Author: Rositsa Tashkova, Master of Molecular biology and Microbiology

For thousands of years, plants have been used as a source of health. We are used to only embracing herbs as a healing agent, but scientists do not fail to look for such properties in the plants we consume in the form of food or spices. Including in the fight against cancer [ref. 1] – there are currently over 860 scientific publications [ref. 2] that link apigen and cancer treatment.

One of them is parsley, and in it is the active substance apigenin. In this article, we will try to consider in detail the sources and properties of apigenin, and we will focus on the mechanisms behind the established anticancer action of the substance in detail. We'll find out if we can name parsley and celery anti-cancer herbs.

In the article you will find out:

  • What are the sources of apigenin in our menu - herbs and foods
  • What exactly is apigenin
  • Which cancers does apigenin have an impact on
  • What are the mechanisms behind the effectiveness of apigen
  • The potential of apigenin to become part of cancer treatment
  • Disadvantages of apigenin
  • Recipe for smoothie with parsley and celery

What herbs and foods contain apigenin

In addition to parsley, apigenin is also found in chamomile tea (Matricaria), celery (Apium graveolens) [ref. 3], apples, red wine and grapes. It is one of the active ingredients in Chinese traditional medicine, but its anticancer effectiveness was found by scientists only in 1986 [ref. 4].

Other good sources of apigenin are grapefruit, onions, oranges and is also found at higher levels (compared to other foods) in some herbs:

  • yarrow (Achillea millefolium),
  • tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus),
  • coriander (Coriandrum sativum),
  • licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra),
  • flax seed (Linum usitatissimum),
  • passionflower (Passiflora),
  • mint (Mentha spicata),
  • basil (Ocimum bassilicum),
  • oregano (Origanum vulgare).

It is also found in beer and is an active ingredient of Ginkgo biloba.

Approximately 0.8–1.2% of the weight of chamomile is given to apigenin and this makes it one of the most significant sources of the substance.

This means that we unconsciously take apigenin with our food if these plants and drinks are part of our menu.

What is apigenin

Apigenin is designated by the chemical name 4′,5,7-trihydroxyflavon and belongs to the group of flavonoids [ref. 5] – these are small molecules of plant origin for which it has a proven antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer effect.

All this, along with the low toxicity [ref. 6] of apigen and its inability to induce mutations, has directed the interest of researchers to explore its potential for cancer treatment.

Apigenin does not dissolve well in water, but it has been found to be eliminated from the body relatively slowly [ref. 7] (at least in rats), which gives hopes that the substance can accumulate and thus exert its therapeutic effect.

This substance also has antiviral and antibacterial effect and lowers blood pressure [ref. 8].

Effects of apigenin on cancer

Apigenin has been found to inhibit the development of various cancers in humans, both in vitro (in laboratory conditions) and in ivo (in the living organism).

Among the oncological diseases against which the substance has shown activity are: breast cancer [ref. 9], prostate, lung [ref. 10], colon [ref. 11] (also called colorectal), liver, melanoma [ref. 12] (skin cancer), osteosarcoma (bone cancer), pancreatic cancer [ref. 13] and others.

Research continues on different types of oncological diseases and the results are promising.

It is important to note that apigenin is considered as an adjuvant substance – in combination with chemotherapy or radiation therapy the results are best. As the development of resistance of cancer cells to widely used chemotherapeutics is observed, new molecules and active substances are sought to replace or supplement them.

How does apigen work

It is important to know the habits of the enemy in order to defeat them. So here we will delve a little more into the mechanisms by which apigenin acts on cancer cells to suppress them.

Characteristic of cancer cells is that unlike normal cells that make up our body, they do not stop dividing. In the life cycle [ref. 14] of a simple cell there are checkpoints, checks and stop signs, rules with which it "complies". But for cancer cells, the rules don't apply and they multiply uncontrollably — the process of multiplying is called proliferation [ref. 15]

When the cell is not a cancer cell and a dangerous mutation appears in it, its genetic material is either being repaired, or the cell goes the way of programmed cell death or apoptosis [ref. 16] — it kills itself to protect the body from the onset of cancer. But the behavior of cancer cells differs — they do not kill themselves.

Another feature of the cells that go down a bad path is that they leave the place where they arose and spread to different parts of the body — thus the tumor metastasizes.