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Powerful Therapeutic Spices in Medicine

Course Number: 549A

Garlic (Allium sativum)

ce549 - Content - Garlic (Allium sativum) - Figure 1

Garlic root bulb has been utilized thousands of years for medicinal purposes. For example, the Egyptian civilization used garlic to treat infections and intestinal parasites.5 Today garlic is the most widely studied herbal supplement in the United States. Garlic is a member of the lily family and is recognized for over 100 distinct phytochemicals. The most significant active compound that gives garlic its pungent smell and health benefit is allicin. Allicin is an active component containing a high concentration of sulfur-containing amino acids.6 Studies have been extensive on garlic’s ability to reduce blood pressure, improve lipid profile, boost immune function, along with anticarcinogenic properties.7 In addition, various studies have shown that consumption of garlic decreases the risks of oral, colon, stomach, and skin cancer by inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells.6 Other therapeutic properties found garlic paste effective in treating oral ulcers due to its strong antimicrobial activity against gram positive and gram negative bacteria and viruses.6

Clinical trials have consistently demonstrated “garlic breath” and body odor are the most common patient complaints.8 Garlic may enhance the pharmacological effect of anticoagulation and reduce the efficacy of HIV medications.8 Healthcare providers should be consulted when their patients are using a garlic supplement on a regular basis and should be aware of the potential side effects when combined with prescription medication.5

Garlic pairs well with olive oil in appetizers such as humus as well as homemade salad dressing, Italian dishes, and stir fries. To maximize the therapeutic properties, crush, mince, or mash garlic cloves and wait 10 minutes to allow the active ingredient, allicin, to reach bioavailability.8