Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Herbs for Cancer

By Linda B. White 
Garlic: Research shows that garlic (Allium sativum) has cancer-protective effects. Garlic enhances enzymes that detoxify carcinogens, quench oxidation, inhibit proliferation of cancer cells, induce cancer cell death and boost immunity. However, heat deactivates some of garlic’s key ingredients. To maximize benefits, add raw garlic to dressings, dips, soups and sauces. You can also retain more of garlic’s anti-cancer effects when cooking by crushing it and allowing it to sit for 10 minutes (which allows time for critical enzymatic changes) before adding it to the pan.

Medicinal mushrooms: Mushrooms contain polysaccharides and other ingredients that both enhance immunity and have anti-cancer properties. Most research has been done on medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, shiitake, maitake and cordyceps. However, all edible mushrooms have benefits. Even the common button mushroom enhances immune-cell functions and can fight cancer. Women who regularly eat mushrooms have a reduced risk of breast cancer. Note: Some mushrooms (reishi and cordyceps, for example) are too rare or woody to find in grocery stores. Look for supplements containing these mushrooms. 

Milk thistle: While better known for protecting the liver, milk thistle (Silybum marianum) also has cancer-protective effects. It contains an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory flavonoid complex called silymarin. Research shows that it promotes the repair of DNA, blocks angiogenesis and suppresses proliferation and metastasis in a variety of cancers. Milk thistle is available as a tincture or standardized extract. You can also use the ground seeds in tea or sprinkle them atop foods. Milk thistle’s delicious relative, the artichoke, also contains polyphenols.

Tea: Black, green and oolong tea all come from the same plant—Camellia sinensis. Studies link tea consumption with a reduced risk of gastrointestinal, pancreatic, bladder, prostate, ovarian, uterine and breast cancer. Green tea is particularly rich in a polyphenol called epigallocatechin gallate. In lab research, it has inhibited cancer cell formation, proliferation, invasiveness and metastasis, and provokes cancer cell death. Animal studies show protection against many cancers, including skin cancer. Try to drink three to five cups of green tea a day.

Turmeric: Turmeric (Curcuma longa) contains potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances. Curcumin, a key chemical in turmeric, can inhibit cancer cell growth and migration, block the creation of blood vessels to the cancer and induce cancer cells to die. The optimal dose for supplemental curcumin isn’t clear, though doses up to 8 grams a day seem to be safe. Curcumin’s bioavailability—the amount the body can absorb—is low. Combining curcumin with bromelain (an enzyme in pineapple), piperine from pepper, or phosphatidylcholine, a chemical in foods like eggs, soybeans and mustard, seems to enhance absorption. In a boon for lovers of spicy foods, one of the most effective ways to consume turmeric may be in curry. Curried foods contain pepper and oil, which improve curcumin’s absorption.