The Cancer Prevention Properties of Allium Vegetables

The Cancer Prevention Properties of Allium Vegetables

The history of taking medicinal plants traced back to ancient times. These medicinal herbs used to get relief from pain, various other ailments and also emotional distress. Out of these, allium genus vegetables have been extensively utilized in improving various health problems due to their health benefits.

This class of vegetables is renowned for its antimicrobial, hypolipidemic, hypoglycemic, anti-arthritic, anti-thrombotic and antitumor activities. 

In recent years, allium vegetables have been thoroughly evaluated for their antitumor and anticancer properties. The potential phytochemicals, particularly, flavonoids and allyl sulfides are the major cause behind their potential anticancer activity.

Epidemiological studies have also exhibited positive outcomes regarding higher allium vegetables consumption and decreased risk of certain types of cancers.

Therefore, like other cancer preventive vegetables, fruits and various spices, allium vegetables can also reduce the risk of developing cancer.

Let's explore what are these various types of allium vegetables and how it lowers the risk of cancer formation:

  • Allium vegetables
  • Mostly consumed allium vegetables
  • Allium vegetables and cancer prevention
  • Anticancer role of allium vegetables
  • Conclusion

Allium vegetables

Allium vegetables are the widely consumed herbs of flowering Amaryllidaceae family. There are around 850 species of this class. All the vegetables of the allium family are biennial, herbaceous, cool season, highly nutritious and grow annually.

These herbs are known for their potential digestive properties along with potent lowering cholesterol levels and improving mental health.

Mostly consumed allium vegetables

The most commonly used allium vegetables throughout the globe are garlic, onion, shallot leeks, and chives. These vegetables are not only an essential part of the important cuisines, but also a major part of traditional medical practices. 

Let's explore these in deep:

  • Garlic

Allium sativam, known with the common name garlic is an essential part of Indian cuisine. It is famous as a culinary spice as well as medicinal herb. From ancient times, this spice has evidence to be used for prophylactic and therapeutic purposes.

The major reason behind its effective properties are the variety of sulfur compounds present in it. The major effect of these phytochemicals found when we crush or chew the fresh garlic.

  • Onion

Allium cepa, renowned as onions are the multipurpose food component with high nutritional value. This vegetable is extensively used in preparing a variety of warm dishes, soup, salad, sauces and pickles for flavor and thickness.

Onions are of various types with specific color and outer appearance.

  • Green onions can be eaten in any cooking method or eaten raw in the salads.
  • Spring onions (onion leeks) have a unique taste and mostly added in cuisines as toppings or eaten in salads.
  • Pink onions are best known for its preservative property in keeping vinegar as long-lasting relish.

Along with a potent culinary vegetable, it is also a potential medicinal vegetable. Its bulb is used from centuries to treat certain ailments due to being rich in sulfur and flavonoids phytoconstituents. Consumption of onion can really benefit your health in a positive way.

  • Leeks

Allium ampeloprasum, known by the name of leeks, is crunchy, firm and has an onion-like mild taste. It can be used raw in salads or can added in the stock to add the flavor.

The medicinal properties of leeks are due to its five flavonoid glycosides.

  • Chives

Allium schoenoprasum, the chives have two-sword functionalities. Along with being used as a herb, this species of allium family is also used as an insect-repelling agent.

In culinary, the unopened, immature flowers and scapes are diced and used in making potato, fish, soups and other dishes.

This vegetable being rich in sulfur components and vitamins exhibits potential therapeutic properties.

  • Shallots

Allium ascalonicum, the shallots are a type of onion. It is renowned with various names in the corners of India. For instance, Kaanda in Maharashtra, Praan in Kashmir, Ulli piaja in Odia, and many more names. It is widely used in curries to add a distinct flavor in the dish.

Talking about its medicinal properties, this vegetable shows a potential impact in managing sore throat. Mixed with sugar or jaggery, this vegetable is used as a home remedy for sore throat.

Allium vegetables and cancer prevention

Being enriched with powerful antioxidants, phenolic and sulfur components, allium vegetables also exhibit anti-motility, anti-proliferative and cytotoxic properties. These properties significantly aid in reducing the risk of cancer.

Various epidemiological, case-control studies and clinical trials also govern this association, for instance:

  • In a Netherlands cohort analysis, a strong inverse association was noticed in the stomach carcinoma incidences and onion consumption.
  • In another study done on garlic eaters by Dr. Lenore Arab and colleagues, the garlic is significantly associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer.
  • It also has been noticed that total consumption of allium vegetables up to >10.0 g/day is considerably lowers risk of prostate cancer.

There is much more evidence, which govern a potent role of these allium vegetables in lowering the risk of cancer. Let's explore the anticancer properties of these vegetables one by one:

Anticancer role of allium vegetables


Being enriched with carotenoids, ajuene and polyphenols like alliin and S‐benzyl derivatives of cysteine, garlic exhibits potential anti-cancer activities, which potentially reduces the risk of various cancers.

These anti-cancer properties are:

  • Anti-apoptotic and cytotoxic activities
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antigenotoxicity
  • Immunomodulation
  • Blockage of signaling pathways lead to cancer progression
  • Cell cycle arrest
  • Anti-metastatic and Anti-angiogenesis


Onion also acts as a potential anti-cancer agent. It is because of its potent phytochemicals, like flavonoids, gallic acid, ferulic acid, organosulfur compounds, polyphenols, quercetin and anthocyanins.

These anti-cancer properties that onion shows are:

  • Immunomodulation
  • Induction of apoptosis
  • Anti-proliferative
  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory


Leeks are enriched with phytoconstituents like organosulfur compounds, saponins, allyl sulfide, and sulfur amino acids (SAC, di and trisulfide components). These phytoconstituents make this vegetables not only effective against various other ailments but also against life threatening disease like cancer.

The anti-cancer properties of leeks are:
  • Cytotoxic
  • Antioxidant


This allium vegetable is enriched with glycolipids, pentyl alliin and methyl alliin phytoconstituents. This makes this allium vegetable a potent anti-cancer agent.

The anti-cancer properties of chives are:
  • Strong the immunity
  • Anti-proliferative
  • Inhibiting DNA synthesis


Being enriched with sulfur, flavone and polyphenols, this allium vegetable also shows potential impact on reducing the risk of getting cancer.

The anti-cancer properties of shallots are:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-angiogenesis
  • Anti-proliferative
  • Cytotoxic


Allium vegetables are the most widely used plant. Onion and garlic are the two most essential and popular vegetables of this family. These vegetables are considered as a potential source of anti-cancer agents. These vegetables are natural anticancer agents, which works effectively in lowering the risk of prostate, gastric, colorectal and many more cancers.

“Include the allium vegetables in your everyday diet and protect your body from cancerous cells”

“Also, follow a healthy lifestyle. Maintain healthy weight, stay physically active and follow healthy eating”

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