Ginger Is Considered An Anti­cancer Food

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Ginger Anticancer Food
Ginger Is Considered An Anti­cancer Food. Graphic © Photo © AdobeStock 57425866 (under license)

Several scientific studies have now supported the idea that ginger has anti-cancer qualities! Let’s look at a few of these.

In 2013 scientists discovered that 6­-Shogaol, a major component of ginger, induces apoptosis (cell death) in human leukemia cells both in vitro and in vivo – without side effects! [1] This is an important result as in vivo indicates that the compound is active not only in lab cultures but in in living organisms. The study reports that 6-shogaol “markedly inhibited tumor growth and induced apoptosis in U937 xenograft mouse model.”

A further important study [2] was published in 2014 regarding the action of 6-shogaol against cancer cells. 6-shogaol was found to have amazing activity against breast cancer cells in cell cultures in the lab – including action against simulations of cancer cells that chemotherapy drug taxol showed no activity against even at high concentrations of 10,000x. Unlike chemotherapeutic drugs that harm healthy cells, the concentrations at which 6-shogaol is effective only affects cancer cells – normal cells were resistant to the effects of the substance after 6 days.

This “selective action” is rightly considered a hugely important attribute for a cancer medicine! The great challenge of cancer medicine has in fact been to kill the cancer cells without killing healthy cells. The study concluded that 6-shogaol was 2 to 5 times as active than taxol against the “regular” breast cancer cells.

Note that this 2014 research was an in vitro lab study and this substance is metabolized as it is absorbed by the body. It is not established how much of this substance would be available at the target site in a living person (bioavailability) – and that may affect how effective it is against actual cancer cells. However the aforementioned in vivo result of 2013 [1] would seem to indicate that some of the compound is finding its target, which is highly encouraging.

In 2008, a previous study investigated the bioavailability of 6-shogaol. It was found that 6-shogaol is absorbed by the body after oral dosing but is ultimately bio-converted (either in the liver or intestinal mucosa, researchers were not sure) to glucuronide conjugates – which can be detected in serum for a few hours after ingestion; before being eliminated by the body’s natural processes. [3]

A further study from the esteemed Oxford University Press, published in Carcinogenesis (2014), [4] has found that ginger extract “showed 2.4-fold higher tumor growth-inhibitory efficacy than isolated constituents”. In addition, gingerol glucuronides were detected in feces upon intravenous administration confirming that the substance is cleared out from the body effectively by the liver.

What this means in more simple terms is that the action of whole ginger may prove to be more beneficial than that of individual molecules isolated from it. This is in a sense a win for herbalism over pharmaceutical and highlights something herbalists have maintained for a long time, which is that the numerous components of a whole extract may have synergistic effects. This makes fundamental sense when you consider that the natural, unadulterated form is that which our bodies are evolutionarily adapted to. That’s something that big pharma might not want you to know…

Note of course that we absolutely cannot claim that ginger “will cure cancer” – and much research still needs to be done, but ginger is a “generally recognized as safe” foodstuff that is available to us right now! So if you want to give your immune system a boost and potentially help fight against cancer cells, simply add some ginger to your diet!

You can opt to add fresh grated or sliced ginger to your drinks (like ginger tea or even water with some ginger and mint). Salads? Grated or finely chopped ginger can be added easily. If you cook, you can add ginger as a spice to your stir-fry or grated ginger to bread and cakes as well!


[1] Qun Liu 6-Shogaol induces apoptosis in human leukemia cells through a process involving caspase-mediated cleavage of eIF2α (Mol Cancer, 2013)

[2] Ray A, Vasudevan S, & Sengupta S. (2014). 6-Shogaol Inhibits Breast Cancer Cells and Stem Cell-Like Spheroids by Modulation of Notch Signaling Pathway and Induction of Autophagic Cell Death.

[3] Zick S, Djuric Z, et al. (2009). Pharmacokinetics of 6-, 8-, 10-Gingerols and 6-Shogaol and Conjugate Metabolites in Healthy Human Subjects.

[4] Gundala SR, Mukkavilli R, et al. (2014). Enterohepatic recirculation of bioactive ginger phytochemicals is associated with enhanced tumor growth-inhibitory activity of ginger extract.

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