A UK trial is investigating whether a curry ingredient can improve the treatment of patients with advanced bowel cancer.
Scientists will supplement standard chemotherapy with pills containing curcumin, a compound found in the yellow curry spice turmeric.
Laboratory tests have suggested that curcumin can boost the ability of chemotherapy drugs to kill bowel cancer cells.
The compound is known to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and also acts as an antioxidant.
It has traditionally been used as an alternative remedy for a wide range of problems including liver and digestive disorders, allergies and acne.
Some studies have indicated it may slow the spread of cancer, improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy and protect healthy cells from the effects of radiotherapy.
However, hard evidence from properly conducted scientific trials is lacking.
The two-year trial, conducted by scientists from Cancer Research UK and the University of Leicester, aims to recruit about 40 patients with bowel cancer that has spread to the liver.
Patients with advanced bowel cancer are normally given a treatment called FOLFOX which combines three chemotherapy drugs.
But many - between 40% and 60% - do not respond to the therapy, and those who do may suffer side effects such as tingling and nerve pain.
Chief investigator Professor William Steward, director of the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) at the University of Leicester, said: "Once bowel cancer has spread it is very difficult to treat, partly because the side effects of chemotherapy can limit how long patients can have treatment.
"The prospect that curcumin might increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy is exciting because it could mean giving lower doses, so patients have fewer side effects and can keep having treatment for longer.
"This research is at a very early stage but investigating the potential of plant chemicals to treat cancer is an intriguing area that we hope could provide clues to developing new drugs in the future."
The study will take place at Leicester Royal Infirmary and Leicester General Hospital.
Three-quarters of the patients will be given curcumin tablets for seven days before undergoing FOLFOX treatment. The remainder will only be treated with FOLFOX.
Colin Carroll, a 62-year-old compliance consultant who lives near Loughborough, is one of the first patients to join the trial. He agreed to take part after being diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer in January.
He said: "The diagnosis came as a big shock because I'd had no symptoms apart from some occasional cramps.
"I'd had a few tests which had come back clear and I'd just been booked for a CT (computed tomography) scan when I was rushed to hospital with a suspected intestinal blockage."
Scans revealed bowel cancer which had spread to the liver.
Three days after being admitted to Leicester Royal Infirmary, Mr Carroll underwent emergency surgery to bypass the blockage.
He added: "It's been like a whirlwind. To have something creep up on you like that when you have absolutely no control over it really makes you want to fight back.
"That's why I had no difficulty in agreeing to take part in the trial.
"I've met some amazing people since January and my treatment on the NHS has been fantastic. The way I see it is that I'm being given the best possible chance so in that sense I feel very fortunate."
Dr Joanna Reynolds, Cancer Research UK's director of centres, said: "The Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres network supports research into some of the most novel and exciting new anti-cancer therapies, often providing the first insights into their effect on cancer patients.
"By doing a clinical trial like this we will find out more about the potential benefits of taking large amounts of curcumin, as well as any possible side effects this could have for cancer patients."
Cinnamon isn't just a great way to sweeten up your pastry or morning coffee, it also has great weight-loss properties, too. According to a recent study by Diabetes Care, a simple teaspoon of cinnamon a day rapidly reduces blood sugar levels, as well as cholesterol by 26%, meaning it helps protect against diabetes, weight-gain and cardiovascular disease.
Hot and spicy paprika contains capsaicin, whose anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects may lower the risk of cancer (also found in cayenne and red chili peppers).
The staple in all our kitchen cupboards, black pepper contains piperine component (which creates its pungent taste) as well as boosting the metabolism by as much as 8% for sveral hours after ingesting. Freshly ground pepper packs the most piperine.
These spicy-tasting mustard seed not only pack a punch on your taste buds, but helps boost the metabolism. This helps the body burn fat quicker - by up to 25% and around 45 calories per average meal. According to a recent study by Oxford Polytechnic Institute, the mustard seed's thermogenic property is best as burning off the fat.
The main ingredient in the cayenne pepper is capsaicin, which is known for its fat-burning abilities and thermogenic properties. These stimulate the central nervous system to produce heat in the body, that goes onto increase calorie burning. A recent study featured in the Journal of Obesity found that these type of spices increase fat oxidation, which ramps up energy and stimulates the nervous system - all beneficial to helping the body shed weight.
Thanks to its preventative and curative ingredient, curcumin, a rich anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, turmeric is best at reducing inflammation in the muscles and joints. This spice is also believed to be a great breast cancer-preventing food and is more effective than over-the-counter pain killers, like aspirin and ibuprofen, according to the American Institute for Vedic Studies.
According to the Digestive Disease and Science, coriander rapidly decreases the painful symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Coriander contains an anti-spasmodic agent that helps relax contracted digestive muscles, which cause stomach cramps. It's also good at relaxing the artery, which subsequently helps lower blood pressure.
Fennel can be classed as a vegetable, herb or spice but whatever you label it, it's anti-inflammatory agents provide pain relief for menstrual cramps. Fennel contains a liquorice-tasting oil called anethole and phytoestrogen, an oestrogen-like compound. This is proven to reduce menstrual cramps and is as strong as an over-the-counter ibuprofen.
Ginger has long been used as a spice which helps ease all types of nausea. Previous studies from the University of Michigan and National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan, found that ginger reduces the release of vasopressin - the key hormone that plays a role in motion sickness. Ginger also has great gastric mobility abilities, and aids healthy digestion.
Oregano is a major source of thymol and carvacol - two antibacterial agents that fight off infection. It's also packed with super strength anti-oxidants, so much so, it has quadruple the amount of antioxidants found in blueberries.
Find out what you can do to help prevent yourself against bowel cancer.
Try to do 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate exercise over a week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. You can do this by carrying out 30 minutes on at least five days each week.
Drink alcohol in moderation - no more than two to three units a day for women and three to four units a day for men.
Getting enough vitamin D may reduce your risk of developing a number of cancers, including bowel cancer - although more research needs to be done to be certain. Vitamin D is produced naturally by your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight and can also be obtained from some foods, such as oily fish.
Smokers are 25% more likely to die from bowel cancer than people who had never smoked. If you smoke - quit now.