Anti-Cancer Home Garden




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"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease."
- Thomas Edison

Cancer is a political problem more than it is a medical problem.

Dr. Moss anti-cancer home garden 2006 features raspberries, black raspberries, and feverfew.

Moss Reports



Cartoon source



Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. Weekly

Newsletter #172 02/20/05



For thirty years I have studied the constantly changing world of cancer and its treatment. The fruit of this long involvement in the cancer field is The Moss Reports, a comprehensive library of reports on the conventional and alternative treatment of more than 200 individual kinds of cancer. 

For a cancer patient, a Moss Report represents an invaluable guide and handbook for the journey ahead.

If you would like to order a Moss Report for yourself or someone you love, you can do so from our website,, or by calling Diane at 1-800-980-1234 (814-238-3367 from outside the US).

We look forward to helping you.


Looking out my window, I see a study in grays, blacks and whites. My garden lies under a crushing layer of snow. Today, a soft rain is slowly eating away at the fringes of ice in the driveway. Somewhere under the snow my perennial favorites - lavender, asparagus and sorrel - are once again struggling to survive the punishing frost of winter.

Inside the house, a single light bulb casts a golden glow on my papers. A shelf full of interesting teas beckons, but I am still too groggy to put up the water. And scattered over the bed and dresser are those distinctive remedies for the winter blues, the seed catalogs, which started arriving in the mail soon after New Year's Day.

I have relished seed catalogs since childhood. Back then I had little interest in gardening, but a consuming passion to obtain tons of free stuff from large companies. (This is what we did for fun while waiting for personal computers to be invented.) I particularly enjoyed Burpee's catalog, with its pictures of sumptuous sunflowers taller than the young Midwestern women standing next to them. My actual childhood garden consisted of a strip of sandy soil, just one by six feet in size, wedged between my parents' house and the driveway. One summer my mother and I planted carrot seeds, which I promptly forgot about. A year later, noticing some unfamiliar green tops, I dug up a couple of carrot roots, the first time that I realized that store-bought food actually grew in somebody's soil.

There is a reason that gardening is the most popular hobby in many parts of the world. Since the days of Eden, gardening has had something of the numinous about it. Shortly before he fell from royal favor, Francis Bacon (1561-1626), wrote an outstanding essay on gardening.

"God Almighty first planted a Garden," he said, "and, indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures; it is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man; without which buildings and palaces are but gross handy-works."

In 1811, Thomas Jefferson wrote that "no occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden." Many other people of high intellectual accomplishment have found something consoling about rooting around in the roots.

Plants at ASCO

What does that have to do with cancer? Plenty. Many cancer drugs, wrapped so neatly in their sterile containers, have botanical origins. In fact, modern scientific chemotherapy would be inconceivable without plant-based treatments. "The treatments of many diseases owe much to the important medicines that have been derived from plants, and the treatment of cancer is no exception," according to a modern textbook (Cancer Medicine, 5th Ed.) "Unique classes of natural product anticancer drugs have been derived from plants."

At the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting one year, a drug company ringed its display with hundreds of perikwinkle plants. It was a living reminder that several commonly used drugs, vincristine, vinblastine and vinolrebine, originated in the Madagascar variety of this popular garden plant. Taxol and Taxotere are derived from parts of the yew tree. And etoposide and teniposide come from an old American folk remedy, the Mayapple. Camptosar comes from the Chinese "happy tree" (Camptotheca acuminata).

Fruits and vegetables also have the ability to prevent many kinds of cancer. So, as you plan your summer garden (something you can plant even on an apartment window sill), think about the health value of what you grow.

You can start with the most popular of all garden plants, the tomato. Johnny's Selected Seeds, a Maine company that specializes in organic supplies, has a dizzying array of over 40 tomato seed varieties for sale. Over the years, I have tried many of these: determinates and indeterminates, slicing, eating, grape and cherry tomatoes as well as several exotic heirloom varieties. Not all of them seemed worth the effort, although the prolific "Sun Gold" cherry tomatoes have never failed me. In the end, it is probably the amount of TLC that you put into them that makes the biggest difference.

Some European authors say that one should especially seek out fruits and vegetables that have the colors of the traffic light-green, yellow and red. And in the catalog there are tomatoes that fit all three of these categories. Yes, they even have green tomatoes!  Not just the kind that are served up at whistlestop cafés, or in Heinz's Blastin' Green ketchup (a bizarre, artificially-colored product that has now mercifully been discontinued).

Johnny's offers a variety of tomato called "green Zebra," which is a green-striped salad specialty. It is ripe when the green fruit develops a yellow blush. You can mix it with red, yellow, orange and pink varieties for a kind of tomato confetti. Sounds like fun.

Benefits of Lycopene

Red tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that has been much in the news. There are in fact over 450 scientific articles linking lycopene to the prevention of cancer. Perhaps the most exciting of these was a randomized trial at Wayne State, Detroit, that tested the effect of adding lycopene to the diets of men undergoing conventional treatment for prostate cancer. Twenty-six men who had been newly diagnosed with prostate cancer were randomly assigned to receive a tomato extract containing 30 mg of lycopene or no supplementation for three weeks before the complete removal of their prostates (radical prostatectomy).

Nearly twice as many men who took lycopene had small tumors compared to those who didn't get the tomato extract (80 vs. 45 percent). Men who took lycopene were also nearly four times more likely to have the disease confined to the prostate than those who didn't take it (i.e., 73 vs. 18 percent had organ-confined disease). When it came to the widespread involvement of the prostate in cancer-like changes, 33 percent of the controls had this vs. zero percent of the lycopene group! And the average prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels were also lower in the lycopene group compared with the controls. (Kucuk 2002) Those are impressive numbers that should be tested in larger, more rigorous studies.

You can of course buy lycopene supplements, and you might need to in order to get huge therapeutic doses. But for most purposes dietary sources of lycopene are readily available: tomato, tomato products and some other fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon. But make sure to drizzle your tomatoes with olive oil, the way the Italians generally do, since lycopene needs some oil to be properly digested and absorbed. Although I generally favor raw vegetables, scientists tell us that processed tomato products are rich in lycopenes. This includes tomato paste, tomato sauce and, of course, ketchup, which beneficially contains some oil.

Benefits of Organic

Talking of ketchup, a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study from the end of 2004 showed that organic ketchup has three times as much lycopene as some commercial brands. It also contains organic cane sugar as opposed to high-fructose corn syrup, which could be a boon to people with corn allergies. The USDA group tested 13 commercial ketchups - six popular national brands, three organic, two store brands and two from fast-food chains. They found that the organic brands were the most abundant in lycopene: one contained at much as 183 micrograms per gram of ketchup. By contrast, non-organic brands averaged 100 micrograms per gram. In fact, one fast-food brand contained a mere 60 micrograms per gram. Happily, Heinz is now marketing an organic ketchup in supermarkets. (Ishida 2004)

Choosing a tomato product for its lycopene content is relatively easy. First of all, read the label. Reject any product that uses artificial coloring, flavoring or preservatives. Then hold the bottle up to the light. Look for the darkest red color. Since lycopene is the natural red pigment in the tomato, the deeper the shade of red, the more of this phytonutrient you are likely to get.

A word of caution, though: one should use ketchup in moderation - even the organic brands are generally loaded with sugar. Despite what President Reagan thought, ketchup is not a vegetable, although I'm sure he would have taken comfort from this latest USDA finding.

The Cruciferous Vegetables

Then there is the question of cruciferous vegetables. These are not easy to grow, and seem to magnetically attract precisely those cabbage moths, loopers and maggots that devour every square inch of these beauties before they can make it to the kitchen countertop. Broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are beyond my meager gardening skills. But kale is a possibility, especially because of its cold hardiness. It can be planted in the late summer and then harvested even in the snow. The leaves are high in iron and vitamins A and C and their sweet flavor is heightened by a fall frost, something we have no lack of in the northern states.

These cruciferous vegetables are the subject of over 500 scientific articles. Most of these concern the presence of indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a potent anticancer agent. At Johns Hopkins, my summertime neighbor, Paul Talalay, MD, is investigating the use of these compounds in the treatment not just of cancer but of H. pylori infections (Fahey 2004). How times have changed: Johns Hopkins University, the height of scientific respectability, now has an entire Brassica Chemoprotection Laboratory devoted to the study of these vegetables!

A trial at the University of Toronto showed that men who ate cruciferous vegetables had 31 percent less prostate cancer than men who didn't eat them ((Jain 1999).

Eat Allium

Finally, I intend to devote a few of my raised beds this year to the various members of the allium family - onions, garlic, and leeks. Since I live in a cool climate, they grow slowly - and I grow impatient. I usually wind up harvesting the onions in their green, or scallion, phase, which is a delightful addition to many dishes.

There is a staggering variety of 200 different chemical components in garlic (Allium sativum) alone. These include some unusual substances that are unique to this revered plant. Appreciation of garlic's healing properties goes back to the beginnings of recorded history. Sumerian stone tablets dating from 3,000 BC contain recipes or prescriptions containing garlic. The Egyptians swore on a stack of...garlic bulbs. In the Bible, the Hebrew wanderers complain to Moses, "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic." In other words, three out of their six favorite foods were in this pungent family!

Onions (Allium cepa) were employed against tumors in China by the year 502 AD. In the West, there are similar mentions of onions' anti-cancer utility throughout the Middle Ages. Benjamin Rush, MD, signer of the Declaration of Independence, used a mixture of garlic and zinc oxide to treat skin cancers. In America, garlic juice was also taken orally for cancer. In the days before hypodermic needles, sublingual veins were cut and garlic was rubbed into the opening - which had to hurt. A century ago, garlic, peppermint, and brewer's yeast were administered orally for cancer in Texas and California.

In the 20th century, garlic was used as a folk remedy for cancer in French Provence, Italy, the Netherlands, the Balkans, Egypt, India, and China. Isn't it interesting that garlic consumption is generally associated with lower rates of cancer? There have been at least nine studies comparing the incidence of cancers of various types in areas of high garlic consumption vs. those with low garlic consumption. In all but one case there was a significant protective effect from living in the high-garlic areas.

The Iowa Women's Health Study found that "garlic was the only food [out of 127 studied, ed.] which showed a statistically significant association with decreased colon cancer risk." Just one serving per week was enough to lower the risk of some kinds of cancer by 35 to 50 percent! "Consumption of garlic was inversely associated with risk," the authors wrote." In other words, the more garlic, the less cancer (Steinmetz 1994).

But the most astonishing study was a comparison between two counties in the same Chinese province, each of which had very different garlic-eating habits. The incidence of stomach cancer in one of these, Cangshan County, was only 8 percent of that in nearby Qixia County. The only big difference scientists could identify between these two counties was that people in low-stomach cancer Cangshan County averaged an ounce (28 grams) of fresh garlic a day, whereas those in high-stomach cancer Qixia County ate less than one gram per day (Mei 1982).

You can get all of these fruits and vegetables, and many more, at the store. Upscale supermarkets have now become the focus of social life in many towns, and neighbors now meet for a chat over the cherimoya, donut peaches and pummelos. But there is still nothing to compare with picking your own hand-sown, home-grown tomatoes, cucumbers or raspberries and eating them raw, still filled with their indefinable vitality,  straight from your own garden.

This is the perfect fusion of good taste and good health. Plus a dash of unspoken pride in bringing this delight all the way from soil to table. It is indeed, as Bacon said, the purest of human pleasures. It is what sustains us through the darkest days of winter.

--Ralph W. Moss, PhD



Fahey JW, Munoz A, Matsuzaki Y, et al. Dietary amelioration of Helicobacter pylori infection: design criteria for a clinical trial. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004;13:1610-6

Ishida BK, Chapman MH. A comparison of carotenoid content and total antioxidant activity in catsup from several commercial sources in the United States. J Agric Food Chem. 2004;52:8017-20.

Jain MG, Hislop GT, Howe GR, Ghadirian P. Plant foods, antioxidants, and prostate cancer risk: findings from case-control studies in Canada. Nutr Cancer. 1999;34:173-84

Kucuk O, Sarkar FH, Djuric Z, et al. Effects of lycopene supplementation in patients with localized prostate cancer. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002;227:881-5.

Mei, X. et al. Garlic and gastric cancer: the influence of garlic on the level of nitrate and nitrite in gastric juice. Acta Nutr Sin 1982;4:53-56.

Steinmetz KA, Kushi LH, Bostick RM, etc. Vegetables, fruit, and colon cancer in the Iowa Women's Health Study. Am J Epidemiol. 1994;139:1-15.



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