Spice up your food for cancer prevention: Cancer chemo-prevention by natural compounds from common dietary spices

Jie Gao, Kanza Mamouni, Lei Zhang, Bal L. Lokeshwar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


Spices play a unique role in food preparation and provide ethnic identity to cuisines. Spices are appreciated not only for their flavor but also known for their healing effects on both chronic or lethal diseases such as diabetes and cancer. A large corpus of scientific studies supports the cancer-preventive properties of spices, such as garlic, ginger, chili pepper, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, saffron, and cardamom, the most common flavoring food items used globally. The focus of this review is on these spices that contain multiple bioactive compounds, some of which, in experimental models and human clinical studies, have shown significant anticancer and cancer preventive activities. The presence of high amounts of bioactive compounds such as alkaloids, flavones, polyphenols, triterpenes, and saponins in common spices have the potential to function as medicines that can prevent chronic metabolic diseases and even cancer. As anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory, immune function modulators, and inducers of apoptosis in tumor cells, the bioactive compounds may be useful as single agents or as adjuvants. The molecular mechanisms of their biological action are their abilities to induce epigenetic modifications such as methylation, acetylation, ubiquitination, and suppression of lipid peroxidation. The low toxicity of these spices makes them favorable as chemopreventive agents. However, the significant therapeutic efficacy of these compounds in scientific clinical trials is still equivocal. Rigorous studies on human subjects are required to improve their bioavailability and standardize their clinical effectiveness. Such studies could define appropriate intervention strategies for maximum benefits from the dietary spices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEvolutionary Diversity as a Source for Anticancer Molecules
PublisherElsevier Science Ltd.
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9780128217108
ISBN (Print)9780128216989
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Bioactive compounds
  • Bioavailability
  • Chemoprevention
  • Clinical trials
  • Dietary spices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Spice up your food for cancer prevention: Cancer chemo-prevention by natural compounds from common dietary spices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this