Therapeutic actions of garlic constituents.


Agarwal KC




Med Res Rev


Most studies on garlic during the past 15 years have been primarily in the fields of cardiovascular and cancer research. Cardiovascular studies have been mainly related to atherosclerosis, where effects were examined on serum cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Although the studies were not consistent in relation to the dosage, standardization of garlic preparations, and period of treatment, most findings suggest that garlic decreases cholesterol and triglycerides levels in patients with increased levels of these lipids. Lowering of serum lipids by garlic ingestion may decrease the atherosclerosis process. The other major beneficial effect of garlic is due to its antithrombotic actions. This field of garlic research has been extensively studied. Garlic extracts and several garlic constituents demonstrate significant antithrombotic actions both in vitro and in vivo systems. Allicin and adenosine are the most potent antiplatelet constituents of garlic because of their in vitro effects. Since both allicin and adenosine are rapidly metabolized in human blood and other tissues, it is doubtful that these compounds contribute to any antithrombotic actions in the body. In addition, ajoene also seems not to be an active antiplatelet principle, because it is not naturally present in garlic, garlic powders, or other commercial garlic preparations. Only a small amount of ajoene can be found in garlic oil-macerates; however, ajoene is being developed as a drug for treatment of thromboembolic disorders. Recent findings on the identification of potent enzyme inhibiting activities of adenosine deaminase and cyclic AMP phosphodiesterase in garlic extracts are interesting, and may have a significant role in the pharmacological actions in the body. Presence of such enzyme inhibitors in garlic may perhaps explain several clinical effects in the body, including the antithrombotic, vasodilatory, and anticancer actions. Epidemiological studies have suggested that garlic plays a significant role in the reduction of deaths caused by malignant diseases. This had led many investigators to examine garlic and garlic constituents for their antitumor and cytotoxic actions both in vitro and in laboratory animals. The data from these investigations suggest that garlic contains several potentially important agents that possess antitumor and anticarcinogenic properties. In summary, the epidemiological, clinical, and laboratory data have proved that garlic contains many biologically and pharmacologically important compounds, which are beneficial to human health from cardiovascular, neoplastic, and several other diseases. Numerous studies are in progress all over the world to develop effective and odorless garlic preparations, as well as to isolate the active principles that may be therapeutically useful.