Spices for Prevention and Treatment of Cancers

Nutrients. 2016 Aug 12;8(8):495. doi: 10.3390/nu8080495.


Spices have been widely used as food flavorings and folk medicines for thousands of years. Numerous studies have documented the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects of spices, which might be related to prevention and treatment of several cancers, including lung, liver, breast, stomach, colorectum, cervix, and prostate cancers. Several spices are potential sources for prevention and treatment of cancers, such as Curcuma longa (tumeric), Nigella sativa (black cumin), Zingiber officinale (ginger), Allium sativum (garlic), Crocus sativus (saffron), Piper nigrum (black pepper) and Capsicum annum (chili pepper), which contained several important bioactive compounds, such as curcumin, thymoquinone, piperine and capsaicin. The main mechanisms of action include inducing apoptosis, inhibiting proliferation, migration and invasion of tumors, and sensitizing tumors to radiotherapy and chemotherapy. This review summarized recent studies on some spices for prevention and treatment of cancers, and special attention was paid to bioactive components and mechanisms of action.

Keywords: cancer; capsaicin; curcumin; spice; thymoquinone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Benzodioxoles / pharmacology
  • Benzoquinones / pharmacology
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology
  • Capsicum / chemistry
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Crocus / chemistry
  • Curcuma / chemistry
  • Curcumin / pharmacology
  • Garlic / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Nigella sativa / chemistry
  • Phytotherapy / methods*
  • Piper nigrum / chemistry
  • Piperidines / pharmacology
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / pharmacology
  • Spices*
  • Zingiber officinale / chemistry


  • Alkaloids
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Benzodioxoles
  • Benzoquinones
  • Piperidines
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Curcumin
  • thymoquinone
  • Capsaicin
  • piperine