Garlic is the edible bulb of a plant within the lily household, native to central Asia. In addition to creating meals style higher, it has historically been used for health functions by cultures such because the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Japanese.
The folkloric hyperlink between vampires and garlic has to do with allicin, the main sulfur “compound that is (briefly) released when the garlic clove is cut,” mentioned Eric Block, a distinguished professor emeritus of chemistry on the University at Albany State University of New York and creator of “Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the Science.”

“The reason for the presence of sulfur compounds in garlic is to allow the garlic bulb to survive (while it’s) in the ground, where it’s surrounded by predators microscopic and larger,” Block mentioned. The smelly, burning “compounds that are released when the garlic clove is disrupted serve to deter further attack.”

Some medieval Europeans believed that vampires — the fictional blood-drinkers which have come to dominate the horror style — had been created by a blood disease, so folks carried garlic considering it was a powerful antibiotic that would kill the monsters.
Garlic -- supposedly the most popular "vampire repellent" -- is displayed in the world's first vampire museum in Paris on April 1, 2005. Garlic -- supposedly the most popular "vampire repellent" -- is displayed in the world's first vampire museum in Paris on April 1, 2005.
The blood dysfunction porphyria could have supported this perception, based on the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Porphyria is a bunch of issues characterised by a faulty enzyme our our bodies must make heme, the deep-red, iron-containing compounds that help transport oxygen all through the physique.
Complications of the dysfunction could make pores and skin pale and shrink gums, which might make enamel look greater. Garlic and daylight can worsen the signs, so folks with porphyria would possibly keep away from it — a behavior some folks attributed to vampirism. By consuming human blood, “vampires (or people with porphyria) might theoretically replenish their heme stores,” mentioned a 2014 paper revealed in QJM: An International Journal of Medicine.

The position of allicin present in garlic

Allicin can be the compound to which most potential health benefits attributed to garlic have been credited. Some small research have advised that garlic could also be useful for barely bettering blood pressure, cholesterol, immune function, the prevention of certain cancers and oxidative stress — an imbalance that may lead to diseases comparable to most cancers, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
At excessive doses, garlic’s compounds have reportedly helped shield organs from heavy steel toxicity. A four-week-long study of employees of a automobile battery plant discovered that garlic lowered blood lead ranges by 19%.
Bundled garlic lies on display at the International Green Week agricultural trade fair (Internationale Grüne Woche) in Berlin, Germany, on January 16, 2015.Bundled garlic lies on display at the International Green Week agricultural trade fair (Internationale Grüne Woche) in Berlin, Germany, on January 16, 2015.

“There is a lot of folklore as to the beneficial health effects of garlic in the diet,” mentioned Alan Slusarenko, a professor of plant physiology at RWTH Aachen University in Germany, through e-mail. “However, we have no data from controlled clinical trials.”

Study outcomes have been inconclusive or subpar. Additionally, many of those research have used garlic that may be a very excessive dose, concentrated or given in a type of stabilized allicin. Another cause some researchers have stabilized allicin is that when garlic enters the physique, the digestive tract should break it down and neutralize it earlier than the liver takes over to hold away waste and assist the bloodstream take up vitamins. Therefore, “the chances of actually reaching a cell somewhere in the body are very small,” Block mentioned.

Issue: How to show allicin right into a helpful drug

“That’s been the big problem: How do you take this compound allicin, with all these wonderful properties demonstrated in (human) cells, and make it into a useful drug?” Block mentioned.

“To try to translate that into a medicine has proven very, very challenging, and has led a lot of companies — that are out to make money — to make false claims based on the activity of these compounds in cells,” he added. In different phrases, some firms have been “trying to convince people that just because they’re very active in all these experiments, it’s also active as a pill or as a supplement.”

Allicin is “destroyed” when cooked, Slusarenko mentioned, “and off-the-shelf supplements generally have no or variable contents of allicin.”

And the US Food and Drug Administration does not regulate dietary dietary supplements, so “advertisers can say whatever they want,” Block mentioned.

Possible unintended effects

Given these points, you would possibly assume that folks may simply eat uncooked garlic for health benefits.

However, this is not a good suggestion for a number of causes: Because allicin is garlic’s very potent protection, consuming uncooked garlic “can cause severe irritation and burns,” Block mentioned. The slower an individual’s metabolism, the extra probably it’s that they might expertise unintended effects comparable to rash, heartburn, abdomen irritation, and burns within the esophagus or digestive tract.

Some individuals who have consumed uncooked garlic or rubbed it on their pores and skin have “wound up within the emergency room with second-degree burns,” Block added.

Some cultures do not have this downside. In some areas of the Mediterranean, for instance, “people will chew on garlic, and I guess they’ve developed a resistance to it,” Block mentioned. But for a lot of others, it is “dangerous and it should never be used with children. And it should not be used on sensitive areas of the body.”

A constructive, not a panacea

Maybe the most important good thing about garlic is not what science has to say about it, however somewhat how garlic can assist us eat higher.

Garlic has around 2% of the recommended daily value of manganese, phosphorus and vitamin B6, and 1% to 2% of the really useful every day worth of calcium, vitamin C, potassium and selenium. Garlic’s aroma and style can increase the flavour of meat, poultry, seafood, greens, pastas, pizzas and extra. “It’s just part of a healthy diet, along with eating blueberries and everything else that we might eat,” Block mentioned.

“Scientifically, garlic and onions and related plants are really one of nature’s wonders. I think that there’s some very exciting science that one can discover,” Block mentioned.

“It’s possible that, in the future, scientists will discover ways to utilize these remarkable molecules in a way to treat disease. But again, that has to be done using the full power of science to test compounds in a fair and honest way to make sure that they actually work.”

NCS’s Sandee LaMotte contributed to this story.


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