Herbs with an anti-cancer punch


Foods from your local supermarket, such as beans and broccoli, tofu and tomatoes, carrots and cabbage, can be powerful partners in your battle against getting cancer. But did you know that how you season these foods can also influence your risk?

Several commonly used culinary herbs have been identified by the US National Cancer Institute as possessing compounds that protect us against cancer. These “defensive” herbs include those belonging to the onion, ginger, mint and parsley families, as well as flax. Use them regularly to flavour soups, stews, sauces, dips, salad dressings, entrees, vegetables and stir fry dishes>
They contain a diversity of active phytochemicals (such as flavonoids, terpenoids, phthalides and sulfur compounds) that can produce a serious punnch, combating the proliferation of cancer cells.

Garlic and Onion

A recent study was revealed that the risk of prostate cancer was 44 per cent lower in those using garlic more than once per week. In China, persons with the highest intake of garlic, onions and leeps had a risk of stomach cancer that was 40 per cent lower than of those with the lowest intake. In the Iowa Woman’s Health Study, the highest consumption of garlic was associated with a 32 per cent reduced risk of colon cancer.
The antitumor property of garlic is a result of its diverse content of organic sulfides, as well as other health-promoting compounds such as flaphytosterols and saponins. Garlic’s inhibition of tumor growth seems to be effect only when the tumour is small.
More research is needed to determine the exact quantity of garlic needed to minimise cancer risk.
Studies in Greece have shown that a high consumption of onions, garlic and other allium (bulbous) berbs protext against stomac cancer. A Dutch scientific investifation also revealed that stomach cancer occurence in those consuming at least half an onion a day was about 50 per cent lower than in persons consuming no onions.


Turmeric offers a rich yellow colour when added to foods such as rice and tofu dishes. It also flavours soups. Turmeric’s beautiful hue comes from curcumin, a bright-yellow phenolic pigment that’s an even more powerful antioxidant than Vitamin E. Curcumin boasts the ability to surpress the growth of cancers in the stomach, breast, colon, lung and skin.


Dried ginger root offers a rich package of gingerols-phenolic antioxidants that posses pronounced anti-inflammatory activity- that inhibit various cancers.
Ginger also contains curcumin, which assists in the elimination of cancer-causing substances from the body. A teaspoon of ginger powder everyday is a useful and safe addition to any diet. Pieces of ginger can be added to fruit salads, muffins and other bakery products.


Flaxseed flour is finding its way into more and more breads, ceareals and bakery products. It not only contributes a pleasant nutty flavour but also increases the nutritional and health benifits of the final product.
Some people enjoy a teaspoon or two of flaxseed flour or ground flaxseeds sprinkled on their morning cereal.
Animal studies have shown that flaxseed in the diet can reduce the incidence of breast tumours by 40 per cent, and the tumor of a chemically induced cancers by about 50 per cent. The cancer-protective properties of flaxseed are believed to result from their very high level of ligans.
Ligan metabolites bind to oestrogen receptors and thereby inhibit the growth of oestrogen-simulated breast cancers.

The Parsley Family

Cilantro is a great addition to any tomato and lettuce salad, while ground cumin seed brings zest in the preparation of hummus. A sprig of parsley adds colour and flavour to soups or vegetable dishes. Fennel finds value in vegetable preparations, while dill is used with success to flavour cucumbers and potato salad. Caraway seeds pep up bakery products and stewed fruits, while coriander seeds adds richness to curry powders and pickles.
Parsley family herbs provide a good source of phthalides, coumarins, terpenoids, polycetylenes and other phytochemicals-many of which have cncer preventive properties.
These beneficial substances block metaboilic pathways associated with the development of cancer, or induce enzymesthat help metobolish and eliminate carcinogens.


Terpenoids, the compounds responsible for the flavour of mins (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, spearmint) and other common herbs, supress the growth of tumours and decrease the number of tumours produced. For example, rosemary and sage are rich in ursolic acid and a variet of diterpenoids that inhibit cancer cells from growing.


In a large study in Korea, the incidence of human cancer was seen to steadily decrease within the length of time Asian ginsend was used. Those who had taken ginsend for year year had 36 per cent less acner than nonusers, while those who used ginsend for five of more years experienced 69 per cent less cancer. In addition, those who’d eat ginseng less than 50 times in their life had 45 oer cent less cancer, while those who’d used ginseng more than 500 times in their life boasted 72 per cent less cancer.

Make the change

Clearly, how we season our food influences our health. An excess of salf and high-fat dressings may tickle our tastebuds, but they also increase our risk of cardivascular disease. Culinary herbs bring the same satisfaction while providing a measure of protection against a significant health risk.

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