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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 nothing to kill bacteria; it could have been the first penicillin.

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 offensive odor. The Sandoz researchers knew of Pasteur's studies 100 years before theirs, that an extract of garlic could kill bacteria, but they abandoned further research when the board of directors at Sandoz decided that nobody would take allicin to treat infections because of its offensive odor.

Since then, other studies have shown that allicin can help lower cholesterol and high blood pressure. Now entrepreneurs sell garlic pills, claiming they kill germs and lower cholesterol and high blood pressure. They also claim their pills do not smell. Garlic pills that have no smell probably don't contain allicin and therefore, there is no good research to show that they have any effect on germs, cholesterol or blood pressure.

Many plants contain phytochemicals that protect them from being damaged by bacteria, fungi and parasites. We know that allicin from garlic can be beneficial for humans, but no one has done the research to tell us how much to take, or whether it is possible to separate the odor from the beneficial chemical.

Checked 8/21/11

June 1st, 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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