Rosemary, a fragrant herb fresh or dried, and other favorites such as tumeric a colourful spice in curry dishes, contain a powerful natural compound that has shown in studies to kill cells of childhood cancer.

Susan J. Zunino, a researcher and molecular biologist, leads the nutrition-focused research that has resulted in these first-ever findings. Zunino has been investigating the health-imparting effects of plant chemicals, also called phytochemicals, using laboratory cultures of both healthy human blood cells and cancerous.

Phytochemicals refers to a wide variety of compounds produced by plants. They are found in fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, and other plants. Scientists have identified thousands of phytochemicals, Some of the more commonly known phytochemicals include beta carotene, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), folic acid, and vitamin E, however few phytochemicals have been studied in details.

Zunino’s research reveals some new clues about how phytochemicals attack cancer cells.  She has studied carnosol from rosemary, curcumin from turmeric, resveratrol from grapes, and ellagic acid, kaempferol, and quercetin in strawberries. Zunino’s research has shown the ability of these phytochemicals to kill the acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells.

Zunino’s research is based out of Davis, California, about an hour northeast of San Francisco. Her studies have been published in Cancer Research and Cancer Letters, break new ground by revealing the ability of a hand full of phytochemicals ability to stop the growth of certain leukemia’s. Clearly the findings are of great interest to researchers, nutritionists and physicians and work to further explore the health benefits of such foods continues.