Members of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), such as ginger (Zingiber officinale) and turmeric (Chucuma longa),have been common and important herbs in Chinese medicine for centuries. Ginger is a remedy used for stomach disorders and nausea. Turmeric formulas are employed for pain relief.

The ginger family is now undergoing tests under Western protocols for its anti-cancer properties. The British Journal of Cancer (1999, vol. 80) reports that researchers in Malaysia have found some ginger species capable of blocking the onset and growth of cancer tumors.

Out of 12 ginger species tested, extracts of seven showed strong anti-tumor properties. Turmeric extracts completely inhibited cancer cell growth. And while ginger also showed strong results, the strength of the ginger extract determined its effectiveness, unlike that of turmeric.

The researchers conclude that roots of some ginger family members may be useful in preventing cancer and that at-risk populations should be encouraged to include them in their diet. Further work is now under way to isolate and identify the inhibiting ingredient(s).