Two popular holiday spices appear to be excellent at reducing the size of cancerous tumors. Rosemary and thyme are among those herbs and spices (like basil, mint, sage, savory, marjoram, and oregano) which are rich in antioxidants but also popular in many dishes.
In 2019, the International Journal of Molecular Science published a study on the anti-tumor effects of thyme. The study found that in mice, two different concentrations of thyme reduced the volume of tumors by 85 percent in one concentration and 84 percent in another. In rats, researchers found reductions in the frequency of tumors by approximately 53 percent compared to a control group.
Why does thyme have anti-tumor effects? Scientists think terpenoids, a group of phytochemicals found in thyme, work as antioxidants and may be the key component that protect cells from cancer.
The study author stated: “It is well known that phytochemicals with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and immuno-modulatory activity can reduce the growth and spread of cancer.”
Rosemary is another aromatic herb that is rich in phytochemicals and has demonstrated anti-cancer properties. Several studies have shown that rosemary inhibits the growth of tumors by preventing cancerous cells from replicating.
Rosemary is rich in carnosol, a phytochemical that can slow cancer cell growth, strengthen immune functions, reduce the production of cancer-related hormones and is an antioxidant. Aside from carnosol, other compounds like carnosic acids, rustic acids and rosmarinic acid, have all proven effective in the fight against cancer.
In 2011, a meta-analysis published in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition examined the protective effects of rosemary on colorectal cancer and other types of cancer. Turns out there’s extensive literature from animal and cell studies demonstrating the anticancer potential of rosemary extract.
Another study suggests that rosemary extract may inhibit tumor growth by preventing cancerous cells from replicating. One study found that rosemary, on its own and in combination with curcumin, helped prevent breast cancer.
One researcher, J. Scott Smith, was working on a research project at the University of Kansas when he discovered the anticancer effects of rosemary. His research suggested that adding rosemary extracts to beef patties reduced the levels of carcinogenic compounds like HCAs by 30 to 100 percent. HCA’s are produced when grilling meat when it reaches a high temperature and chars. HCA’s have been found to cause cancer. Since straight dried rosemary would not taste good on a burger or steak, he recommends using rosemary extracts.
In 2014, research published in the PLOSOne reinforced rosemary’s anticancer qualities after showing that rosemary extract given orally significantly suppressed tumor growth by 46 percent in mice.
As food, thyme and rosemary are typically used as flavor enhancers. Thyme is used more in Mediterranean cooking while rosemary is more common in Italian and French cuisine. Rosemary and thyme both go great in any kind of sauce or soup that uses tomatoes. Rosemary and garlic go great in mashed potatoes. Thyme is lovely in any kind of vegetable. However you use it, using either means you’re probably cooking and not eating out — which is always a good thing!
While the research is intriguing, it’s essential to approach these findings with caution. Cancer cells in a laboratory or in mice may not react the same as cancer cells in humans. Incorporating rosemary and thyme into a well-balanced diet can be part of a healthy lifestyle, but relying on them alone for cancer prevention is not recommended. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and other healthy lifestyle choices are crucial components of overall cancer prevention.