What’s on your anti-cancer diet menu this morning? Oat bran and green tea? How about combining the green leaves with these yellow buds for some special effects?
Yes, we’re talking chamomile flowers–to make yourself an herbal tea, caffeine-free and calming. As “one of the oldest, most widely used and well documented medicinal plants in the world,” chamomile’s been used for thousands of years on a variety of ailments–from insomnia and nightmares to ulcers, hemorrhoids, cracked nipples, eczema and gastrointestinal disorders, to name a few. It’s anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and now there’s evidence that it’s also anti-cancerous.
One of the ways it helps fight cancer is by regulating blood sugar. In a 2008 study, Japanese researchers found that a hot water extract of chamomile had several stabilizing effects on the blood glucose levels in laboratory rats.
Dr. Jonathan Blay, a cancer researcher at the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy, says that chamomile contains a promising compound that also works directly against cancer cells, according to many lab studies. We talked about that compound in last week’s blog post.
Apigenin, he says, suppresses growth of human cancer cells, encourages them to commit cell-suicide (called apoptosis), and hinders the process of angiogenesis–the development of blood vessels that allows tumors to grow and spread. ” As such, apigenin may provide some additional benefit beyond existing drugs in slowing the emergence of metastatic disease, ” he concludes in his review.
So should we wait for the studies in humans before adding chamomile to our anti-cancer diets? As I approach my 60s, I’m not sure I have time to wait. While a few herbal remedies are clearly troublesome, chamomile’s listed on the FDA’s generally-recognized-as-safe list, and the risks associated with drinking it seem virtually nil. (Please read this review and decide for yourself. If you’re allergic to daisies, you might reconsider.)
Like Detective Kojac, however, I have one more question: Does that apigenin actually dissolve in water? Sure, we could eat the flowers along with our parsley, the two best sources of apigenin, but are we really getting it when we drink the tea?
Yes, it’s soluble to a degree in hot water–although probably not entirely, Blay suggests. So what to do? You could just make the tea stronger or have another cup, he says.
Or, he agrees, you could also eat the flowers.
Tasted them, and they’re pretty bland. I think I’ll just stick to drinking chamomile tea 24/7 on my anti-cancer diet– mixed with a few green tea leaves each morning, for some healthy catechins and some not-so-healthy-but-I-need-it caffeine.