For centuries, cultures have used spices to improve health and ward off disease. A growing body of research – primarily lab studies – is now zeroing in on the role specific spices may play in reducing cancer risk.
“There is more and more documentation that several compounds in spices have anti-cancer properties,” says John Milner, PhD, Director of the Human Nutrition Research Center at the US Department of Agriculture and co-author of a review of spices for cancer prevention. There are several potential mechanisms in which spices may work to reduce cancer risk, says Milner, “from changing carcinogen metabolism to modifying the microbiome to cell signaling – all changes that would inhibit the growth of a tumor.”
There are dozens of spices that have pointed to cancer protection in lab studies, with much of the research in its early phases. Some of the spices relatively well studied in cancer prevention include turmeric and garlic.
11 Spices Scientifically Proven That Boost Your Cancer Fighting Power Naturally
This is the king of spices when it comes to dealing with cancer diseases, besides it adding a zesty colour to our food on the platter. Turmeric contains the powerful polyphenol Curcumin that has been clinically proven to retard the growth of cancer cells causing prostrate cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, brain tumour, pancreatic cancer and leukemia amongst a host of others. Curcumin promotes ‘Apoptosis’- (programmed cell death/cell suicide) that safely eliminates cancer breeding cells without posing a threat to the development of other healthy cells. In cases of conventional radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the surrounding cells too become a target in addition to the cancer cells. Therefore, the side-effects are imminent.
According to the AICR, garlic “protects against stomach and colorectal cancer.” We have a lot of evidence on this one. The National Institutes of Health states, “Several population studies show an association between increased intake of garlic and reduced risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and breast.” A 2013 study, for instance, found that chewing a little raw garlic a couple times a week reduced risk of lung cancer by almost half—almost a third even in smokers. A secret—if you chop the garlic and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, key active compounds are formed. Then you can heat it and still enjoy the health benefits, which are reduced if you chop and heat right away. (This according to John Miner, director of the Human Nutrition Center at the Agricultural Research Service at the USDA.) An earlier 2009 study found that consuming 3-5 grams a day of garlic blocked the creation of nitrosamines, cancer-causing agents formed in the body by normal metabolism.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a plant species in the genus Foeniculum (treated as the sole species in the genus by most botanists). It is a member of the family Apiaceae (formerly the Umbelliferae). It is a hardy, perennial, umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean but has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks.
Fennel contains anethole, which can explain some of its medical effects: It, or its polymers, act as phytoestrogens. Armed with phyto-nutrients and antioxidants, cancer cells have nothing but to accept defeat when the spice is fennel. Anethole resists and restricts the adhesive and invasive activities of cancer cells. It suppresses the enzymatic regulated activities behind cancer cell multiplication.
Yes, it aids digestion and probably that is why we like chewing a handful of cumin seeds at the end of every meal. However, its health benefits go beyond. A portent herb with anti-oxidant characteristics, cumin seeds contain a compound called ‘Thymoquinone’ that checks proliferation of cells responsible for prostate cancer. So, instead of loading your usual snack options with calories and oil, add this seasoning to your bread, fried beans or sauce and make the dish rich in flavour and high on health. You can rediscover the magic of cumin in your regular bowl of tadka dal and rice too!
According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a number of studies have found fenugreek to have chemopreventive properties against certain cancers. A 2011 study, for example, found that fenugreek was toxic to cancer cells but not normal cells. Treatment with fenugreek for 72 hours inhibited the growth of breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancer cells. An earlier 2005 study also found that fenugreek was effective against breast cancer in rats, inhibiting tumor growth and decreasing cancer cells. Fenugreek is also rich in dietary fiber, which has strong protective effects against colon cancer.
Thyme is another culinary and medicinal herb. Today, common usage refers to any or all members of the plant genus Thymus, also of the Lamiaceae family. Several active agents are reported, including thymol, carvacrol, apigenin, luteolin, tannins, terpinene, and other oils.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a member of the Zingiberaceae family and is consumed widely not only as a spice but also as a medicinal agent.
Various animal models have been used to examine the role of ginger in cancer prevention. For example, Ihlaseh et al. (2006) exposed male Wistar rats to tumors resembling human low-grade papillary urothelial neoplasia. Rats fed with a basal diet supplemented with 1% ginger extract for 26 weeks had significantly fewer urothelial lesions compared to the controls or those fed with the diet with 0.5% ginger.
Ginger also appears to have antitumorigenic properties. Several cell lines have been examined for their sensitivity to ginger. For example, alcoholic extracts of ginger inhibited tumor cell growth for Dalton’s lymphocytic ascites tumor cells and human lymphocytes.
More than a pizza or pasta topping, oregano confirms its worth as a potential agent against prostate cancer. Consisting of anti-microbial compounds, just one teaspoon of oregano has the power of two cups of red grapes! Phyto-chemical ‘Quercetin’ present in oregano restricts growth of malignant cells in the body and acts like a drug against cancer-centric diseases.
It’s on your table every day, but you may not have realized how powerful it is! A 2010 study found that black pepper helped enhance the immune system’s own killer cells, so they were better able to fight off cancer cells. Researchers concluded that the spice had anti-tumor and immune-boosting properties. Another study that same year found that black pepper and turmeric both inhibited breast tumor formation, and could be “potential cancer preventive agents.” A later 2013 study found that “piperine,” the major alkaloid in black pepper, inhibited the growth of cancer cells. The researchers suggested further investigation into the compound for use in cancer treatment.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a woody herb with fragrant needle-like leaves. Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean region and possesses a bitter, astringent taste and highly aromatic characteristics that complement a wide variety of foods. Rosemary is a member of the family Lamiaceae, and it contains a number of potentially biologically active compounds, including antioxidants such as carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid. Other bioactive compounds include camphor (up to 20% in dry rosemary leaves), caffeic acid, ursolic acid, betulinic acid, rosmaridiphenol, and rosmanol.
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) plant native to Southwest Asia. It has historically been the world’s most expensive spice per unit weight. Saffron imparts a bitter taste and hay-like fragrance to food. Saffron likely contains more than 150 volatile and aroma-yielding compounds. A carotenoid, comprises >10% of dry saffron’s mass and is responsible for the rich golden-yellow hue created when saffron is added to food dishes. Picrocrocin, a bitter glucoside, is responsible for saffron’s flavor.
Others: Cloves, anise, basil, garlic, caraway, fenugreek, mustard, mint leaves, rosemary, Limonin (fresh lemon), virgin olive, vinegar and avocado are other cancer-fighting diet components.
1. A plant-based diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and beans is the best organic way to fight cancer.
2. Add fibre: Replace white rice with brown rice in meals
3. Substitute whole-grain bread for white bread; choose a bran muffin over a pastry
4. Snack on popcorn instead of potato chips.
5. Eat fresh fruits with skin.
6. Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation.
7. Cook with olive oil instead of regular vegetable oil
8. Avoid packaged or fried foods that are high in trans-fats
9. Avoid processed salt. Celtic sea salt/Himalayan salt can be consumed sparingly.
10. Cancer patients: Do not load your diet with turmeric or Curcumin supplements without doctor’s consult or prescribed dosage.
Cancer fighting salad recipe:
Couscous Wheat- 120 gms
Turmeric – 1 gm
Salt/pepper To Taste
Sun dried tomato- 2 nos
Olives (black/Green) – 2 nos each
Mint leaves- 2 sprig
Bell pepper dices- 15 gm
Olive oil- 2 Tsp
Pickle onion- 2 nos
1. Take a pan and add salt, pepper, turmeric, couscous, olive oil and saffron. Steam the couscous for 5 minutes and chill immediately.
2. Now add lemon juice, bell pepper, olives, sun dried tomato, pickle onion (chopped) and dice ginger. Mix well and add mint. Mould it on top of lettuce leaves and serve chilled.
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