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Allicin in Garlic

Virtually all plants contain some chemicals that can help protect your health and some chemicals that can make you sick. So when you read or hear about a new chemical found in a plant, and that this chemical helps prevent or treat a disease, you should not go out and try to eat huge amounts of that one plant or buy an extract in pill form made from that plant. You should include a wide variety of plants in a healthy diet full of lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and other seeds.

In 1844, Theodor Wertheim, a German chemist, distilled a pungent substance from garlic and called it allyl, the Latin name for garlic. Four years later Louis Pasteur in Paris showed that allyl could inhibit the growth of bacteria. This was a great discovery because 150 years ago, doctors had no antibiotics to kill bacteria, but at that time they also did not understand that bacteria cause many diseases. Garlic could have been the first penicillin, and Pasteur could have become extraordinarily rich.

One hundred years later in 1948, Arnold Stoll and Ewald Seebeck, researchers at Sandoz Company in Basel Switzerland showed that garlic does not smell offensively until the garlic bulb is crushed to form Allicin, the chemical that is responsible for the odor. The Sandoz researchers knew of Pasteur's studies 100 years before theirs, but they abandoned further research when the board of directors at Sandoz felt that nobody would take allicin, the extract from garlic, to treat infections because of its offensive odor.

Entrepreneurs now sell garlic pills claiming that they kill germs and have no smell. The research that I have found shows that if it doesn't smell, it isn't allicin and therefore it hasn't been shown to kill germs. Many studies show that allicin can kill bacteria in a test tube, but it cannot be used as a medicine because we don't know how it works in your body, how to make sure an extract contains the active chemicals, or how to make the proper dose. Enjoy garlic as a food and get its helpful properties as part of a varied diet that includes lots of different kinds of plants.
More on phytochemicals

Checked 7/23/12

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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