Garlic (Allium sativum) has a history as a medicinal agent going back thousands of years. Hippocrates, Dioscorides, and other prominent medical experts of ancient and medieval eras deciphered its medicinal uses.60 Garlic is mentioned in the Bible, and it may be one of the most widely used natural supplements. Its first known origin may be Central Asia (3000 B.C.), later spreading to other parts of the world.60 It is a regular part of the diet for most people in Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Its potential therapeutic uses include antimicrobial, antithrombotic, hypolipidemic, anti-arthritic, hypoglycemic, and antitumor activity.61
Studies demonstrated that garlic and its constituents effectively inhibit experimentally induced carcinogen formation, carcinogen bioactivation, and tumor proliferation at a number of sites including skin, mamma, and colon.62 A population-based study conducted by researchers at the National Cancer Institute showed that people with daily consumption of vegetables from the allium group had a statistically significantly lower risk of developing prostate cancer.63 Other epidemiological studies suggest that regular intake of garlic is also associated with reduced risk of esophageal, stomach, and colon cancers.64-66 Garlic also showed significant reductions in both tumor volume and mortality against transitional cell carcinoma in MBT2 murine bladder carcinoma model.67
In addition to its chemopreventive effects, some of the sulfur compounds in garlic also inhibit the growth of induced and transplantable tumors in animal models.68
The beneficial chemopreventive properties of garlic were attributed to organosulfur compounds in garlic. S-Allylcysteine and S-allylmercapto-L-cysteine, the major compounds in aged garlic, showed the highest antioxidant activity68 Crushing or aging of garlic causes unstable molecules such as allicin to convert into stable molecules such as diallyl disulfide (DADS), S-allylcysteine and S-allylmercaptocysteine.69 Crushing garlic releases an enzyme, allinase, that triggers a series of chemical reactions. Garlic also contains vitamins A and C, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur (including 75 different sulfur compounds), selenium, and a number of amino acids. The highly complex mixture of phytochemicals in garlic makes the standardization of garlic extract difficult. This might be one of the reasons for inconsistencies in some of the experimental studies. Further studies are required to form a definitive conclusion regarding its beneficial effects toward chemoprevention and cancer cure.
One of the important virtues of garlic is its strengthening of the immune system, essential for fighting cancer.70 Garlic also showed protective effects on the cardiovascular system, and it is a potent natural antibiotic.71-73
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