Some foods to prevent or treat cancer may be 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. Here are some of the most powerful, according to Real News 24.
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. 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”.
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”.
Allspice. The term “allspice” was coined in the 1600s by the English, who thought the herb combined the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Allspice is also referred to as “Jamaica pepper,” “kurundu,” “myrtle pepper,” “pimenta,” and “newspice.” Ground allspice arises from the dried unripe berries of the tree Pimenta dioica. Allspice possesses antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, anticancer, and antitumorigenic properties.
Basil. Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a culinary herb prominently featured in Italian and Southeast Asian cuisines. Sweet basil is one of the most predominant and most frequently examined herbs for its health benefits. Basil is originally native totropical regions of Asia, but now it is widely available throughout the world. Basil’s antioxidant, antimutagenic, antitumorigenic, antiviral, and antibacterial properties likely arise from a variety of components including linalool, 1,8-cineole, estragole, and eugenol.
Caraway. Caraway (Carum carvi), also known as “meridian fennel” or “Persian cumin,” is native to western Asia, Europe, and northern Africa. Recently, Kapoor et al. (2010) showed that caraway essential oil and oleoresins were progressively effectively with dose as antioxidants and more effective than commercial butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene.
Cardamom. Cardamom refers to herbs within the Elettaria (green) and Amomum (black) genera of the ginger family. Cardamom is a common ingredient used in Indian cooking and in various parts of Europe. As with many spices, cardamom has been demonstrated to have antioxidant properties. Extracts from black cardamom are known for their ability to scavenge radicals. It has anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, and proapoptotic activities.
Cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper is a hot chili pepper used to flavor dishes. It is red colored when ripened to maturity, but also eaten while still green. It is a cultivar of Capsicum annuum related to bell peppers, jalapenos, paprika and others. Besides published evidence suggesting that cayenne pepper may aid weight loss, curb appetite, and lower blood pressure, the component that gives jalapeno peppers their heat may also kill cancer cells.
Cinnamon. Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the bark of an evergreen tree belonging to the Lauraceae family. A natural food preservative, cinnamon is a source of iron and calcium. Useful in reducing tumour growth, it blocks the formation of new vessels in the human body. The ability of cinnamon extracts to suppress the in vitro growth of H. pylori, a recognized risk factor for gastric cancer and lymphoma.
Clove. Clove is derived from flower buds of the Eugenia caryophyllata tree. Several bioactive components are found in clove, including tannins, terpenoids, eugenol, and acetyleugenol. Cloves are native to Indonesia and are used in cuisines throughout the world.
Coriander. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is an herb in the family Apiaceae and is native to southern Europe and northern Africa to southwestern Asia. Although all parts of the plant are edible, its fresh leaves and dried seeds are most frequently used in cooking. One of its principal constituents is linalool. Several animal studies provide evidence that coriander seeds can promote the hepatic antioxidant system. Coriander can also influence foreign compound metabolism.
Cumin. Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae and is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and India. Thymoquinone (TQ) is the most abundant component of black cumin seed oil. TQ has been reported to exhibit antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and chemopreventive properties (Allahghadri et al. 2010; Nader, el-Agamy, and Suddek 2010).
Dill. Dill (Anethum graveolens) is a relatively short-lived perennial spice. Dill is an herb that in effect has two components that are dependent on the seasons. In the early spring, dill is used for its leaves and in the autumn for its seeds. As with other spices, there is evidence that dill promotes drug detoxification mechanisms.
Fennel. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a plant species in the genus Foeniculum. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean. Fennel contains anethole. Anethole resists and restricts the adhesive and invasive activities of cancer cells. It suppresses the enzymatic regulated activities behind cancer cell multiplication.
Garlic. Garlic (Allium sativum) is a member of the onion family Alliaceae. Garlic has been used throughout history for both its culinary and medicinal properties. Preclinical models provide rather compelling evidence that garlic and its associated components can lower the incidence of breast, colon, skin, uterine, esophagus, and lung cancers.
Ginger. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a member of the Zingiberaceae family and is consumed widely not only as a spice but also as a medicinal agent. Ginger also appears to have antitumorigenic properties. Alcoholic extracts of ginger inhibited tumor cell growth.
Oregano. Oregano is high in antioxidant activity, due to a high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids. It is a potential agent against prostate cancer.
Rosemary. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a woody herb with fragrant needle-like leaves. When rosemary is added along with other herbs to a balsamic vinegar preparation used in soups and salads, it appears to provide protection again oxidative stress in humans (Dragan et al. 2007).
Saffron. Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus. The natural carotenoid ‘Crocetin’ is the primary cancer-fighting element that saffron contains. It not only inhibits the progression of the disease but also decreases the size of the tumor by half.
Thyme. Thyme is another culinary and medicinal herb. A thyme extract may influence enzyme expression and prevent cancer.
Turmeric. Turmeric (Curcuma longa)is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family. Its active ingredient, curcumin, inhibits inflammatory reactions, has anti-diabetic effects, reduces cholesterol and can also inhibit formation of metastases.
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