Garlic (Allium sativum L.) is thought to have a variety of therapeutic applications including inhibition of platelet aggregation. Many of the therapeutic actions of garlic parallel the physiological effects of nitric oxide and may be explained by its ability to increase nitric oxide synthase activity intracellularly. Our studies showed that both water and alcoholic extracts of garlic are very potent inhibitors of platelet aggregation induced by epinephrine and ADP. Similar dilutions of garlic extract also activated nitric oxide synthase activity in isolated platelets in vitro. The same extract was also very effective in activating nitric oxide synthase activity in placental villous tissue. The addition of garlic extracts increased nitric oxide synthase activity in a dose-dependent manner. Nitrite levels in the supernatants of incubated placental villous tissue were similarly increased. Activation of calcium-dependent nitric oxide synthase and the subsequent production of nitric oxide is probably the most novel mechanism yet claimed by which garlic can exert its therapeutic properties.