I love ginger — gingerbread, ginger snaps, ginger candy. I sprinkle ground ginger in curries, stir it into my tea, and suck on ginger root when my throat is sore. And you should too — not because I say so, but because it may be a defense against cancer.
US researchers say gingerol, an active compound in the herb which gives it its pungent flavor, may inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells.
Agence France Presse reports that the findings of a University of Minnesota study were presented Tuesday at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Phoenix, AZ.
In a small trial involving 40 mice who were injected with human colorectal cancer cells, the ones given supplements of the compound 6-gingerol showed slower rates of cancer growth, according to a study from the University of Minnesota.
The first tumors appeared 15 days after the beginning of the experiment, and 13 of the control mice had developed measurable tumours by this point.
Among the other 20 mice, who were given human cancer cells but were also fed half a milligram of the ginger compound three times a week, only four had similar-sized tumours by day 15.
By day 38, all of the control mice had measurable tumours. But it was not until 10 days later that all the mice on ginger supplements reached that milestone.
The study protocol called for the animals to be euthanised once the tumour reached a certain size — about the size of nickel or small coin — out of concern for the animal’s welfare.
All of the control mice reached that point by day 49, whereas 12 of the 20 6-gingerol were still alive on that day.
“The results strongly suggest that ginger compounds may slow the growth of cancers or reduce the size of established tumours,” said Ann Bode, an associate professor of research at the University of Minnesota’s Hormel Institute in Austin, Minnesota.
Henry Scowcroft, a science information officer with Cancer Research UK, which is helping fund a Europe-wide study into diet and cancer, told the BBC, “We know that what we eat affects our risk of developing cancer, particularly bowel cancer, and it’s estimated that a third of all cancers may be linked to diet.
“The results of the -gingerol study are interesting, and hint that it is a worthy candidate for further investigation.”
A second study presented to the AACR offers potential hope for those dealing with prostate cancer. Researchers from Nebraska’s Union College looked at the properties of Scutellaria barbata (SB), a Chinese herb related to mint, which is traditionally used to treat maladies including cancers of the liver, lung and rectum. It appears SB may be able to slow the growth of prostate cancer.
Dr Brian Wong, who led the study, said: “We are finding that, in this case, the therapeutic value of natural herbs is presenting itself as clinically valid.
“As we further study Scutellaria barbata, we hope to find the same benefits against prostate cancer in human models.”
Further research will be conducted on both ginger and Scuterllaria barbata to determine their benefits to human health. In the meantime, I suggest ginger-mint tea for everyone. Couldn’t hurt, and it just may help.