Active Ingredients

Allicin – Effect, Application & Risks


Allicin is produced in garlic (Allium sativum) from an enzymatic reaction during the destruction of the plant’s own tissue. The sulphur-containing substance quickly decomposes into components that also have health-promoting effects. The best known is the lowering of cholesterol levels and blood pressure , but many other effects have been proven that can be directly or indirectly attributed to allicin.

What is allicin?

Allicin is a sulfur-containing compound derived from the amino acid alliin found in garlic. Amino acids are a substance class of bioorganic nitrogen compounds, which also include the protein building blocks.

When garlic tissue is destroyed, alliin mixes with an enzyme that is localized in different cells than alliin.

The enzymatic activity of “allinase” converts alliin by splitting off allicin. This is how the active ingredient for which the leek plant is known is created when garlic is eaten or even during preparation. The intense smell of garlic results from spontaneously occurring breakdown products from allicin.

Pharmacological action

Allicin has been shown to be a biological antibiotic . The antibacterial effect covers a wide range of pathogens.In addition, allicin is also attributed an antifungal (fungus-killing) effect. Since fungal tissue consists of higher cells, allicin is a cytotoxin that can also be potentially dangerous for human cells. In practice, however, this is negligible, as explained below. The best-known effect of the substance, however, is the reduction in blood lipid levels, so allicin is said to lower the concentration of LDL cholesterol in particular.

This fraction of the blood lipids is mainly responsible for the arteriosclerosis according to the common opinion of the physicians . Allicin is an unstable compound that generates a mixture of substances in the organism. The biochemical effects of the secondary products are not yet known in detail, but scientists suspect further effects of garlic.

Allicin is said to be indirectly involved in combating toothache and lowering blood pressure. Allicin and its cleavage products are even being discussed as an aphrodisiac , based on the assumptions of ancient doctors. The reduction in blood sugar levels and an increase in physical fitness probably also result from allicin derivatives.

Medical Application & Use

According to these effects on metabolism , allicin is a recognized anti-arteriosclerotic agent. Preventing their secondary diseases such as heart attacks and strokes is one of the main areas of application for garlic extract. The versatile substance is also used for stomach cleansing, where allicin kills bacteria . Applied externally, an appropriate preparation can help against infections that are transmitted by parasites such as ticks . In a similar application, allicin helps against nail fungus and other mycoses .

The prophylactic effect against malignant tumors (cancer), which is attributed to allicin and its oxidation products, is the starting point of pharmacological research. The aim is to use allicin in chemotherapy . The problem with this is that allicin itself breaks down spontaneously and therefore only reaches the site of action in the organism in very small doses.

Therefore, scientists have tried to delay the release of allicin in the body. Technologically, it has already been possible in animal experiments to transport allicin to certain tumor cells. The results raise hopes of developing highly effective human chemotherapy drugs based on the main ingredient allicin.

Risks & side effects

Excessive intake of allicin can cause slight intolerance in the gastrointestinal tract. The same applies to people with a specific intolerance to allicin. In particular, this should play a role in allergies . However, these are usually not serious complications.Another side effect is negligible from a medical point of view: what is meant is the development of the typical garlic smell due to the derivatives of allicin. Many people perceive this as uncomfortable at best. The cytotoxic effect of allicin is also worth considering. However, this cell-killing property cannot become dangerous to human health.

Because the rapid decomposition of the substance during the digestion process largely prevents aggressive reactions in the metabolism. The positive effects are therefore very weak side effects. That is why garlic has been a popular remedy since ancient times, with allicin being the main reason for this.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.