Chemical compound hidden in green tea combats cancer

It's the "Holy Grail" of cancer treatments -- a therapy that can target cancer cells and wipe them out, while leaving the healthy cells around them untouched.

So far, the mainstream has come up empty, because just about everything they throw at cancer cells will destroy healthy cells, too.

And some of those treatments could even kill you in the process.

But new research finds a natural therapy that can target cancer cells and shut them down while leaving healthy cells completely alone.

This little miracle is packed inside every single steaming mug of green tea. It's called epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, and we already know it can fight any number of cancers throughout the body.

The latest research looked specifically at oral cancer cells, comparing them side-by-side to healthy oral cells in a petri dish.

Cancer cells, as you may know, have a terrible power: they don't die off the way normal cells do. They grow relentlessly.

But EGCG is able to put the brakes on that endless growth in two ways: First, it damages the mitochondria, or the "power plants" that give cells their energy. That, in turn, kicks off the creation of reactive oxygen species, leading to the death of those "un-killable" cancer cells.

And second, the EGCG robs the cancer cells of the ability to fight that oxidative damage so they die off even faster.

What's so remarkable about the study in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research is that the EGCG seems to "know" which cells to attack -- because it left the healthy ones completely alone.

While the study looked at oral cancer cells, it's quite likely that it would work the same way against other cancers, and may help explain why green tea in general, and EGCG in particular, are known to help fight everything from skin cancers to prostate cancer.

If you're cancer-free, a daily mug or two of green tea could be just what the doctor ordered to help you stay that way, giving EGCG a chance to fight off cancer cells before you even know they're there.

And if you're at risk for cancer, or are a cancer survivor, ask your doctor about EGCG supplements.