Five Herbs that Can Prevent, Fight and Alleviate Cancer


Diet wellness doesn’t just help your overall sense of wellbeing; it could help to protect against and fight cancer. If nothing else, herbs and spices help with cancer-related loss of appetite and taste changes, so it’s well worth trying them out. We spoke to Christina T. Loguidice, Maurie Markman, MD, and Carolyn Lammersfeld, co-authors of Cancer Nutrition and Recipes For Dummies, about the herbs and spices that help prevent, fight and alleviate cancer.


1. Ginger: According to Loguidice, Markman and Lammersfeld, ‘Ginger has long been used in folk medicine to treat everything from colds to constipation. Ginger can be used fresh, in powdered form (ginger spice), or candied. Although the flavour between fresh and ground ginger is significantly different, they can be substituted for one another in many recipes. In general, you can replace 1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger with one tablespoon of fresh grated ginger, and vice versa. Consuming ginger and ginger products, in addition to taking any anti-nausea medications as prescribed, may provide some comfort for a queasy stomach during cancer treatment.’


2. Rosemary: ‘Rosemary is a hearty, woody Mediterranean herb that has needlelike leaves and is a good source of antioxidants,’ Loguidice, Markman and Lammersfeld explain. ‘Because of its origin, rosemary is commonly used in Mediterranean cooking and you’ll often see it included as a primary ingredient in Italian seasonings. You can use it to add flavour to soups, tomato-based sauces, bread, and high-protein foods like poultry, beef, and lamb. Rosemary may help with detoxification; taste changes; indigestion, flatulence, and other digestive problems; and loss of appetite. Try drinking up to three cups of rosemary leaf tea daily for help with these problems.’


3. Turmeric: Loguidice, Markman and Lammersfeld note, ‘Turmeric is an herb in the ginger family; it’s one of the ingredients that make many curries yellow and gives it its distinctive flavor. Curcumin appears to be the active compound in turmeric. This compound has demonstrated antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, potentially protecting against cancer development. Turmeric extract supplements are currently being studied to see if they have a role in preventing and treating some cancers, including colon, prostate, breast, and skin cancers. Although results appear promising, they have largely been observed in laboratory and animal studies, so it’s unclear whether these results will ultimately translate to humans.’


4. Chilli Peppers: ‘Chile peppers contain capsaicin, a compound that can relieve pain,’ Loguidice, Markman and Lammersfeld detail. ‘When capsaicin is applied topically to the skin, it causes the release of a chemical called substance P. Upon continued use, the amount of substance P eventually produced in that area decreases, reducing pain in the area. But this doesn’t mean you should go rubbing chilli peppers where you have pain. Chilli peppers need to be handled very carefully, because they can cause burns if they come in contact with the skin. Therefore, if you have pain and want to harness the power of chilli peppers, ask your oncologist or physician about prescribing a capsaicin cream. It has shown pretty good results with regard to treating neuropathic pain (sharp, shocking pain that follows the path of a nerve) after surgery for cancer. Another benefit of chilli peppers is that they may help with indigestion. Seems counterintuitive, right? But some studies have shown that ingesting small amounts of cayenne may reduce indigestion.’


5. Garlic: Loguidice, Markman and Lammersfeld outline, ‘Several studies suggest that increased garlic intake reduces the risk of cancers of the stomach, colon, oesophagus, pancreas, and breast. It appears that garlic may protect against cancer through numerous mechanisms, including by inhibiting bacterial infections and the formation of cancer-causing substances, promoting DNA repair, and inducing cell death. Garlic supports detoxification and may also support the immune system and help reduce blood pressure.’


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