The Benefits of Allicin

Garlic's Heart-Health Booster

garlic cloves
Allicin, a compound in garlic, may help with a number of conditions. Image Source/Getty Images

Allicin is a compound produced when garlic is crushed or chopped. Available in dietary supplement form, it's been found to reduce inflammation and offer antioxidant benefits. Taking allicin supplements is said to help with a number of health problems, as well as fight major diseases like heart disease and cancer.

How Allicin Is Formed

Fresh garlic contains an amino acid called alliin. When the garlic clove is crushed or chopped, it releases an enzyme known as alliinase. The interaction between alliin and alliinase brings about the formation of allicin, which is considered the major biologically active component of garlic.

Uses for Allicin

In alternative medicine, allicin is said to protect against the following health problems:

In addition, allicin supplements are sometimes used to enhance exercise performance

Benefits of Allicin

Many scientific studies have shown that garlic may offer a variety of health benefits, such as better blood pressure control and prevention of atherosclerosis. While research on the specific health effects of allicin is fairly limited, there's some evidence that using allicin supplements may offer certain beneficial effects. Here's a look at several findings from the available research on allicin:

1)  Cholesterol

Several studies have shown that allicin may help lower cholesterol levels. In a small study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2001, for instance, 46 people with high cholesterol were placed on a low-fat diet and assigned to 12 weeks of treatment with either a placebo or enteric-coated garlic powder tablets designed to deliver 9.6 mg of allicin. (Applied to many oral medicines, enteric coating is thought to maximize absorption of the product's active ingredients by protecting them from the damaging effects of stomach acids.)

At the end of the study period, the 22 participants given garlic supplements showed a significantly greater reduction in total cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol (compared to members of the placebo group). However, allicin did not significantly increase levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. 

There's also some evidence that allicin's potentially cholesterol-lowering effects could help fight hardening of the arteries. This evidence includes findings from a mouse-based study published in the journal Pathobiology in 2005, in which allicin appeared to promote the breakdown of LDL cholesterol and reduce plaque buildup in the animals' arteries.

2)  High Blood Pressure

A preliminary study published in the Israel Medical Association Journal suggests that allicin may help regulate blood pressure. In tests on rats with high blood pressure, the study's authors observed that animals fed an allicin-enriched diet experienced a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure (the top number on a blood pressure reading).

3)  Muscle Soreness

Allicin may help alleviate exercise-related muscle damage, according to a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology in 2008. For the study, a group of athletes took either allicin supplements or a placebo for two weeks before (and two days after) a treadmill-based workout. Results revealed that those given allicin experienced less muscle soreness after their workout (compared to those given the placebo).


Use of allicin-containing supplements may trigger a range of side effects, including diarrhea, heartburn, gas, and nausea.

Due to the lack of clinical trials testing the effects of garlic supplements, little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of such supplements or how it might interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Since allicin may also increase the risk of bleeding, it's crucial to avoid allicin-containing supplements prior to undergoing surgery. If you're currently using blood-thinning medications or supplements such as warfarin (Coumadin®), aspirin, ginkgo, or vitamin E, talk to your doctor before taking allicin-containing supplements. 

Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get additional tips on using supplements here.

Where to Find Allicin

Available for purchase online, allicin supplements are also sold in many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in nutritional products.

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Article Sources
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