An in vitro evaluation of human cytochrome P450 3A4 and P-glycoprotein inhibition by garlic

J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2001 May-Aug;4(2):176-84.


Purpose: Garlic has been used as a flavouring agent, traditional medicine, and functional food to improve physical or mental well-being. Garlic and garlic products generally have been regarded as safe but a number of conflicting reports in the literature and confounding factors make it difficult to unequivocally establish the clinical efficacy and safety of these products either alone or in the presence of therapeutic products. A preliminary study was undertaken with fresh garlic and garlic products using the major cDNA-expressed human cytochrome P-450 isozymes associated with the metabolism of HIV/AIDS drugs, and purified P-glycoprotein (P-gp) cell membranes to ascertain the risk potential for generating interactions with therapeutic products.

Methods: A broad screening was undertaken with 10 garlic products (aged, odourless, oil, freeze-dried) and 3 varieties of fresh garlic bulbs (common, Elephant and Chinese), all purchased from local outlets, to examine their potential to affect human cytochrome P-450 2C9*1, 2C9*2, 2C19, 2D6, 3A4, 3A5 and 3A7 mediated-metabolism of marker substrates using an in vitro fluorometric microtiter plate assay. Four garlic products were screened for their potential to interact with P-gp using an in vitro colourmetric ATPase assay.

Results: Extracts of fresh garlic, different brands and lots of odourless garlic and representative samples of garlic oil, freeze dried garlic, and aged garlic exhibited an inhibitory effect on cytochrome P450 2C9*1, 2C19, 3A4, 3A5 and 3A7 mediated metabolism of a marker substrate. The activity of 2D6 mediated-metabolism was generally unaffected by garlic. Extracts of the fresh garlic stimulated CYP2C9*2 metabolism of the marker substrate. With the extracts tested, garlic had very low to moderate P-gp interaction as compared with the positive control verapamil.

Conclusions: Our in vitro findings demonstrate that garlic components can affect cytochrome P-450 2C, 2D and 3A mediated-metabolism of the isoforms studied. The safety and efficacy of conventional therapeutic products metabolized by the affected isozymes, particularly those with a narrow therapeutic index, taken concomitantly with garlic needs to be examined further under clinical settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • Garlic / chemistry*
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases / genetics
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Isoenzymes
  • Plant Extracts
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases
  • CYP3A protein, human
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A