Garlic: empiricism or science?

Nat Prod Commun. 2009 Dec;4(12):1785-96.


Garlic (Allium sativum L. fam. Alliaceae) is one of the best-researched, best-selling herbal remedies and is also commonly used as a food and a spice. Garlic constituents include enzymes (for example, alliinase) and sulfur-containing compounds, including alliin, and compounds produced enzymatically from alliin (for example, allicin). Traditionally, it has been employed to treat infections, wounds, diarrhea, rheumatism, heart disease, diabetes, and many other disorders. Experimentally, it has been shown to exert antilipidemic, antihypertensive, antineoplastic, antibacterial, immunostimulant and hypoglycemic actions. Clinically, garlic has been evaluated for a number of conditions, including hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, intermittent claudication, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, common cold, as an insect repellent, and for the prevention of arteriosclerosis and cancer. Systematic reviews are available for the possible antilipidemic, antihypertensive, antithrombotic and chemopreventive effects. However, the clinical evidence is far from compelling. Garlic appears to be generally safe although allergic reactions may occur.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / prevention & control
  • Botany
  • Cardiotonic Agents / pharmacology
  • Drug Interactions
  • Garlic / adverse effects
  • Garlic / chemistry*
  • Garlic / classification
  • Garlic / history
  • History, 17th Century
  • Humans
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Phytotherapy* / adverse effects


  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Hypolipidemic Agents