Garlic: nature's protection against physiological threats

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009 Jun;49(6):538-51. doi: 10.1080/10408390802145344.


Currently reliance on natural products is gaining popularity to combat various physiological threats including oxidative stress, cardiovascular complexities, cancer insurgence, and immune dysfunction. The use of traditional remedies may encounter more frequently due to an array of scientific evidence in their favor. Garlic (Allium sativum) holds a unique position in history and was recognized for its therapeutic potential. Recent advancements in the field of immunonutrition, physiology, and pharmacology further explored its importance as a functional food against various pathologies. Extensive research work has been carried out on the health promoting properties of garlic, often referred to its sulfur containing metabolites i.e. allicin and its derivatives. Garlic in its preparations are effective against health risks and even used as dietary supplements such as age garlic extract (AGE) and garlic oil etc. Its components/formulations can scavenge free radicals and protect membranes from damage and maintains cell integrity. It also provides cardiovascular protection mediated by lowering of cholesterol, blood pressure, anti-platelet activities, and thromboxane formation thus providing protection against atherosclerosis and associated disorders. Besides this, it possesses antimutagenic and antiproliferative properties that are interesting in chemopreventive interventions. Several mechanisms have been reviewed in this context like activation of detoxification phase-I and II enzymes, reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, and reducing DNA damage etc. Garlic could be useful in preventing the suppression of immune response associated with increased risk of malignancy as it stimulates the proliferation of lymphocytes, macrophage phagocytosis, stimulates the release of interleukin-2, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interferon-gamma, and enhances natural killer cells. In this paper much emphasis has been placed on garlic's ability to ameliorate oxidative stress, core role in cardiovascular cure, chemopreventive strategies, and indeed its prospective as immune booster.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allyl Compounds / chemistry
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Food, Organic*
  • Garlic / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Immunocompetence
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Sulfides / chemistry


  • Allyl Compounds
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Plant Extracts
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Sulfides
  • allyl sulfide