Ginger, thyme, rosemary, parsley and sage all contain molecules that can slow the progress of cancer cells. But do these molecules remain intact after cooking? Most of them do indeed.

“Mariela”, who suffers from ovarian cancer, has written to me to ask for more information about the efficacy of ginger against this type of cancerous cells. She’s worried that she won’t be able to eat ginger raw (as I do, for breakfast every day!) and wants to know whether the precious gingerol substance that ginger contains remains intact after infusion in hot water and after cooking.

Thanks to the contacts available to me via my friend the nutritionist and biochemist Thierry Souccar (who runs a website on nutrition in France), I’ve tracked down a study performed by a young researcher at Kingston University in Britain. This young woman studied numerous cooking processes (including the microwave) and their impact on the antioxidant effect of different aromatic herbs and ginger. (1)

Her results demonstrate that most methods of cooking do preserve the benefits – at least, the antioxidant properties – of the molecules contained in these substances. Infusions, soups and consommés are the most effective cooking processes; grilling and frying do reduce the benefits slightly, but do not cancel them out completely. Incidentally, the study also found that freezing the products at -20° also preserves their antioxidant properties.

To answer all of Mariela’s queries, I’ll add that there is no problem combining ginger with green tea as a hot infusion. On the contrary -- it’s a very good idea. An inch or so of ginger is a sufficient quantity for a day, taken as ginger tea; the traditional length of time that the ginger should be infused is 10-15 minutes.

My best to all.

1. Chohan M, Forster-Wilkins G, Opara E. Determination of the Antioxidant Capacity of Culinary Herbs Subjected to Various Cooking and Storage Processes Using the ABTS(*+) Radical Cation Assay. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 2008;E-Pub-Ahead-of-Print.