Herbs and spices double as remedies and holistic treatments, and for good reason. Since ancient times, these plants have taken center stage not just as culinary ingredients, but also as natural medicines.
From stamping out inflammation to fighting cellular damage, the nutrients and beneficial plant compounds found in herbs and spices have established them as potent disease-fighting foods. In fact, a lot of them have been reported to decrease cancer risk.
Potent herbs and spices for cancer
Recent findings on herbs and spices are a testament to their potential as cancer-fighting agents. The best part about using these holistic medicines is the lack of harmful side effects that are often linked to mainstream medicines.
It also doesn’t hurt that these herbs and spices are simple enough to incorporate into a balanced diet. You don’t need to look up complicated and unfamiliar recipes to use them.
Here are 10 of the most potent cancer-fighting herbs and spices that ought to be a regular part of our diets:
This popular Indian spice contains the compound curcumin, one of the most potent anti-inflammatory agents identified to date. Numerous studies on turmeric indicate that it can attack cancer stem cells, inhibit tumor formation, shrink cancer tumors and keep cancer cells from spreading to other organs.
Other animal studies and clinical trials go deeper, demonstrating that turmeric can keep cancerous cells from forming tumors in the stomach, breast, lungs, brain and pancreas, among others. In addition to curcumin, turmeric also has a dozen more plant compounds that possess anti-mutagenic or anti-cancer properties.
Despite its appearance, fennel is more closely related to carrots than celery or vegetables from the genus Allium. But in terms of cancer-fighting potential, fennel is just as good as already established cancer-fighting foods. Scientists found that anethole, fennel’s major constituent, can inhibit the spread of cancer cells and suppress their rapid growth.
Recent research also suggests that fennel can be used to treat cells that have been exposed to harmful radiation. Fennel can also restore antioxidant levels and kill cancer cells.
Carotenoids are the red-orange pigments found in herbs like saffron, paprika and annatto. These compounds also double as antioxidants that quench free radicals and protect cells from these unstable molecules. In addition, carotenoids can stimulate immune function and help prevent chronic diseases.
In fact, having high concentrations of carotenoids in the blood is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. The carotenoid called crocetin, in particular, is the main cancer-fighting compound in saffron. Crocetin inhibits both tumor formation and cancer progression.
This bitter spice is made from the seeds of the Cuminum cyminum plant, which is endemic to India, the Middle East and the Mediterranean region. It belongs to the same family as fennel, so it should come as no surprise that cumin also has potent anti-cancer properties.
For the most part, these properties can be attributed to the antioxidant, thymoquinone. Studies suggest that thymoquinone can prevent cancer cells from proliferating and spreading to other organs.
Ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks aren’t just for adding richness and fragrance to different sorts of foods and drinks. Research suggests that they can also reduce cancer risk. Cinnamon contains a compound called cinnamaldehyde, which can protect against colorectal cancer.
Cinnamon also contains significant amounts of coumarin, a potent compound that can kill lung cancer and breast cancer cells. Other studies have also found that coumarins can help treat the side effects of radiation therapy.
Oregano is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, but it has also been used for millennia to treat various health conditions. Multiple studies confirm oregano’s potential as an anti-cancer agent capable of reducing prostate cancer risk. This effect is all thanks to quercetin, a beneficial plant pigment found in other herbs and fruits.
In its most concentrated state, that is, as an essential oil, oregano can kill cancer cells. But unlike mainstream cancer treatments, oregano essential oil is harmless to non-cancerous cells. Regular intake of oregano has also been linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer.
Capsaicin, the compound in chili peppers responsible for their spiciness, also doubles as a cancer-fighting agent. This potent plant compound can kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
Recent studies have also found that capsaicin can prevent cancer cells from invading other tissues. Capsaicin effectively kills mutagenic cells, which are linked to different types of cancer.
Ginger is a popular spice that’s widely used in traditional medicine. In India, for instance, ginger is considered a panacea that can treat anything from sore throat to constipation.
Modern research adds another item to ginger’s long list of medicinal benefits: decreased cancer risk. Recent studies suggest that gingerols, the active compounds found in ginger, can suppress inflammation, which leads to cellular damage and cancer later on.
Hailed for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, garlic has been used as both food and medicine for many centuries. In fact, regular consumption of garlic has been linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
These effects are all thanks to alliin, allicin and ajoene, the compounds responsible for garlic’s characteristic pungent odor.
Mustard, the quintessential hotdog condiment, is made from the seeds of mustard plants. The seeds are often ground up and used as a spice, but some people like to use the seeds for homemade mustard.
A member of the Brassica genus of plants, mustard contains sulfur-rich compounds called glucosinolates, which are potent cancer-fighting agents. Glucosinolates can also modulate immune function and protect against chronic diseases.
Quick and simple recipes featuring cancer-fighting herbs and spices
Herbs and spices are made to complement dishes and enhance the natural flavor of foods. Here are some quick and simple recipes that will let you put these cancer-fighting foods to good use:
This health drink can be a great breakfast or post-meal smoothie. Just blend together turmeric, berries, yogurt, spinach, oats, ginger and coconut or almond milk. You can also toss in other spices like cinnamon or vanilla to adjust the flavor.
Carrot, ginger and turmeric soup
Ginger and turmeric make for a potent cancer-fighting combination. It also doesn’t hurt that carrots are chock-full of carotenoids.
To make this fresh and filling soup, saute diced onions, carrots, garlic, turmeric and ginger. Add vegetable stock and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until the carrots are cooked through.
Skip the processed mustard and just make some at home. To make this condiment, blend pre-soaked mustard seeds to create a paste, then add ground mustard for color. Add vinegar and turmeric to taste and blend the mixture again until there are no more lumps.
Herbs and spices possess medicinal qualities that make them such potent natural remedies. Incorporate these functional foods into a well-balanced diet for enjoy their benefits and improve your overall health.