Historically, spices have shaped many events throughout the world. Many voyagers, including the legendary Christopher Columbus, explored the seas in search of treasured spices. These valued commodities contribute not only flavors but also serve as colorants and preservatives in a wide variety of cultures. Today, spices are increasingly revered not only for their culinary properties but also for their potential health benefits. 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. In this chapter, we use the terms “herbs” and “spices” interchangeably and assume that both have properties that extend beyond simply providing flavor and color.
There is little doubt that nutrition and health are intimately linked (Kennedy 2008). For generations, people have alleged that foods provide greater benefits than simply supplying energy. Beliefs in the medicinal properties of foods have surfaced in many early writings of man. Hippocrates is frequently quoted as having said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Epidemiological, preclinical, and clinical studies continue to provide fundamental insights into the dynamic relationships between nutrients—defined here as any substance in the diet that brings about a physiological effect—and health. Today, claims about the ability of foods, including spices, to lower disease risk or to enhance the quality of life continue to captivate our lives (Keefer and Milner 2008; Kochab 2008; Krishnaswamy 2008; Iyer et al. 2009). Three types of biomarkers— exposure, effect, and susceptibility—are needed to evaluate the effects of spices in cancer prevention and therapy (Figure 17.1). 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.
20 Herbs that can fight cancer
Herbs can be potent and powerful, and research is growing with many herbs shown to have powerful anti-cancer properties without the damaging side-effects of drugs; here are twenty herbs that just might help your fight against cancer. (This article was prepared with help from two of the UK’s top herbalists, Alan Hopkins and David Broom.)
1 AUSTRALASIA (Huang Qi):
A Chinese herb; an immune system booster, known to stimulate body’s natural production of interferon. It also helps the immune system identify rogue cells. Work with the herb in both cancer and AIDS cases has been encouraging. The MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas conducted research showing that taking Astragalus when having Radiotherapy doubled survival times.
2 BERBERIS FAMILY (e.g. Podophyllum peltanum):
Slow active purgative. Research has shown these herbs to have a strong action against cancer and they have been used with many cancers, especially Ovarian cancer. In Cancer Watch March 2015, an ingredient Berberine, was shown in research to outperform brain cancer drug, Thalidomide in vitro. It was also shown to act synergistic ally with it and improve its efficacy. Berberine is anti-inflammatory, attacks microbes, attacks the AMPK pathway in cancer cells and cuts blood sugar.
3 BLOOD-ROOT (Sanguinaria canadensis):
Research shows consistent anti-neoplastic activity. It has been shown to be effective against cancer tum ours, and can shrink them; it is one of the herbs in an anti-cancer poultice called Black Salve against breast and skin cancers; and has proven useful with sarcomas.
4 BUTCHERS BROOM (Ruscus aculeatus):
The active ingredients of this herb has been found to be the ruscogenins which have tumor-shrinking and anti-iatrogenic abilities. Thus its use in the treatment of breast cancer.
5 CAT’S CLAW (Uncaria tormentosa):
An adaptogen and powerful immune-stimulant, it enhances the white cells clean up process (phagocytes). It is an excellent companion to astragalus, curcumin and echinacea. Research indicates it can reduce tum-our size, particularly with skin cancers. It also helps reduce the side-effects of chemo and radiotherapy.
6 CHAPARRAL (Larrea mexicana):
Cancer Watch covered a major research study from the US which heaped praise on this herb. It appears to boost the immune system, stop metastases and reduce tum-our size. Seems especially interesting with breast cancer and is another ingredient in Black Salve. It is also an anti-oxidant and anti-microbial, with low toxicity.
7 CURCUMIN (Turmeric):
Turmeric root contains 3% curcumin. Both have significant anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory activity. That alone seems enough for certain hospitals in America to consider using it in the treatment of polyps and colon cancer. However new research shows that it can attack cancer stem cells, shrink cancer tum ours and inhibit blood supply growth to tum ours. It is a powerful antioxidant with liver protective benefits, and outperformed several anti-inflammatory drugs without side-effects in research.
8 DANG SHEN ROOT (Codonopsis pilosula):
increases both the white blood cell and red blood cell levels, so can be extremely helpful to patients having chemotherapy and radiotherapy, or to patients whose cancer diminishes levels of either.
Another known immune system booster, it gained a populist reputation in treating colds. There is research on its helpfulness with brain tum ours apart from its abilities to increase the levels of certain immune white cells in the body.
This herb caused a storm when research from Rochester University in New York showed it to be more effective than the drug cabinetry in killing leukaemia cells. The US Food and Drug Agency put the active ingredient, parthenogenesis, on to its fast track program-me. Nothing has yet been heard. But then, the FDA has never approved a herb for use as a cancer treatment.
One cause of stomach cancer can be the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. This burrows into the mucous lining of the stomach to hide from gastric acids, and then causes irritation, acid re flux, ulcers and even cancer. Golden seal is generally anti-microbial and is used in the Caribbean and South East Asia against parasites. Golden seal, helped by the mineral Bismuth, will kill Helicobacter pylori. Vets seem to know this, even if doctors don’t. Berberine can be found in Golden seal.
12 MILK THISTLE:
Known for years to be helpful in strengthening the liver, this herb has now been shown to be capable of protecting the liver during chemotherapy. Research in America showed that leukaemia patients who took milk thistle had reduced liver toxicity and chemo side-effects. There is a little evidence that it has its own anti-cancer activity too.
13 PAU D ARCO:
This tree bark was original thought to be a strong anti-cancer agent, but then its actions were clarified as strongly anti-bacterial, anti-yeast and anti-viral. That alone might be enough to eradicate cancer drivers. But new research on the differing ingredients has shown the quinoids possess immune strengthening abilities and seem to help in cases of blood and lymph cancers.
14 RED CLOVER:
Research from a number of cancer centers including the Royal Mars den has shown its potential as a part of a treatment programmer against estrogen-driven cancers, from breast to prostate. One active ingredient in the so-called Herb of Hippocrates is Genistein, which Professor Powerless formerly of the Royal Mars den dubbed ’the anti-estrogen’.
15 SHEEP’S SORRELL:
Used in Access and other herbal remedies, it is a cleanser and aids healthy tissue regeneration. There is some suggestion from research that it helps normalise damaged cells and tissue. It is also a highly praised ’vermifuge’ – intestinal worms have little or no resistance to this herb.
16 SKULLCAP (Scutellaria barbata):
Research has shown action against many cancer types, for example against cancers of the lung, stomach and intestines.
17 SUTHERLANDIA (Cancer Bush):
Peer reviewed research studies indicate that this herb is anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-fungal. It boosts the immune system and inhibits Tumor Necrosis Factor, known to drive wasting in cancer patients.
or HARES EAR (Bulpleurum scorzoneraefolium): Research has shown its ability to enhance the production of natural interferon and it seems especially useful in bone cancer.
19 WHEAT GRASS:
One of the top private hospitals in South East Asia extols the benefits of freshly juiced wheat grass. One shot gives you the chlorophyll of some 12 or more kilograms of broccoli. It acts as a blood purifier, and liver and kidney cleansing agent. In research, after two weeks of daily use, blood and tissue oxygen levels improve, as does circulation.
20 SWEET WORMWOOD:
Another Chinese Herb, Artemesia annua, has ingredients like artemisinin and artesunate that have outperformed the anti-malaria drugs and Artemisinin is now used as the number 1 drug against Malaria. It is strongly anti-microbial and anti-yeast and can be used as an effective part of an anti-candida diet. Also certain cancer treatments cause excesses of yeasts to form (for example, in Leukemia treatment) threatening the patient’s health further. It is also known to attack pathogens like E.coli and Borrelia odoriferous. In 2017 research Wormwood was shown to have direct anti-cancer properties.