Are Herbs and Spice Beneficial for Lung Cancer Patients?

Kylie Buchan RDN, CSO, Savor Health

When you are undergoing lung cancer treatment, food may not be as desirable. This is especially true if your taste has diminished or changed. Adding herbs and spices to your foods can help enhance the flavors and make them more enjoyable to eat. But did you know that certain spices are beneficial for your health as a lung cancer patient? Below are a just a few spices and herbs to consider when cooking or preparing your meals to benefit your health and nutritional status.


Whether used as a fresh root or ground powder, ginger can provide benefit for the lung cancer patient. Ginger has been shown to help relieve or lessen the severity of nausea. Using this spice in soups, teas, and stir-fry dishes is a great way to incorporate it. Ginger tea is simple to make. Start by heating a cup of water on the stove. To your tea mug, add a slice of fresh ginger or ¼ tsp ground ginger, a squeeze of lemon, and 1 tsp of honey. Add your hot water and let the ginger steep for a few minutes before drinking.


Turmeric is a member of the curcumin family. It has a bright orange color and distinctive flavor. Research has shown that turmeric is a beneficial spice for heart health, as well as cancer prevention. It may also help with inflammation. A good way to incorporate turmeric is to add small amounts to chicken or vegetable dishes, or you can make turmeric milk or tea. Add ½ tsp of turmeric powder into warmed milk or water, along with some ground ginger, and a bit of honey for a tasty and healthy drink. While adding the powder to your food and drink can be beneficial for your health, it is not recommended to take turmeric as a supplement when you are undergoing lung cancer treatment. It could interact with your treatment medications or cause unwanted side effects.


Cinnamon is one of the most popular spices in the American culture. It is flavorful, warm, and full of nutritional benefit. It has long been known that cinnamon can help control blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. Recent research has found that cinnamon also has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant benefit as well. This can especially be important for people with lung cancer before and after treatments. Like turmeric, more research is needed regarding cinnamon supplements and the medication interactions for lung cancer patients. Instead, add cinnamon to your oatmeal or hot cereal, apple slices, or even coffee or tea to get the health benefits.


Parsley, basil, and rosemary are just a few of the many herbs that are available in mainstream grocery stores. Herbs have been shown to have anti-oxidant properties and also may help cognitive abilities, including memory. Using fresh or dried herbs are both great options to incorporate into your food. If you aren’t a trained chef, it can be hard to determine what herb to use. Basil is an abundant herb you can add in tomato sauce and pesto, while rosemary is a strong-flavored herb to add to chicken or beef. Oregano is a good choice for Mexican and Mediterranean dishes. If you enjoy the flavor of certain herbs, consider planting a small herb garden at your house. Gardening can be a relaxing activity for lung cancer patients. Herb gardens provide you that benefit without the work of a traditional vegetable garden.


Garlic is not quite an herb or spice, but it is a healthy way to flavor food. Garlic is part of the allium family, along with onions, shallots, and scallions, and for centuries it has been used for health and medicinal purposes. This family has been shown to be healthy for the heart by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, but it is also beneficial for people with lung cancer. Research has shown that garlic can reduce the risk of cancer, as well as having anti-oxidant properties. You don’t have to eat garlic raw to get the benefit (but you can if you want to!). Add minced garlic to chicken, fish, or pasta dishes for added flavor.

As you can see, adding herbs and spices to your meals can give your meals a flavor boost, but may also be beneficial for your health. While these herbs and spices are great additions to your food, they are not recommended to take in supplement form as they are usually in high doses or could interact with your treatment medications. When adding spices and herbs to foods, there is minimal risk of interaction because of the small amount you will use while cooking, so flavor away!

An important note on supplements: you should always ask your doctor or healthcare provider before starting a new supplement or herb.


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