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Spices and Cancer: Spices Which Prevent or Treat Cancer

Spices that Prevent and Treat Cancer.

Believe it or not, but when the opposition in question is an adamant disease like cancer, everything you need to prevent or treat it is right inside your spice cabinet. These are not just dried seeds, fruits, roots, barks or any other plant-based substances to add flavor to our foods, but they double as anti-cancer agents. More than 180 spice-derived compounds have been identified and explored for their health benefits It is beyond the scope of this article to deal with all herbs and spices that may influence the risk of cancer and tumor behavior, but we’ve highlighted 18 of the most powerful.

chart 18 spices preventing cancer

Carrying the spirit of defeating a disease often labelled ‘incurable’ through conventional treatment, typically manifests through dietary strategies when mainstream options fail. A selection of spices can avert the multiplying of malignant cells in the body that gradually mature into insurmountable cancer cells.

Spices like turmeric and saffron are inherent with medicinal properties that, when incorporated to our diet from an early stage strengthens our bodies against invasion of toxins, bacteria and viruses.

A conscious effort has been made in the scientific community to provide information about the amount of spices needed to bring about a response and thus their physiological relevance.

Although the health attributes associated with spice use may arise from their antioxidant properties, their biological effects may arise from their ability to induce changes in a number of cellular processes, including those involved with drug metabolism, cell division, apoptosis, differentiation, and immunocompetence.

The complexity of understanding the biological response to spices first surfaces in the criteria used to distinguish what constitutes a culinary spice and how they differ from culinary herbs. These terms are often used interchangeably in the scientific and lay literature. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a spice as an “aromatic vegetable substance, in the whole, broken, or ground form,” whose significant function in food is “seasoning rather than nutrition” and from which “no portion of any volatile oil or other flavoring principle has been removed” (Food and Drug Administration 2007:205-208).

While this is a viable definition, it does not consider the biological consequences of consuming these items and how they differ from herbs. The U.S. National Arboretum offers an alternative definition and describes spices as “flavorings (often of tropical origin) that are dried and culinary herbs that are fresh or dried leaves from plants which can be used for flavoring purposes in food preparation” (United States National Arboretum 2002). We must remember that the quantity of an item consumed does not dictate its importance. Thus, to avoid the health significance in any definition would appear flawed.

Three types of biomarkers– exposure, effect, and susceptibility–are needed to evaluate the effects of spices in cancer prevention and therapy (see figure below).


Additional information about the amounts of specific spices required to bring about a response (effect) and the interactions of spices with other constituents of the diet, microbes in the gastrointestinal tract, environmental exposures, and human genetics (susceptibility factors) will be needed to unravel the true benefits of adding spices to the diet.

Spices may be a key to determining the balance between pro- and anticancer factors that regulate risk and tumor behavior. About 75% of households use dietary approaches to reduce their risk of diseases, including cancer. People between the ages of 36 and 55 are increasingly interested in adopting healthy eating behaviors and are gravitating toward ethnic cuisines based on perceived health benefits. Many of these ethnic foods are loaded with unique and flavorful spices; however, while dietary guidelines in several countries tend to support the incorporation of spices into diets, quantifiable recommendations for specific amounts have not yet been forthcoming.

Multiple factors may influence the need for spices for reducing the risk of cancer or changing the biological behavior of cancerous cells.


Between 1970 and 2005, the overall per capita consumption of spices in the United States doubled, increasing from about 1.6 to 3.3 pounds per year (United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 2007). As expected, the consumption of some spices increased far more than others; for example, garlic consumption increased more than sixfold.

The ability of spices to serve as inhibitors of carcinogen bioactivation, decrease free radical formation, suppress cell division and promote apoptosis in cancerous cells, suppress microbial growth, and regulate inflammation and immunocompetence will be discussed as plausible mechanisms by which selected spices may promote health and disease resistance. The low toxicity and wide acceptance of spices may make them particularly useful as a subtle personal dietary change that may decrease risk for several diseases.

Multiple cancer-related processes may account for the ability of spices to inhibit experimentally induced cancers. While these processes are likely critical for determining the risk of cancer and tumor behavior in humans, only limited clinical evidence exists that spices in physiological relevant exposures can alter one or more of these process.


Read The List Here 18 Powerful Spices Proven To Prevent and Treat Cancer

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