Cancer Fighting Cabbage

CabbageOver thousands of years, cabbage has been used to treat many different health issues – stomach ulcers, mastitis, boils and even hangovers!More recently however, researchers are keen to understand and harness cabbage’s anti-cancer effects.


Cabbage has many active compounds that contribute to its activity. These include:

–          Dithiolthiones

–          Glucosinolates

–          Indoles

–          Isothiocyanates

–          Coumarins

–          Phenols

These compounds act as antioxidants and tumour growth inhibitors, blocking carcinogens from attaching to cells and bolstering detoxification mechanisms.

Cabbage and cancer prevention…

As broccoli and cabbage are from the same cruciferous family, they share a great deal in common. The active compounds (as mentioned above), include sulforaphane and other isothiocyanates, which protect cells and DNA from damage by free radicals, and inhibit cancer cell growth.

A research study examined the effects of cabbage juice on human breast cancer cells and their oestrogen receptors. It was found that the juice had several effects on the cells…

These included:

–          Reduction of DNA synthesis.

–          Inhibiting cancer cell growth.

–          At higher concentrations, the juice displayed cytotoxic properties toward the cancer cells.[1]

In addition, a review of various research studies showed that the consumption of cabbage and other members of cruciferous family created a significantly decreased risk for development of stomach, lung, rectal, colon, endometrial, prostate, ovarian and breast cancer. The implications for this are enormous, and clearly show what a difference can be made to patient outcomes in relation to creating and maintaining long-term good health, with simple dietary changes.

Which type of cabbage is the best?

Cabbages come in a lovely variety of colour. Red cabbages look great in salad, while green or savoy cabbages are wonderful in Asian dishes like Chow Mein. They do however, have different nutrient content.

Red cabbages contain anthocyanins – phytonutrients also commonly found in berries and other purple/red fruits and vegetables. These little beauties possess anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and analgesic properties. Both types of cabbage contain iron, vitamin A and vitamin C is large amounts, although red cabbage contains considerably more.

To maintain the nutritional quality of cabbage, cook it only lightly or eat it raw, and preferably by steaming. Sauerkraut is a particularly nutritious way to add cabbage to the diet, as the fermentation process means that it also contains valuable probiotics and vitamin K to promote and maintain gut health.



Key words: cancer, isthiocyanates, sulforaphane, cabbage

[1]Brandi, G et al. Mechanisms of action and antiproliferative properties of Brassica oleracea in human breast cancer cell lines. J Nutr. 2005 Jun;135(6):1503-9