The Spices that Fight Cancer
Our bodies fight a constant battle against cancer because many elements both in the environment and in our bodies, spur its formation. Triggers include environmental toxins, inflammation, and viruses. When cells are damaged and they start multiplying, cancer can begin.
Our bodies fight back, trying to kill cancer cells by several methods, including producing more killer T-cells that cause aberrant cells to self-destruct. They also use compounds found in foods to wage war. Some herbs and spices contain particularly strong cancer-fighting substances. They include:
- Turmeric. Turmeric is a spice used to flavor traditional Indian dishes. Its active ingredient is curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory that gives the spice its bright yellow color. Several studies have found it is an effective weapon against cancer.
A Phase II clinical trial at MD Anderson Center involved 25 patients with pancreatic cancer who were given 8 grams of turmeric a day for two months. Tumor growth stopped in two patients, one for eight months and another for two-and-a-half years. Another patient’s tumor temporarily regressed by 73 percent. Since the only two drugs approved by the FDA are effective in no more than 10 percent of patients, turmeric’s effectiveness was similar, and with no side effects. Another study found that turmeric reduced tumor growth in mice with pancreatic cancer by 43 percent.
- Boswellia. Boswellia serrata is better known as frankincense, and has been used for centuries in Indian Ayurvedic medicine as an anti-inflammatory. Modern research is finding it also has anticancer properties. One laboratory study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine investigated its effect on human bladder cancer cells and found that it activated the genes responsible for suppressing the growth of cancer cells and triggering apoptosis, causing cells to commit suicide. The researchers concluded that frankincense oil was able to distinguish between cancerous and normal bladder cells and to suppress their viability. Other research found links to protection against breast, brain, pancreatic, stomach, and prostate cancers.
Although both turmeric and boswellia fight cancer individually, a study at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas found that the combination of extracts from turmeric and boswellia work together to prevent colon cancer. The combo was so powerful that it began influencing tumor growth as early as the second day of administration. The combo even fights cancer in people who have a mutation in a gene that makes their cancer unresponsive to common types of chemotherapy.
“We’ve known for a while that curcumin and boswellia are powerful anti-inflammatories and have potent anti-cancer properties,” says study author Ajay Goel, Director of Epigenetics, Cancer Prevention, and Geonomics at Baylor. “They are both powerful natural medicines, and both have the ability to reduce inflammation” . “The two together had a much more powerful inflammatory effect than either compound alone.”
- Basil. Basil has been a sacred herb in India for thousands of years, and studies have discovered that by repairing cells damaged by oxidation, it has the possibility to kill pre-cancerous tumors. A lab study, which was published in Cancer Letters, found that basil inhibited the proliferation and invasion of pancreatic cancer cells.
Basil contains eugenol, which deters the multiplication of cancer cells and also induces apoptosis. Other cancer-fighting photochemicals of basil include rosmarinic acid, beta-sitosterol, and carnosic acid.
- Huang qin tang. Scientists at Yale University found that a combination of four herbs known as huang qin tang boosts the effectiveness of chemotherapy in colon cancer patients. In addition, the mixture, which has been used by Chinese herbalists for 1,800 years, reduces some of the debilitating side effects of chemo including nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. The combination, which contains the herbs Chinese peony, Chinese jujube, Chinese licorice, and baikal skullcap, has been found to have at least 62 active chemicals that work together to be effective.
- Parsley. Compounds found in parsley and dill seeds help fight cancer, according to a study from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. Both herbs contain glaziovianin A, a natural isoflavone known to have potent anti-cancer properties. Glaziovianin A inhibits the growth of tumor cells by disrupting mitosis, the process of cell division. Although it has been possible to synthesize the compounds, the process was complicated and expensive. However, Russian researchers have developed a process that is cheaper and quicker, and may point to a future effective plant-based cancer treatment. The study was published in the Journal of Natural Products.
- White willow bark. Aspirin, the world’s most common drug, was originally derived from willow bark whose active ingredient is salacin. A Turkish study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer found that an extract of willow called Salix aegyptiaca, can stop colon cancer cells from replicating
Another study found that white willow bark contains a wide variety of additional polyphenols and flavonoids in addition to salacin that fight cancer, and that people who take a daily aspirin would receive more benefits if they took willow bark.
- Garlic. Garlic contains more than 30 organosulphur compounds, many with exciting anti-cancer properties. One is an organosulphur compound called diallyl trisulfide (DATS), which fights cancer by preventing, killing, or blocking the growth and spread of cancerous cells
According to the National Cancer Institute, studies have found that garlic can lower the risk of pancreatic cancer by 54 percent, prostate cancer by 50 percent, colon cancer by 50 percent, and stomach cancer by 52 percent. Some studies show even greater benefits: One study conducted at the University of North Carolina found that people who eat garlic cut their risk of colorectal cancer by two-thirds.
Health and Wellness Associates