An extract found in the yellowish orange Indian spice turmeric can kill oesophageal cancer cells, say scientists.
In the research, boffins found that when they treated oesophageal cancer cells in the laboratory with curcumin - a chemical in tumeric - it started to kill cancer cells within 24 hours. The cells also began to digest themselves.
Cancer experts at the Cork Cancer Research Centre said the findings in the British Journal of Cancer could help doctors find new treatments, reports The BBC.
Dr Sharon McKenna said: "Scientists have known for a long time that natural compounds have the potential to treat faulty cells that have become cancerous and we suspected that curcumin might have therapeutic value."
Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: "This is interesting research which opens up the possibility that natural chemicals found in turmeric could be developed into new treatments for oesophageal cancer.
"Rates of oesophageal cancer rates have gone up by more than a half since the 70s and this is thought to be linked to rising rates of obesity, alcohol intake and reflux disease so finding ways to prevent this disease is important too."