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15 Herbs and Spices In Cancer Prevention and Treatment

Cancer is a major disease worldwide in both developed as well as developing countries. According to a study, in the year 2008, there were around 7.6 million deaths worldwide due to cancer. [1] The WHO (World Health Organisation) estimates the count to rise above 12 million by the year 2030.

Every year on 22 September, World Rose Day is celebrated for the welfare of cancer patients. Keeping this in mind, we have listed 15 herbs and spices that aid to the treatment of cancer patients.

Herbs and spices have long been used for their rich flavours and medicinal properties. No matter you have a history of cancer in the family or you are fighting with the disease, lifestyle habits, especially diet, plays a huge role in fighting cancer. Take a look at a few amazing and easily-available spices that may have the potential to prevent cancer.


1. Turmeric

According to a study, curcumin in turmeric has antioxidant property that controls cellular oxidative stress and blocks the production of free radicals in our body, the reason for the development of carcinoma cells. Turmeric is effective to prevent all types of cancer such as lung cancer, hepatobiliary cancer, breast cancer and many more. [2]


2. Garlic

According to a journal Nutrients, garlic helps decrease incidences of cancer. This study was carried out in vitro by using ethanol-based garlic extract. It was found that garlic inhibits the growth of multiple cancer cells. Also, it affects hundreds of proteins in our body which are involved in cellular signalling and proliferation, hence decreasing the incidences of cancer cells. [3]


3. Ginger

In a study carried out in rats, it was found that ginger has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties that significantly suppresses TNF-α protein which is responsible for cancer due to inflammation of cells. [4]


4. Black Pepper

Black pepper contains a compound called piperine which has a potential chemopreventive effect. A study says that piperine inhibits the proliferation of many types of cancerous cells. It also affects cancer cells in many ways such as inhibiting cancer stem cell, reducing oxidative injury and many more. [5]


5. Oregano

A study states the anti-tumour effect of oregano in breast cancer. It decreases the survival and proliferation of cancer cells by activating mitochondrial apoptosis, a programmed cell death that prevents the multiplication of cells which causes cancer. [6]


6. Cayenne Pepper

Capsaicin, a powerful antioxidant in cayenne pepper is toxic to cancerous cells. Capsaicin prevents the growth of prostate cancer cells by killing them. The best part is its excellent taste that improves the taste of any dish it is added to.


7. Cardamom

A study talks about the anti-cancer properties of cardamom causing a delay in the development of skin cancer (non-melanoma). Cardamom has enough potential to prevent benign epithelial tumour on the skin due to its antioxidative property. [7]


8. Cinnamon

The antiproliferative potential of cinnamon against cancerous cells has been observed in many studies. It controls the cell division and prevents the onset of cervical cancer. Another compound ‘eugenol' in cinnamon also possessescytotoxics effect against colon cancer. [8]


9. Coriander

It is a popular herb used in Indian cuisine since historic times. The ethyl acetate and phenolic compounds in coriander are responsible for its antiproliferative activity. It scavenges free radicals and prevents DNA damage, thus preventing cancer and metastasis. [9]


10. Saffron

It has many amazing properties like antimutagenic, radical scavenging and immuno-modulating effect. Also, the three powerful compounds in saffron; crocin, safranal and crocetin demonstrate anti-tumour and cancer preventive properties in many studies. [10]


11. Rosemary

It contains a high proportion of polyphenols, rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid that inhibit potent anti-cancer effects. A study says that rosemary prevents many types of cancer such as breast cancer and colon cancer. [11]


12. Feverfew

It contains parthenolide, a vital bioactive compound that possesses anti-tumour and anti-inflammatory properties. Feverfew is very effective to prevent two human breast cancer cell lines and one cervical cancer cell line, says a study. [12]


13. Basil

Commonly known as tulsi, basil is a widely known medicinal plant in Ayurveda and traditional medicines. The phytochemicals such as eugenol, apigenin, rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid in the herb prevent skin, oral, liver and lung cancer in humans by inducing apoptosis and scavenging harmful free radicals. [13]


14. Wheatgrass

This young grass of family Poaceae contains amino acids, vitamins, minerals and many important enzymes that help prevent cancer. It is also known as ‘green blood' due to the high content of chlorophyll. The aqueous solution of wheatgrass is effective against oral squamous cell carcinoma cell, says study. [14]


15. Cloves

The ethyl acetate extract of cloves along with other potentially bioactive compounds such as chavicol, eugenol, flavonoids is the reason behind the anti-tumour activity of this herb. Cloves display cytotoxicity against many types of cancer. [15]

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