Garlic - Pharmacognosy & Uses

By: Pharma Tips | Views: 15940 | Date: 30-Dec-2011

Garlic has its origins in antiquity, and is one of the most widely known vegetables and seasonings, as well as one of the earliest known plants for maintenance of health and treatment of disease. Garlic is a member of the allium family, which includes onions, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots. Of these, garlic unquestionably possesses the most pungent flavor and aroma.


CommonName: Garlic

BotanicalName: Allium sativum

AKA: Lashuna rasona, "Stinking Rose"



What Is It?

Garlic has its origins in antiquity,and is one of the most widely known vegetables and seasonings, as well as oneof the earliest known plants for maintenance of health and treatment ofdisease. Garlic is a member of the allium family, which includes onions, leeks,chives, scallions and shallots. Of these, garlic unquestionably possesses themost pungent flavor and aroma.

Garlic originated someplace inCentral Asia, and was initially proliferated by nomadic tribes. Garlic wasreadily embraced as a food and medicine, and subsequently spread throughout theworld. This proliferation is ample testimony to garlic’s popularity and appeal.Garlic not only appears in cookbooks and gardening guides, but also inliterature where it has been described as both a vampire repellent and a lovepotion.

Garlic is also an important dietarysupplement. Garlic appears in tablets and capsules, and in fluid extracts.Today Garlic is one of the best-selling botanical remedies in the United statesand Europe.1,2,3,4

Medicinal History

Traditionally, garlic is one of themost widely employed and versatile of natural remedies. As a folk remedy,garlic has been used to prevent infection, to treat colds, flu, whooping cough,bronchitis, dysentery and gastroenteritis, and to expel worms. Externallygarlic has been used for all manner of skin problems, including acne and fungalinfections.3,4,5

Garlic was important to the diets ofearly Egyptians. The labor force which built the pyramids was given ampleamounts of garlic to keep them healthy.6 The 1922 excavation of KingTutankhamen’s 1500 BC tomb revealed garlic cloves.7,8 The EgyptianCodex Ebers prescribed garlic for abnormal growths, circulatory ailments,general malaise, and parasites.9,10

The excavation of the 1400-1800 BCGreek palace of Knossos in Crete revealed garlic.6 Garlic also madeits first appearance as a performance-enhancing supplement when it was fed toearly Olympians prior to competition.7,10 The father of medicine,Hippocrates, advocated garlic for pulmonary complaints, cleansing, and forhealing abdominal growths.6 Greek physician Dioscorides recommendedthat garlic “cleans the arteries.”9,11 Other Greeks recommendedgarlic for the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases, joint diseases,seizures, and animal bites.

In Chinese medicine, garlic wasprescribed for respiratory and digestive disorders, and to expel worms andparasites.12 Garlic was also used to treat fatigue, headache andinsomnia, and to improve male sexual potency.8

In India, the foundation text ofAyurvedic medicine, the Charaka Samhita, recommends garlic as a treatment forheart disease and arthritis.12

In the Medieval Europe, garlic wasused to relieve constipation and to prevent heat stroke.6,8 The 12thcentury physician Hildegard von Bingen recommended garlic extensively, andconcluded that its was more potent raw than cooked.8,9

The 16th century Italian physicianPietro Mattioli of Sienna prescribed garlic for digestive disorders, worms andkidney disease, and for mothers during difficult childbirth. In England, garlicwas employed for constipation, toothache, animal bites, the plague, and toimprove cardiovascular health.6

In America, garlic was embracedafter its introduction by French and Portugese sailors. John Gunn’s 1878 TheHome Book Of Health, recommends garlic as a general tonic, to treat infections,and for asthma and other respiratory ailments.6

It is fair to say that in virtuallyevery culture into which garlic has been introduced, the pungent cloves havefound their way into traditional folk medicine for a wide range of healthneeds.

Habitat & Cultivation

This essential ingredient in Indian,Chinese, Middle Eastern, Meditteranean, Mexican and South American cuisine iswidely cultivated throughout the world. The small, herbacious garlic plantgrows just about any place you can plant a garden, and can be found fromnorthern parts of Russia to the south of Australia. Garlic produces a “head,”which contains several “cloves,” which are the parts used. Garlic is cultivatedon a large commercial scale in the US, India, China, Europe, The Middle East,and Central and South Americas. The plant is fairly hardy, and can toleratediverse growing conditions.1,3,4,5

How It Works

Garlic contains a large number ofcompounds. But to date allicin primarily has demonstrated significant activityat normal levels of consumption. Allicin is antimicrobial, lowers cholesterol,reduces clotting, and shows significant antioxidant protective capacity.13Garlic also demonstrates insecticidal, antifungal, and antitumor properties.3Garlic also contains an anti-clotting agent known as ajoene.14

Human clinical studies show thatgarlic relieves abdominal distress, belching, flatulence, colic and nausea.Garlic lowers high blood pressure, reduces blood lipids, decreases cholesterolspecifically, reduces clotting, and reduces the accumulation of platelet cellson blood vessel walls.15

Contemporary Uses Approved byAuthoritative Bodies

Germany’s Commission E

  • Supportive to dietary measures at elevated levels of lipids in blood.
  • Preventive measures for age-dependent vascular changes.


  • As an adjuvant to dietetic management in the treatment of hyperlipidemia,
  • And, in the prevention of atherosclerotic (age dependent) vascular changes.
  • May be useful in the treatment of mild hypertension.


  • Prophylaxis of atherosclerosis.
  • Treatment of elevated blood lipids insufficiently influenced by diet.
  • Improvement of the circulation in peripheral arterial vascular disease.
  • Upper respiratory tract infections and catarrhal conditions

THE ABOVE TRANSLATED INTO PLAINENGLISH: Both Germany’s Commission E and WHO recognize the use of garlic tohelp reduce lipids (fats) in the blood, including cholesterol. Both alsorecognize the valuable role that garlic may play in reducing the risk ofatherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. ESCOP additionally recognizesthe benefits of garlic for treating upper respiratory tract infections andcongestion.13,15,16,17

Potential Risks

The following information is derivedfrom the World Health Organization, Germany’s Commission E, ESCOP, and the AHPABotanical Safety Handbook.

Safety issues and concerns

  • Herbal Medicine cautions that garlic’s odor may pervade breath and skin.
  • ESCOP and AHPA note that in rare cases garlic may cause gastrointestinal irritation.

Contraindications – based onconditions and medication intake, etc.

  • Both Germany’s Commission E and ESCOP claim there are no contraindications for garlic use.
  • Herbal Medicine cautions that substantial amounts of garlic should be avoided prior to surgery, as garlic can prolong bleeding time.
  • WHO warns that consumption of large amounts of garlic may increase the risk of bleeding after surgery.

Potentially harmful druginteractions

According to WHO, patients usingwarfarin should know that garlic supplements may increase bleeding times, andthat clotting times have been reported to double among patients taking warfarinwho also use garlic supplements.

Allergy precautions

  • ESCOP notes that in rare cases garlic may cause allergic reactions.
  • WHO states that garlic has caused occasional allergic reactions such as contact dermatitis, and asthma attacks after inhaling the powdered form.13,15,16,17,18

Usage Tips

  • Germany’s Commission E recommends 4 grams of fresh garlic per day, minced, or equivalent preparations.
  • Herbal Medicine further elucidates those “equivalent preparations:
  • Infusion: 4 grams of fresh garlic in 150 ml (5 ounces) of water.
  • Fluid extract: 1:1 (1 gram of garlic to 1 ml extract), 4 ml daily.
  • Tincture: 1:5 ( 1 gram of garlic to 5 ml extract), 20 ml daily.
  • WHO recommends 2 – 5 grams of fresh garlic per day, or 400 mg – 1.2 grams of powdered garlic, or 2-5 mg of garlic oil, or 300-1000 mg of solid extract.
  • ESCOP recommends 6 – 10 mg of allicin daily, equivalent to 1 fresh clove, or 500 mg – I gram of dried garlic powder, or other preparations.

Product Choosing/Buying Tips

  • Look for garlic supplement products which give equivalences to the amounts stated above.
  • Look for garlic products which specify allicin content, which will range from 1% of the material on up.
  • Choose organically grown garlic, or products containing organically grown garlic, whenever possible.

Science Update

A 2001 article in the Journal ofNutrition found that numerous studies show that garlic can bring about thenormalization of plasma lipids, reduce clotting, inhibit platelet aggregation, andreduce blood pressure and blood glucose.19

Another 2001 article in the Journalof Nutrition reported that ample evidence shows that garlic can blockchemically induced tumors and experimentally induced tumors in skin, breastsand the colon. Garlic’s anti-cancer activity is due to its ability to block theactivity of a variety of enzymes.20

Yet another 2001 article in theJournal of Nutrition reported that in human and animal studies, garlic extracteffectively reduced total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.21

Yet one more 2001 article in theJournal of Nutrition concluded that garlic demonstrates a protective effectagainst stomach and colorectal cancers.22

A 2001 article in the Annals ofInternal medicine reported on 13 clinical studies pertaining to garlic and itseffectiveness in reducing cholesterol. The article concluded that garlicdemonstrates only modest cholesterol-reducing activity, and that its value forsuch a purpose is small compared with statin drugs.23


There is some controversy andconfusion regarding a principle constituent in garlic, the compound allicin.Some companies (such as Wakunaga) proclaim that their garlic products are“allicin free,” and they assert that this makes them more effective, healthierproducts. Other companies (such as Pure Gar) vociferously defend their garlicproducts, proudly pointing to their guaranteed allicin values. Studies on thepotential beneficial effects of garlic have used both allicin-free and allicinguaranteed garlic products. Both types of products have demonstrated positivehealth benefits. The compound allicin is one of many potentially beneficialsubstances in garlic. Consumed as a vegetable or seasoning, garlic containsplenty of allicin. There is no reason at this time to assume that there is anysignificant health advantage in removing allicin from garlic.


  • Garlic is Allium sativum. The term garlic derives from the Anglo-Saxon “gar-leac,” which means spear plant.1
  • According to ancient legend, garlic wards off vampires.
  • Garlic has been touted as a love potion for centuries. But clearly, both partners need to consume it!
  • Gilroy, California is the center of commercial garlic cultivation in the US, and home to the now famous Gilroy Garlic Festival, to which thousands of garlicophiles flock each year to consume large quantities of this heroic vegetable, and to celebrate garlic’s innumerable virtues.
  • The world appears to be divided into two camps concerning garlic. One one side are the garliophiles, who love garlic and champion its numerous uses. On the other side are the garlicophobes, who find garlic a repugnant and unpleasantly odoriferous substance.


Garlic is well known andhas been one of the most important medicines in the East and West for over5,000 years. Known for it’s medicinal action and uses as an diaphoretic,diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, antibacterial, antifungal, alterative,antispasmodic, cholagogue, vulnerary, and vermifuge. Wonderful effects andhealing powers have been ascribed to garlic. It possesses stimulant andstomachic properties in addition to its other virtues. Garlic an naturalpenicillin has only 1% of the impact of sinthitic penicillin but it is moreeffective with gram negative bacteria than penicillin. Modern science has doneextensive research and explored the chemistry and pharmacology of garlic andwith this research proves that garlic is a valuable aid to keep the heart andblood vessels healthy.

In addition to keeping the heart and blood vessels healthy research has provedthat garlic lowers you blood pressure, lowers your cholesterol, fends offrespiratory infections, infections of the urinary tract and digestive tract.Bacteria shown to be susceptible to garlic in the test tube include speciesfrom Staphylococcus, Escherichia, Proteus, Salmonella, Providencia,Citrobacter, Klebsiella, Hafnia, Aeromonas, Vibrio and Bacillus genera. Fungidemonstrated also to be susceptible to garlic in lab tests include the generaMicrosporum, Epidermophyton, Trichophyton, Rhodotorula, Torulopsis,Trichosporon, Cryptococcus neoformans, and Candida, including Candida albicans.It is reported that garlic is more effective against pathogenic yeasts thannystatin, especially Candida albicans.

Besides what I have listed above, in Paavo Airola, Ph.D. book The Miracle ofGarlic he states the following. “In the controlled and reliable clinicalstudies animal as well as human, reported in major medical journals world widein the last couple of decades, garlic has been shown to have almost miraculouspreventive and or therapeutic properties in the treatment of variety ofdiseases.” Here is a partial list of ailments that have been successfullytreated by raw garlic or garlic extracts: high blood pressure, atherosclerosis,tuberculosis, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, hypoglycemia, bronchitis, asthma,whooping, pneumonia, common cold, allergies, intestinal worms, intestinalputrefaction and gas, parasitic diarrhea, dysentery and insomnia.

In addition to the above list of ailments, in my research I found that garlicalso shows miraculous properties in treating heavy metal poisoning. Dr. PaavoAirola book The Miracle of Garlic he relates the following regardingheavy metal poisoning and the use of garlic. “ The threat to our health fromenvironmental poisons, and specifically heavy metals, is increasing every day.Lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and copper poisoning are becoming epidemic.Lead and mercury come mostly from polluted air plus industrial and medicaluses, such as lead containing paint and mercury containing amalgam dentalfillings. Contaminated fish are also a common source of mercury poisoning.Copper enters our bodies usually from copper water pipes, commonly used inplumbing.”

Not only is heavy metal poisoning a threat to our health it is also difficultto treat. Chelation treatment is the only known medical treatment that is effectivein detoxifying the body of heavy metals. Until now, the Japanese studyconducted by Drs. Ikezoe and Kitahara, shows that Kyolic a raw garlic extractdeveloped in Japan is effective in protecting the body from the toxic effectsof the heavy metal poisoning. Dr. Kitahara and his co-workers, Ikezoe andYamada, conducted controlled studies on animals and humans. The method of studywas observation of release of potassium and hemoglobin by heavy metals fromerythrocytes, and destruction of erythrocyte membrane. The conclusion of thestudy was that garlic preparation prevented the poisoning effects arising formheavy metals and protected the erythrocyte membrane for destruction.

Equally important garlic has been known for its anticancer and tumor properties.Propyline sulfide, a garlic and onion extract found to be mildly effectiveagainst tumors, acts on the enzyme liposaminase, related to cancer developmentif not properly controlled. Dr Benjamin H.S. Lau of the Loma Linda UniversitySchool of Medicine suggested in 1992 that garlic is a “biological responsemodifier”; it increases the body’s defenses against cancer. Lau’s researchfound that garlic’s sulfur compounds boost the activity of macrophages andT-lymphocytes, immune system components that are summoned to destroy tumors.

In addition to garlic’s sulfur compounds that boost the immune system, garliccontains a series of natural antioxidants that may help to explain its stronganticancer and antitumor activity. Antioxidants disarm reactive body chemicalsthat can trigger the onset of cancer. By inhibiting the harmful action ofoxygen (impacting on free radical activity), garlic possibly limits cellmembrane damage, which is one mechanism in the aging process.

In a like manner to the research done by Loma Linda and the Synergies in theLife of Science the American Cancer Society states the following on how garlicis effective against cancer. “Garlic is promoted for use as a preventivemeasure against the formation of cancer. Although several compounds in garlicmay have anti-cancer properties, the allyl sulfur compounds are said to play amajor role. These compounds are reported to prevent cancer by decreasing theactivation of carcinogens within the body, reducing the production ofcarcinogens, and increasing the body's ability to repair damaged DNA”.

Besides the American Cancer Society, The National Cancer Institute centralfiles show that the incidence of cancer is extremely low in France where garlicconsumption is the greatest and that garlic eaters in Bulgaria do not havecancer. It is reported in a textbook on pharmacognosy that a physician inBritish Columbia has successfully treated malignant situations by prescribingthe eating of garlic.

There is an old folk tale that states: “Eat onions in March and garlic in May,Then the rest of the year, your doctor can play”. Garlic has been used forcenturies as an effective preventive treatment for colds and flu. Medicalscience considered the old folk tale a superstition and an “old wives tale” of ignorantpeasants. Finally, Dr J. Klosa, M.D. scientifically tested the effectiveness ofgarlic as a cold remedy, and reported in the Medical Monthly in March 1950. Thereport stated: “cold symptoms like grippe, sore throats, runny nose, fever,cough, and rhinitis were cut short in every case”. All Patients showed adistinct lessening of the period of the disease as well as of convalescencerequired. Both raw garlic and garlic preparations are effective.

Likewise, raw garlic studies reported that garlic juice diluted 30-40 timesstops the growth of certain types of bacteria in a nutrient media--garlic hasstrong germicidal properties, which are not found in other plants. Whenaneurinase bacteria grow in the body, the majority of the internally produced vitaminB1 is spoiled by this bacteria--garlic shows antipyretic effects when it,diluted with water, is applied externally to a person's body at times of highfever.

Beside garlic being effective for colds and flu, new research shows that takinggarlic during pregnancy can cut the risk of pre-eclampsia (raised bloodpressure and protein retained in the urine). Studies reveal that garlic mayhelp to boost the birth-weight of babies destined to be too small. The researchwas carried out by Dr D Sooranna, Ms J Hirani and Dr I Das in the AcademicDepartment of Obstertrics & Gynaecology at the Chelsea & WestminsterHospital in London UK. They concluded that although pre-eclampsia and growthretardation are complex multifactoral conditions, taking standardised garlictablets (for further details please contact us) throughout pregnancy mightdecrease the chances of these types of complictions at birth. They focused ongrowth retarded babies and pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous condition formother and baby which occurs in about one in ten pregnancies. Experiments bythe research team showed that adding extracts of garlic to cells from theplacenta of women likely to suffer from these conditions was able to quicklystimulate growth. Furthermore, the activities of key enzymes that are reducedin the abnormal pregnancies were significantly increased when garlic was added.

In Dr Christopher’s newsletter on garlic he states the following on garlic’santibacterial properties: “Many marvelous effects and healing powers have beenclaimed for garlic. It is probable that none of them were exaggerated. I,myself, have seen it cure tuberculosis, asthma, bronchitis, several skindiseases, stomach ulcers, leg ulcers, athletes foot, furunculosis, abscesses,epilepsy, and special affinity for the respiratory tract, lungs, bronchi, andso forth, though it diffuses itself through the whole system and wherever thereis pus, it is a certain and safe remedy. The use of garlic in the World War asan antiseptic was most sensational. In 1916, the British government asked fortons of the bulbs offering one shilling a pound for as much as could beproduced. A great quantity of it was used for the control of suppuration inwounds. The raw juice was expressed, diluted with water, and put on swabs ofsterilized sphagnum moss, which was applied to the wounds. Where this treatmentwas given, it has been proved that there has never been one single case ofsepsis of septic results”.

One component of garlic, allicin attacks more than 23 kinds of bacteria,including staph and salmonella, as well as 60 types of fungi and yeasts, iseffective against all of 17 most dangerous fungi (Candida albicans included)expels tapeworms, and restores sensation in areas affected by leprosy. Dr.Byron Murray, Professor of microbiology at Brigham Young University has seenallicin immobilize 90 percent of a virus in a laboratory dish within 30minutes. Allicin is known to destroy viruses that cause herpes and upperrespiratory infection.

Beside garlic destroying viruses types of bacteria The U.S. Dept. ofAgriculture's Human Nutrition Center in Beltsville, MD, has demonstrated thatthe herb can reduce not only levels of blood fat, but blood sugar, too at thesame time increasing the level of insulin in the blood. Which means betterdiabetes control.

On the other hand hypoglycemia means low blood sugar the opposite of diabetes.Garlic seems to have the same affect on hypoglycemia has it does on diabetes.Demonstrating several of the common sulfur containing compounds a special sugarmetabolism regulating factors which help normalize both high and low bloodsugar levels. Garlic is an excellent detoxifier, it improves the generalmetabolism and has a stimulating effect on the liver. It is medically knownthat the liver plays a key role in diabetes and hypoglycemia.

In conclusion the empirical and scientific evidence presented in this thesisshows that garlic is indeed a tremendous nutritious health food and amiraculous healing plant. I believe that garlic can truthfully be called “ theking of the vegetable kingdom”. Garlic in its natural form incorporated with ahealthy diet is beneficial to your health, prevents disease and will helpprolong life.


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Joseph Garlic  |  21-Dec-2012 03:37:23 IST
Good article.
Here I leave an address where there is a computer graphics and video highlights of the properties and benefits of garlic.
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