For about 40 years, Drs. James and Dorothy Morré, a husband and wife team of researchers, have been studying cancer and aging at their National Cancer Institute research laboratory at Purdue University. Specifically, they have studied a group of proteins called the ENOX group, which might shed light on the etiology of cancer and aging.
The ENOX group of proteins consists of three proteins: ENOX 1, ENOX 2 and ENOX 3. ENOX 1 is produced by normal cells, ENOX 2 is produced almost exclusively by cancer cells, no matter the origin of the cancer, and ENOX 3 is produced in increasing amounts as we age. The research behind these findings is complex, but as a result of their work, the Morrés have been able to develop a test called the oncoblot test, which might indicate when a person starts on the path to the development of cancer. The ENOX 3 levels in the blood give us clues as to the biological age of the person. These could become valuable tools in not only the early detection of cancer, but also in allowing us to follow the progress of whatever treatment the person chooses to undertake. Also, following the levels of these proteins can help identify natural substances or foods that could safely lower these levels.
The Morrés have done just that, having tested hundreds of foods, herbs and other natural substances for their ability to lower the levels of these proteins in the blood of their test subjects. Interestingly, the two most potent substances they found were green tea for lowering ENOX 2 and an herb called summer savory (Satureja hortensis) for lowering ENOX 3. They found that all of the so-called Mediterranean culinary herbs (thyme, basil, oregano, etc.) all lower the age-related ENOX 3 levels, but none as effectively as summer savory. They found that summer savory was effective when eaten raw, cooked, powdered or extracted, and that the amount needed was well within the range that would normally be consumed.
I heard about these findings a few years ago and since then have tried to make summer savory a part of our daily diet. For some reason, it’s incredibly difficult to find a good summer savory powder, and I have rarely seen the herb sold at any farmers market. Luckily, it’s a very easy herb to grow, it is easy to powder, and it seems to retain all its flavor and potency through the drying process. We are actively looking for a grower to supply us with the best quality summer savory so that we can bring it to you late this summer. In the meantime, since everyone should be eating at least a pinch of summer savory every day, go to any good seed catalogue, order some seeds and grow it in whatever space you have. It will even do well in a pot on the deck.
This is one of the core missions of Dr. Cowan’s Garden, to find plant foods that can make a positive impact on your health and to make it easy for you to access and use them.
Tom Cowan, M.D.