Wouldn't it be nice to know that every time you took a mouthful of healthy food any cancer cells lurking in your body would take fright and commit suicide?
Well that's probably what happens when you drink a bottle of REAL ginger ale, have a cup of ginger tea or eat a bunch of those delicious slices of pink ginger with your sushi meal. This is more or less what occurs according to new research published in the February 2010 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Those of us who keep an eye on these things have known for many years that several compounds found in the ginger rhizome have anti-cancer activity. Phytonutrients such as zingerone, gingerol, curcumin and paradol have strong anti-mutagenic activity. Not only do they protect against DNA damage and the inflammation that underlies most types of cancer, but they also have the ability to kill existing cancer cells.
Now researchers based in Taiwan and the USA have discovered that another ginger-based compound, shogaol also has powerful anti-cancer activities.
Shogaol - the Japanese name for ginger - is a pungent compound similar to gingerol that contributes to this spice's delicious flavor. More importantly, the researchers have found that this compound has the ability to induce leukemia cells to commit hara-kiri - or as the scientists like to call it - apoptosis.
Human cells have a built-in timer, the HRK (hara-kiri) gene that programs them to die within a given time frame. This process is called apoptosis - and, as cancer cells do not have this lifespan limiting factor programmed into their DNA, they are more or less immortal and continue to proliferate.
However, in spices such as ginger we have allies that can actually induce apoptosis in several cancer cell lines. By means of several mechanisms these compounds have the ability to interfere with cancer at both DNA and cellular level thereby inducing apoptosis in a number of different malignancies.
Ginger based shogaol now joins this elite group of cancer fighting compounds as this current laboratory-based research shows that it has the ability to induce apoptosis in human leukemia cells.
It will be a long time before anyone will be using shogaol in clinical trials to see if it can successfully treat existing malignancies such as leukemia. However this research does reiterate what many of us have been saying for a long time - that common, culinary herbs and spices contain compounds that have the ability to protect us against cancer and several other diseases.
In the mean time we need to look at this research from a preventive rather than a therapeutic perspective. The evidence is there and to benefit from it we need to make a commitment to increase our daily intake of beneficial culinary herbs and spices such as ginger.
Scientific References: Induction of Apoptosis by -Shogaol via Reactive Oxygen Species Generation, Glutathione Depletion, and Caspase Activation in Human Leukemia Cells J. Agric. Food Chem., February 17, 2010 Po-Chuen Shieh, Yi-Own Chen, Daih-Huang Kuo, et. al.
Keith Scott is a medical doctor with an interest in the healing properties of spices and phytonutrients. He has written several books including "Medicinal Seasonings, The Healing Power of Spices". To download a free pdf copy of his book, "Medicinal Seasonings" and read more about the health benefits of spices go to: => http://www.medicinal-herbs-and-spices.com
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