Allicin is biologically the most active element present in garlic. In 1944, Cavallito and Bailey were the first to detect allicin. In effect, the wide ranging anti-bacterial actions of garlic are attributed to this vital constituent. Scientific studies have also revealed that allicin works to lower the lipid levels, prevent blood from coagulating excessively and reduce high blood pressure. In addition, allicin also possesses antioxidant, anti-microbial as well as anti-cancer properties.

Garlic's chemical composition is very complicated. For instance, freshly obtained garlic encloses enzymes known as alliin and allinase, which are present in garlic plant's various parts. This outstanding composition has been designed in such a manner that it works in the form of a protective mechanism against all pathogens found in the soil. It is interesting to note that whenever any fungi or other pathogens of the soil invade the garlic cloves, the plant naturally destroys those affected parts and in just 10 seconds, the entire alliin present in garlic transforms itself into a new chemical known as allicin.

Characteristically, allicin's odor is similar to that of freshly mashed garlic. This is actually an extremely effective armament, as the defense mechanism of a garlic clove becomes active in a very limited area and for a brief span of time, while the remaining alliin and allinase are saved in their individual sections and can be used when there is any microbial invasion afterward. What is important is that since a major portion of allicin produced may possibly also be detrimental for the plant enzymes and tissues, the brief life span of these elements of garlic and their storage only in the restricted areas where most microbial invasions occur, significantly reduces the harm done to the plants by them.

Precisely speaking, the chemical compound allicin is only produced when you mash or chop garlic cloves. Generally, this element is utilized in preparing garlic supplements, while it functions in the form of an insecticide as well as a defensive mechanism for garlic when it grows in nature. While it has been detected that allicin possesses antifungal as well as antibacterial attributes, different scientific studies are split over the issue of using it effectively to treat medical conditions endured by humans. Moreover, allicin is a very unstable compound and has a comparatively very brief shelf life.

When garlic is in its original form, it is not an excellent allicin resource. Nevertheless, if the garlic bulb gets bruised or is chopped, the enzymes present in it start reacting and produce allicin. However, certain environments, such as acidity in the stomach, deactivate allicin, while heat destroys the compound. Hence, if you are using crushed or finely chopped garlic in cooking, you will be deprived of the health benefits offered by it - for instance, those attributed to allicin. As mentioned earlier, allicin does not have a good and stable shelf life and its liquid form also does not remain viable for long.

The brief shelf life of allicin notwithstanding, this compound is employed to manufacture several health supplements. It is believed that allicin has the aptitude to treat colds, perk up the immune system, and also diminish the chances of having strokes. In addition, it has been established in laboratory tests that allicin also possesses antifungal as well as antibacterial attributes. However, the results of scientific studies undertaken to determine the effectuality of using allicin supplements are divided. While some findings demonstrate that using garlic supplements is really extremely useful, there are others that assert that these claims are exaggerated. So far several researches have been undertaken on animals to determine the usefulness of allicin, hence, the findings may not be the same in the case of humans.

It is worth mentioning here that while preparing any cuisine with garlic it is important to crush or chop the cloves as only this will result in the production of allicin and also give the dish a potent flavour. The characteristic flavour of garlic is actually owing to converting the enzyme called allicinaise into allicin by means of a chemical interaction. When you cook garlic, the therapeutic properties of allicin are destroyed, because heat damages this compound. At the same time, cooking also robs garlic of its strong flavour.

Health benefits of allicin

Allicin, a sulfur compound present in garlic, offers several health benefits. In fact, it possesses antioxidant properties and has been found to be potentially useful for a range of medical conditions in humans. This compound possesses anti-platelet, hypolipidemic as well as pro-circulatory attributes. In addition, allicin has shown that it has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, chemo-preventive and anti-cancer actions. Moreover, when garlic extract is stored for some time, it possesses neuro-protective as well as hepato-protective properties. However, the lack of stability of allicin restricts the biological activities of this vital compound in garlic. When garlic cloves are crushed fresh, they have anti-bacterial actions and allicin becomes chemically noticeable. However, these activities diminish each day when garlic is kept in ethanol and aqueous solutions. Since allicin is not available biologically, it is not soaked up by the blood - this is true despite consuming allicin in excessive quantities.

Allicin possesses anti-bacterial actions, which are attributed to this compound's chemical interaction with various enzymes belonging to the thiol groups. In addition to impeding the growth of viruses and bacteria, this phytochemical also prevents the development of yeasts like Candida. Allicin may possibly be therapeutically useful in facilitating the healing of ulcers owing to its anti-microbial actions. Experiments undertaken in laboratories (in vitro) have shown that it has anti-microbial actions against a wide variety of pathogens, for instance, Staphylococcus aureaus, Escherichia coli, Helicobacter pylori, as well as streptococci of the Lancefield group B.

Similarly, laboratory experiments with allicin have demonstrated that this phytochemical is effective in impeding the attacks as well metastasis of carcinogenic cells in the human colon. Allicin also demonstrates anti-genotoxic activities. However, anti-cancer action of this compound in humans is yet to be ascertained, since the stability of this phytochemical is very low and its rare bioavailability.

Physicians recommend taking garlic to augment the health of one's heart by means of bringing down elevated blood pressure. However, the findings of scientific researches undertaken on this subject have been contradictory. According to the findings of one research, allicin protects against atherosclerosis and this is directly attributable to the antioxidant actions of this phytochemical, in addition to additional means, for instance, slowing down the uptake of low density lipoprotein (LDL), lipoprotein modification as well as degradation by macrophages.

Allicin, a major chemical component in garlic, aids in combating bacteria, fungi, viruses, yeasts, molds and is also helpful in preventing several serious diseases. Precisely speaking, garlic has been employed in the form of an antioxidant since long - much before the era of gladiators, to fight against infections.

As mentioned before, allicin is not present in garlic in its natural form, but is generated owing to a chemical reaction when you crush or chop garlic. Hence, in order to obtain the utmost health benefits from garlic it is important to crush, cut or chop the cloves. However, you ought to know that when kept in the normal temperature of your living room the potency of allicin declines by nearly half just within three hours of its release. And after 24 hours of its release, allicin loses its entire potency. Allicin breaks down completely at elevated temperatures, for instance, when garlic is cooked.

It is interesting to note that when allicin disintegrates, it results in the formation of many more compounds. In fact, findings of the latest scientific studies have actually made the list of garlic compounds longer - more than 400. Of these garlic compounds, as many as 30 are said to possess therapeutic as well as healing properties.

Besides possessing anti-fungal properties, allicin is also an antibiotic and folk medicine has used garlic preparations to treat various skin contagions, for instance, athlete's foot. However, you need to be cautious while using garlic. Excessive exposure to mashed garlic may produce blisters on the skin. In addition, it is important to know that some people have allergic reactions when they consume or come in contact with garlic. As garlic is extremely potent, one should use it with due respect.