Anti-inflammatory properties of culinary herbs and spices that ameliorate the effects of metabolic syndrome

Maturitas. 2012 Mar;71(3):227-39. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2011.12.009. Epub 2012 Jan 9.


Obesity and metabolic syndrome are increasing global health problems. In addition to the malnutrition of a sedentary lifestyle, high calorie intake leads to obesity with many negative health consequences. Macrophages infiltrate adipose tissue and induce chronic inflammation by secreting pro-inflammatory cytokines, including COX-2 and iNOS, among other mediators of inflammation. Free fatty acids mediate adipose tissue signalling through toll-like receptor 4 and the expression of these pro-inflammatory mediators via NF-κB or JNK. PPAR γ activators can inhibit the activation of NF-κB, down-regulating the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Here we provide an overview of how different culinary herbs and spices exert anti-inflammatory activities and the extent to which they activate PPAR α and PPAR γ, inhibit the activation of NF-κB, and enhance expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Spices can play essential roles as anti-inflammatory agents in our diet, acting as pan PPAR activators and improving insulin sensitivity, counteracting dyslipidaemia and weight gain. The effects of chronic inflammation caused by obesity are counteracted and, consequently, the progression of diseases associated with chronic inflammation slowed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / diet therapy*
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors / agonists
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Polyphenols / administration & dosage
  • Spices*


  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors
  • Polyphenols