What Is It?
Allium compounds are derived from Allium sativum, or garlic, which is one of the most widely studied medicinal plants. The fresh garlic bulb is usually dried, crushed into a powder, and then compressed to produce a tablet. The tablet form is the most commonly used commercial preparation of garlic. Raw whole cloves have similar effects.
The allium compounds responsible for garlic’s actions have been purported to ward off evil spirits and heal wounds.
Allium compounds are being studied for several uses. More popular investigations are focusing on their potential benefit in reducing cardiovascular disease risk because of their lipid-lowering and antithrombotic effects. Anti-tumor and antimicrobial effects are also being studied.
Cholesterol-lowering effects attributed to garlic have been well documented in humans. Garlic may lower total serum cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL, while increasing HDL. Results of one clinical study reported a mean reduction of 6% in total serum cholesterol and 11% in LDL.
Methylallyltrisulphide, an allium compound in garlic oil has been connected to inhibition of platelet aggregation. Another isolated allium compound, ajoene, is currently being investigated for its possible effect on platelet aggregation.
Although the mechanism is unclear, preliminary pilot studies with AIDS patients may suggest that garlic and its allium compounds reduce morbidity.
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David Edelberg, MD