SHAFAQNA- By Sola Ogundipe Spices have been used for thousands of years to colour, flavour, add fragrance and preserve foods. They’ve also been dispensed as folk medicines because they contain a multitude of bioactive compounds that are teeming with health benefits. Among those benefits is the ability to help treat or prevent cancer. Recent scientific review said the evidence is “proven” that the more you consume, the lower your risk of cancer. If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to consider incorporating one or more of the following spices into your daily diet…. Spices Piper nigrum Piper nigrum, dubbed the ‘king of spices’ is better known to most of us as black pepper. Its major alkaloid constituent is piperine, which has been shown to act against a number of different types of tumours. In breast cancer cell lines, piperine activated certain proteins to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) and a reduction in migration i.e. the spread of cancer to nearby tissues. Piperine also inhibited the proliferation of four types of prostate cancer cells. The black pepper extract also suppressed both androgen-dependent and androgen-independent prostate tumour growth in mice. Piperine also caused cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in melanoma cells and was described as “a promising therapeutic agent in the treatment of osteosarcoma (bone cancer).” All in all, it’s quite a medicine. Turmeric Known as The golden spice, over 100 components have been isolated from turmeric, the best known and most potent extract being curcumin. It is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antimutagenic and anticancer agent. Turmeric is definitely a spice you want to add to your diet every day if possible. While it is best known as a curry ingredient, it has a bland taste and can be added to many other meals. Curcumin Curcumin has been shown to act against cancers of the head and neck, lung, liver, breast, stomach, colon, rectum, prostate, uterus, skin, brain and blood. It prevents and acts against cancer at various steps, inhibits mutations, detoxifies carcinogens, decreases cell proliferation, limits migration and induces apoptosis. Curcumin improved the general health and weight of colorectal cancer patients. Ginger Ginger has many important compounds that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal and anticarcinogenic properties. One of ginger’s components, 6-shogaol, was found to decrease cancer development and progression in breast cancer cells cultured in the lab. Whole ginger extract inhibited growth and progression of prostate cancer cells, induced profound growth inhibition in ovarian cancer cell lines and inhibited cell proliferation and induced apoptosis in colon cancer cells. While you may think of ginger as a spice used in Asian cuisine or as a flavoring for cakes and biscuits, it can be paired with almost any vegetable and it works well in poultry and meat dishes. As long as you like the taste, it’s easy to incorporate into many meals. Nigella sativa Nigella sativa (also known as black cumin, black onion seed and black seed) is described as having a “miraculous power of healing.” It has antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic, immunomodulatory and anticancer properties. It’s been shown to inhibit proliferation, migration and invasion of human lung cancer cells; inhibits cell proliferation in liver cancer, breast and cervical cancer and in colorectal cancer. It’s also been tested with positive effects on a number of other cancer cell lines. It has a slightly bitter taste and goes well with sweet vegetables like carrots and parsnips. It can be used in salad dressings and as a topping to egg and cheese dishes. Chili pepper The most abundant ingredient in red chili peppers is capsaicin. It has potent anticancer effects. It won this reputation by targeting multiple signalling pathways and genes associated with cancer at different stages of the disease including initiation, promotion, progression and metastasis. There’s a huge variety of chili peppers available, ranging from mild to scorching hot, depending on the amount of capsaicin they contain. If you are not keen on the hot ones, you will still benefit from mild varieties. Saffron Saffron is a highly prized spice that’s been revered for its medicinal properties for centuries. It offers protection against almost every cancer threat. In lab studies, it slowed down and even reversed tumour growth. It’s shown anti-cancer effects in colorectal, non-small cell lung, breast, liver, prostate, skin and blood cancers. It achieves this by triggering apoptosis, impeding angiogenesis and curbing metastasis. While saffron is expensive, only a tiny amount is needed to flavour and colour dishes. It goes well with rice and seafood, and can be added to soups, stews and sauces. Ones that look promising are cloves, cinnamon, galangal and cardamon. Cinnamon is already well known as a “medicine” for high blood sugar. With the wide variety of flavors and fragrances available and the multiple dishes where you can use them, you should be able to find some you like. I can’t think of a more pleasant way to improve your health.