Allicin is the major compound in garlic that is responsible for its hot taste and many of its health benefits. Read on to learn more.
Allicin is the major biologically active compound of garlic, and it was first reported by Cavallito and Bailey in 1944. It is the key ingredient responsible for the broad-spectrum antibacterial activity in garlic. Interestingly enough, allicin is not found in fresh garlic. Fresh garlic contains allinase and alliin, which are contained in different parts of the plant. This is designed as a defense mechanism against pathogens in the soil. When the cloves are attacked by pathogens, the membranes of these compartments are destroyed and within 10 seconds, the alliin is converted into allicin. Allicin is relatively stable if it is kept cool but starts to degrade when heated. As well as garlic, allicin may also be found in onions, scallions, leeks, and shallots.
Allicin has a wide range of health benefits. It can help to prevent cardiovascular attacks, restore suppressed antibody responses, has a wide range of antimicrobial activities, can help to prevent the common cold, and can help prevent and treat cancer. Studies have shown that allicin can lower total cholesterol as well as bad cholesterol and triglycerides, and increase good cholesterol. This in turns helps in the prevention of heart related conditions such as heart attach, atherosclerosis, and stroke. Allicin may also support the overall health of the circulatory system. Allicin also acts as an anticoagulant and can help to regulate blood pressure levels.
Allicin also provides antioxidant protection to the body. It increases the blood levels of two antioxidant enzymes – catalase and glutathione peroxidase. Allicin acts as an effective antioxidant against the oxidative damage caused by nicotine and protections vascular endothelial cells from oxidant injury. It also prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and inhibits lipid peroxidation in the liver, which slows the ageing process in liver cells.
If you choose to take allicin in supplementary form, be aware that most garlic supplements do not contain allicin itself. Some products are standardised to contain a certain amount of alliin and will list the theoretical allicin potential. Some supplements will claim to contain as much or more allicin as a daily dose of fresh garlic but you will need to read the labels to be sure. The content of allicin is the most important indicator and the allicin should be defined in terms of micrograms or milligrams and be in a standardised amount. Allicin powder extract is the only way to get a stable and standardised amount of allicin that is ready to be used by the body directly.