Plant Chemicals

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Foods Fight Cancer
by Jim Meuninck

Raspberries (Rubus idaeus) contain ellagic acid (ellagic tannins).  Eating one hundred grams per day of pureed raspberries may reduce the risk of cancer.  

Renowned cancer fighting institutions such as Johns Hopkins University Medical School; Hollings Cancer Center, Medical University South Carolina and the Arthur G. James Cancer hospital and Research Institute at Ohio State Medical School and others are exploring how phytochemicals from plant foods may help prevent or treat cancer.

According to Pharmacologist Dr. Paul Talalay at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions broccoli sprouts "...may offer a simple dietary means of chemically reducing cancer risk." Sulforaphane a chemical hydrolized from isothiocyanate in broccoli sprouts (and broccoli florets to a lessor extent) promotes the activity of phase two detoxification enzymes to protect cells from mutations and biochemical damage. Animal studies showed sulforaphane reduced cancer incidence and reduced tumor size. Broccoli sprouts are great sprinkled over soups, meat dishes, vegetables, salads. Put them on sandwiches.

Isothiocyanate Converts to Sulforephane in the Mouth

At the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Research Institute at Ohio State University researchers have discovered inhibitors of chemical carcinogenensis. These chemopreventative anti cancer agents include phenethyl isothiocyanate, phenylpropyl isothiocyanate, phenylbutyl isothiocyanate and phenylhexyl siothiocyanate, indole-3-carvinol and ellagic acid. Experiments were carried out on laboratory mice. Isothiocyanates and ellagic acid can be obtained from food. Isothiocyanates are in broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and Bok Choy. Ellagic acid is in raspberries, walnuts, pecans, grapes, strawberries and cranberries.

Ellagic Acid Fights Cancer

Ellagic acid a naturally occurring phenolic compound from raspberries, strawberries, grapes, walnuts, pecans and cranberries is an antimutagen, anticarcinogen and inhibitor of cancer. Raspberries contain about thre times as much ellagic acid as strawberries and walnuts (approx: 1500 micrograms/gram dry weight in raspberries). Dr. Daniel Nixon of Hollings Cancer Center suggests that 150 grams or one cup of raspberries slows growth of abnormal colon cells in humans, may prevent and destroy development of cells infected with human papilloma virus the cause of cervical cancer and in laboratory studies ellagic acid breaks down (apoptosis) human leukenia cells. Much of the ellagic acid is in the seeds, thus it is necessary to puree the fruit. This leads me to believe that, although walnuts have only one third the amount of ellagic acid as raspberries, it may be more bioavailable. If I were to use ellagic acid against cancer I would puree raspberries and strawberries, stir in some crushed walnuts, and use the blend on my high fiber Paleo waffle (recipe below).

A study is currently underway evaluating the effect of ellagic acid from raspberries on women with atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS). About 10% of all Pap smears in the United States present ASCUS. This represents 5 million females. These women infected with human papilloma viruses (types 16 and/or 18) are at risk of developing cervical cancer. The more invasive, immature metaplastic form of ASCUS is found in approximately one million American women. In the study, women with ASCUS will receive either a placebo or raspberry puree in dosages providing a detectable tissue level in the cervix.

Ellagic acid in test tube studies inhibits the mutagenic activity of aflatoxin B1.

Elsewhere, in animal studies, curcumin from turmeric, a spice, rich in cancer preventing antioxidants was combined with ellagic acid to reduce the amount of aberrant bone marrow cells and chromosome damage in mice with radiation induced toxicity. Curcumin the yellow agent in the spice turmeric may inhibit chemically induced preneoplastic lesions in the breast and colon as well as neoplastic lesions in the skin, duodenum, colon, and forestomach of rodents. It is a tasty and healthy idea to begin incorporating curcumin in your diet. Curry powders are loaded with antioxidant rich spices and herbs including curcumin.

Flavonoids from Teas Provide Antioxidants

Green tea, chamomile tea, lemon balm tea, black tea, oolong tea and mint teas provide us with cancer fighting bioflavonoids. The polyphenols in green and black tea may be anticarcinogenic. Flavonoids in herb teas contain cancer fighting antioxidants. In vitro studies, suggest green tea polyphenols inhibit carcinogen induced skin, lung, forestomach, esophagus, duodenum and colon tumors in rodents. The most active chemical is (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate or EGCG.

Plant Chemistry Destroys Cancer Cells

A recent study reported by Joel Schwartz of Howard University showed a mixture of plant chemicals including beta-carotene, retinyl palmitate, dl-alpha tocopherol (vitamin E), ascorbic acid (Vit. C) and glutathione produced  a greater suppressive effect in oral cancer cells inducing programmed cell death (apoptosis).  This mixture induced a greater degree of tumor growth suppression than any one of the single phytochemicals alone.  Studies like this help to substantiate that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, whole, live foods may be your best prevention against cancer.

More Research Needed

Another study by David Kritichemsky et, al. at the Wistar Institute reports that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) from homogenized milk, cheese, lamb and other meat products inhibited tumors in laboratory animals.  Critical in the use of meats as a preventative was the temperature at which it was cooked.  CLA from fresh ground beef cooked at 191 degree centigrade was an effective tumor inhibitor, whereas flame broiled or high temperature cooked hamburger heated to 300 degrees centigrade formed carcinogens that were mutagenic.  It is hypothesized that 3.5 grams of CLA may provide tumor inhibition in humans.  Studies are underway to increase the amount of CLA in milk. Ten grams of lamb fat would contain about 3.5 grams of CLA.  Depending on the cut of lamb this may require eating anywhere from 100 to 200 grams of meat.  Of course, this was an animal study and until human trials support this preliminary evidence, I suggest nibble on cheese and eat lamb only if you like it.

Recipe after references...



PDR for Herbal Medicines. Medical Economics Co.pp.1105-1105; 1999.

Meuninck, Corson, Holt, Behnke Strasser: Diet for Natural Health, Media Methods, Video 1999.

Talaly, Paul, Protection Against Cancer by Phytocyhemicals That Induce Phase 2 Enzymes:  the Broccoli Connection..Advances in Nutritional Oncology:  From Carcinogenesis to Therapeutic Intervention; NOAT 4th Annual Congress, Presented by Ohio State U. Comprehensive Cancer Center

Nixon, Daniel, Carcinogenesis Through the Eyes of the Nutritional Oncologist...Advances in Nutritional Oncology:  From Carcinogenesis to Therapeutic Intervention; NOAT 4th Annual Congress, Presented by Ohio State U. Comprehensive Cancer Center

Schwartz, Joel, A Mixture of Chemopreventives Modifying the Oxidative State and Inducing Programmed Cell Death in Human Oral Carcinoma Cells. 

Kritchevsky, David; Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and Carcinogenesis. Cancer Prevention International, Cognizant Communication Corporation,  Vol 3 No. 3/4  PP.199-205. 1998.

There are numerous other foods, supplements, herbs and medical botanicals that protect you from degenerative diseases see: 
Natural Health with Medicinal Herbs   
Diet for Natural Health
Diet for Natural Health Interactive Computer Database

New Book:
Basic Essentials of Edible Wild Plants Book

RECIPE:  Paleo Waffle


-1 Cup lowfat Bisquick

-1 cup 8, 12, or 20 grain cereal

-1 lemon

-4 or 5 T of wild rice

-1/4 cup of chopped walnuts

-skim milk

-one egg white

Optional: -1/4 cup of ground flax seeds

                -1/4 cup of chopped almonds

Cook wild rice for 7 minutes then add multi grain cereal for two more minutes. Stir rice, cereal and Bisquick together with milk, egg white, nuts and lemon juice. Add other ingredients. Spray waffle iron with Canola spray and pour on batter.


For more anti-cancer tips see:
Diet for Natural Health
Natural Health with Medicinal Herbs and Healing Foods