No Longer an Old Wives’ Tale: The Measure of Garlic’s Medicinal Powers

Marco Bernardini
Photo credit: Marco Bernardini

It’s official. Garlic really does act against free radicals. And now we know how.

Count Dracula feared garlic (Allium sativum). And with good reason, according to a study conducted by researchers at Queen’s University in Canada and published in the January 2009 issue of the international chemistry journal, Angewandte Chemie.

Long known for its beneficial antioxidant properties, garlic rests comfortably in the pantheon of natural medicine. But why? How exactly does garlic attack free radicals and prevent tissue damage?

Most researchers agreed that allicin, which provides garlic with its anti-vampire pungency, played an important role. But the exact mechanism puzzled the scientists.

‘The research team questioned the ability of allicin to trap damaging radicals so effectively, and considered the possibility that a decomposition product of allicin may instead be responsible. Through experiments with synthetically-produced allicin, they found that an acid produced when the compound decomposes rapidly reacts with radicals. …

‘While garlic has been used as a herbal medicine for centuries and there are many garlic supplements on the market, until now there has been no convincing explanation as to why garlic is beneficial,’ says Dr. Pratt. ‘I think we have taken the first step in uncovering a fundamental chemical mechanism which may explain garlic’s medicinal benefits.’

Other researchers suggest that crushing garlic before cooking retains the stinking rose’s potent medicinal effects.

You’ve got to hand it to those old wives, they knew what they were talking about a lot of the time …

[For more on garlic’s checkered past, read my previous post, Bronx Vanilla: A Celebration of Garlic.]

From William Woodville's Medical Botany (1793)
From William Woodville's Medical Botany (1793)

© 2009 C. Bertelsen

One thought on “No Longer an Old Wives’ Tale: The Measure of Garlic’s Medicinal Powers

  1. Dear Sir
    We use Garlic paste as a top dressing in shrimp feeds for stimulation of hepatopancreas and gut function in the shrimps. whether we can call Garlic as a Organic Antibiotic.
    Please give more information on this.
    with due respect

Comments are closed.