5 Spices That Boost Your Cancer-Fighting Power

Wednesday Nov 12, 2014 | BY |
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Studies show that spices are gallant warriors in the battle against cancer.

“A growing body of research—primarily lab studies—is now zeroing in on the role specific spices may play in reducing cancer risk.”

So says the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).

Which spices are they talking about? We’ve got five of them here. Add these to your recipes and enjoy the great taste and tumor-inhibiting benefits!

  1. Turmeric: You’ve probably heard the buzz around this one. It’s one of the most extensively studied spices out there, with research now underway to see how it might reduce cancer risk. The primary phytochemical that scientists are looking at is called “curcumin.” In lab studies, it suppressed inflammation and tumor growth, and helped encourage the death of cancer cells. It also seems to interfere with the ability of cancer cells to replicate. “Researchers have found that a tiny oral dose of curcumin,” says Johns Hopkins, “cut breast cancer rates in rats by half.”
  2. Fenugreek: 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.
  3. Garlic: 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.
  4. Black pepper. 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.
  5. Allspice: It’s not a combination of spices. Instead, allspice comes from dried, unripe berries of the Pimenta dioica tree. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties, and has also been found in studies to help suppress cancer growth. In 2013, researchers announced that “ericifolin,” a compound found in the allspice berry, slowed the growth of prostate cancer tumors. It did so by suppressing the “androgen receptor (AR), which is key to the growth of prostate cancer. “Androgen receptor, or AR for short,” said lead author Bal L. Lokeshwar, “is the principal drug target for the treatment of prostate cancer, but there is no drug that completely eliminates AR. This complex compound in allspice seems to do that.” The spice not only slowed tumor growth, but did so by an amazing 55 percent.

Do you know of other spices with cancer-fighting properties? Please share them with our readers.

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“The Spices of Cancer Prevention,” AICR Cancer Research Update, August 21, 2013, http://www.aicr.org/cancer-research-update/august_21_2013/CRU_spices_cancer_prevention.html.

“A Simple Spice that May Battle Cancer,” Hopkins Medicine, July 16, 2013, http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/publications/johns_hopkins_health/summer_2013/a_simple_spice_that_may_battle_cancer.

“Fenugreek,” Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/fenugreek.

Shabana Shabbeer, et al., “Fenugreek: a naturally occurring edible spice as an anticancer agent,” Cancer Biol Ther., May 16, 2011; 8(3):272-278, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3095649/.

Amin A, et al., “Chemopreventative activities of Trigonella foenum graecum (Fenugreek) against breast cancer,” Cell Biol Int., August 2005; 29(8):687-94, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15936223.

Zi-Yi Jin, et al., “Raw Garlic Consumption as Protective Factor for Lung Cancer, a Population-Based Case-Control Study in a Chinese Population,” Cancer Prev Res, July 2013 (6): 711, http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/6/7/711.abstract.

Keary Cope, et al., “A GC/MS method for the quantitation of N-nitrosoproline and N-acetyl-S-allylcysteine in human urine,” Anal Biochm., November 15, 2009; 394(2):243-248, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2755231/.

“Garlic and Cancer Prevention,” The National Institutes of Health, http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/prevention/garlic-and-cancer-prevention.

Majdalawieh AF, et al., “In vitro investigation of the potential immunomodulatory and anti-cancer activities of black pepper (Piper nigrum) and cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum,” J Med Food., April 2010; 13(2):371-81, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20210607.

Kakarala M., et al., “Targeting breast stem cells with the cancer preventive compounds curcumin and piperine,” Breast Cancer Res Treat, August 2010; 122(3):777-85, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19898931.

Doucette CD, et al., “Piperine, a dietary phytochemical, inhibits angiogenesis,” J Nutr Biochem, January 2013; 24(1):231-9, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22902327.

Nagarajarao Shamaledevi, “Ericifolin: a novel antitumor compound from allspice that silences androgen receptor in prostate cancer,” Carcinogenesis, April 8, 2013; http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/05/08/carcin.bgt123.abstract.

“Researchers Discover Prostate Cancer-Fighting Compound in Jamaican Allspice,” University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, http://med.miami.edu/news/miller-school-researchers-discover-prostate-cancer-fighting-compound-in-all.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com

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