Allicin (from garlic) induces caspase-mediated apoptosis in cancer cells

Eur J Pharmacol. 2004 Feb 6;485(1-3):97-103. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2003.11.059.


Garlic (Allium sativum) has been used for centuries for treating various ailments, and its consumption is said to reduce cancer risk and its extracts and components effectively block experimentally induced tumors. Allicin, the major component present in freshly crushed garlic, is one of the most biologically active compounds of garlic. We found that allicin inhibited the growth of cancer cells of murine and human origin. Allicin induced the formation of apoptotic bodies, nuclear condensation and a typical DNA ladder in cancer cells. Furthermore, activation of caspases-3, -8 and -9 and cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase were induced by allicin. The present results demonstrating allicin-induced apoptosis of cancer cells are novel since allicin has not been shown to induce apoptosis previously. Our results also provide a mechanistic basis for the antiproliferative effects of allicin and partly account for the chemopreventive action of garlic extracts reported by earlier workers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Enzyme Activation / physiology
  • Garlic*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Sulfinic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Sulfinic Acids / therapeutic use


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Sulfinic Acids
  • allicin
  • Caspases