I can’t think of a cancer-fighting goal that could be easier than growing (and enjoying) fresh herbs in your garden. When cancer researchers suggest that you eat a “plant-based diet”, I think many people think of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and legumes. But I think most forget that herbs and spices are an important part of a cancer-fighting, plant-based diet too.
The Healthiest Herbs Contain Phytonutrients
Herbs, like other healthy plants in our diet, contain phytonutrients—healthy plant nutrients. I have assembled this chart below to give you a quick look at some of the herbs you will find at your local garden centre or grocery store. The chart includes information on the cancer-fighting evidence for these herbs too. I’ve restricted this to the herbs that are easy to find and grow, as I’m not expecting you to plant a cinnamon tree in your yard.
Want to know the neat part of this recommendation to grow and enjoy fresh herbs? Not only will eating the herbs have beneficial health effects but studies show gardening is beneficial too! Double wow!
The seven herbs in my chart are super easy to grow. You may even find that mint and sage will grow as perennials for you. Some people complain about mint taking over the garden, so if you don’t want that, then plant it in a pot or contained space.
When you go to the garden centre, you will see several forms of most of these herbs. For example, Italian oregano, purple basil, lemon basil, French thyme, and others. Just plant the ones you enjoy the most. They all contain the same active ingredient, so you will get the health benefits no matter which flavour version you choose. Some with added colour like purple basil will contain pigments that aren’t in the green variety. As a general rule, pigments in herbs are members of the carotenoid family, a beneficial group of phytonutrients.
Healthiest Herbs and their Evidence
If you want to cook with fresh herbs, try these recipes
Aggarwal B, Kunnumakkara A, Kuzhuvelil B et al. Potential of Spice-Derived Phytochemicals for Cancer Prevention. Plants Med. 2008 Oct;74(13):1560-9.
Aggarwal B, Van Kuiken ME, Iyer LH, Kuzhuvelil B et al. Molecular Targets of Nutraceuticals Derived From Dietary Spices: Potential Role in Suppression of Inflammation and Tumorigenesis. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2009 Aug;23(8):825-49
Blair C, Madan-Swain A, Locher JL, Desmond RA et al. Harvest for Health Gardening Intervention Feasibility Study in Cancer Survivors. Acta Oncol. 2013 Aug;52(6):1110-8.
Sung B, Prasad S, Yadav V and Aggarwal B. Cancer Cell Signaling Pathways Targeted by Spice-Derived Nutraceuticals. Nutr Cancer. 2012;64(2):173-97.
Gupta S, Kim JH, Sahdeo P and Aggarwal B. Regulation of Survival, Proliferation, Invasion, Angiogenesis, and Metastasis of Tumor Cells Through Modulation of Inflammatory Pathways by Nutraceuticals. Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2010 Sep;29(3):405-34.