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Cancer Health Center

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Some Herbs May Fight Cancer

Anticancer Effects Reported for Ginger, Barbed Skullcap, Green Tea
WebMD Health News

Oct. 28, 2003 -- You might already have some of the newest cancer-fighting drugs. But you'll find them in your kitchen, not in your medicine cabinet.

New studies show anticancer effects in ginger, tea made from a Chinese herb called barbed skullcap, and the more traditional green tea. The reports were presented this week's Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting, sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research.

Ginger for Colon Cancer

Ginger's intense flavor comes from its main ingredient -- a chemical called [6]-gingerol. And that's not all this chemical does, says Ann Bode, PhD, assistant director of the Hormel Institute at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Bode gave a small dose of gingerol to 20 mice three times a week. The mice -- which lack an immune system -- ate the ginger ingredient before and after getting injections of human colon tumor cells.

"Mice that received gingerol had a very marked inhibition of human cancer growth," Bode said at a news conference.

How impressive are the results? Well, it's only mice. But the University of Minnesota has applied for a patent on the use of [6]-gingerol as an anticancer agent. It has already licensed the technology to Pediatric Pharmaceuticals of Iselin, N.J.

Of course, all fresh ginger contains gingerol. How much would you have to eat to get an anticancer effect? Not much -- but it depends on the freshness of the ginger and the kind of ginger you get.

"The ginger component we used is a primary component of ginger root," Bode tells WebMD. "There can be a half gram of it per gram of ginger root, but this depends on how the ginger is processed and how it is grown. We really don't know how much ginger root you would have to eat to get the same effect we saw in mice. However, in the popular literature, people have consumed 2-8 grams twice a day with no toxic effect. I am not saying I recommend that, but depending on their culture a lot of people eat a lot of ginger."

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