced in Arabia, Africa and India, frankincense in time began to expand beyond religion and was used in traditional folk medicine to treat a variety of chronic inflammatory conditions.3

Like ginger, frankincense can inhibit the leukotriene biosynthesis and pro-inflammatory cytokines. One study that separated and compared the compounds within frankincense found it is able to significantly reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines in large part because of its high content of beta-elemonic acid (β-EA).4 It does so by helping to regulate normal T-cell activation, causing overproduction of cytokines to halt.

The spice of life

Recorded in the Quran as the blessing seed and used by ancient Egypt, Nigella sativa (black cumin seed) served as a panacea for many different ailments and conditions, worthy of accompanying the pharaohs into the afterlife.5 While it has just recently started to gain massive attention in the West, black cumin seed has been a common part of traditional medicines in parts of Asia, such as Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Tibb.6

The effects of black seed oil have been the subject of more than 50 recent human studies and more than 500 in vitro and in vivo studies; many have focused on its benefits for a healthy inflammatory response. The primary active compound found in black seed oil is called thymoquinone, which helps elicit production of anti-inflammatory cytokines like IL-10 while inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokine production.7 This helps to create a significant reduction of nitric oxide and other cytokines, playing a key role in balancing inflammation.

Research has also actively explored thymoquinone’s potent ability to inhibit leukotriene formation and increase red blood cell glutathione, presenting thymoquinone as a compound that actively targets NFkB.5 Recognizing the importance of thymoquinone, TriNutra performed internal studies on black seed oils and discovered that oils standardized to 3% thymoquinone with a fatty acid content below 2.5% further enhanced the botanical’s ability to improve the body’s inflammatory response and develop a unique synergy with other botanicals to provide support beyond what any other ingredient does on its own.

Ancient tradition may not have had the technology and knowledge we have today, but current research is showing us the value in adopting their methods for better health. Black seed oil, frankincense and ginger are just a few botanicals and herbs that have been used for centuries to provide the benefits we need. Inflammation plays a key role in both long-term and short-term health and returning to our roots is a wonderful solution to properly maintain the proper balance.

Morris Zelkha is CEO and co-founder of TriNutra and holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Ben Gurion University in Israel. He was the founder and president of the LycoRed Group that, over the past two decades, has been pursuing the global “from farm to the pharmacy” concept. Zelkha possesses more than 35 years of experience in industrial operation, business development and research and development (R&D) project management in the nutraceutical, chemical and fertilizer industries.

References

1 Maroon JC, Bost JW, Maroon A. “Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief.” Surg Neurol Int. 2010;1:80.

2 Sharifi-Rad M et al. “Plants of the Genus Zingiber as a Source of Bioactive Phytochemicals: From Tradition to Pharmacy.” Molecules. 2017;22(12):2145.

3 Siddiqui MZ. “Boswellia serrata, a potential anti-inflammatory agent: an overview.” Indian J Pharm Sci. 2011;73(3):255-261.

4 Zhang Y et al. “Evaluation of Anti-Inflammatory Activities of a Triterpene β-Elemonic Acid in Frankincense In Vivo and In Vitro.” Molecules. 2019;24(6):1187.

5 Padhye S et al. “From here to eternity—the secret of Pharaohs: Therapeutic potential of black cumin seeds and beyond.” Cancer therapy. 2008;6(b):495-510.

6 Ali SA, Parveen N, Ali AS. “Links between the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) recommended foods and disease management: A review in the light of modern superfoods.” Int J Health Sci Educ. 2018;12(2):61-69.

7 Had  V et al. “Effects of Nigella sativa oil extract on inflammatory cytokine response and oxidative stress status in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Avicenna J Phytomed. 2016;6(1):34-43.

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