By now, you probably have heard that garlic has numerous health benefits. These benefits include decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, improving immunity, helping you live longer, and detoxifying the body.
There are numerous compounds in garlic which are responsible for these health benefits, but researchers have pinpointed one in particular for its outstanding health benefits: allicin. Unfortunately though, getting the health benefits of allicin isn’t as easy as popping a garlic supplement.
What Is Allicin?
If an animal is attacked, it can fight or flee. Plants can’t do this, so instead they’ve evolved others ways of protecting themselves from dangers — and one way is evolving to contain strong, protecting chemicals. The allicin in garlic is one of the most effective examples of this. Allicin protects the garlic plant from infection and pests.
Here is how it works:
Garlic doesn’t normally contain allicin. However, if the garlic plant is injured in some way – such as getting chopped up with your kitchen knife – a chemical reaction starts to occur.
The enzyme allinase converts alliin (a derivative of the amino acid cysteine) into allicin. It is allicin which gives garlic its strong aroma. This strong aroma keeps pests away, and also has antibacterial and antifungal properties to protect the plant from infection.
Let’s say that a strain of fungi starts attacking garlic. The garlic then releases allicin, which kills the fungi. Botany is pretty cool, huh?1
Health Benefits of Allicin
In the same way that allicin can protect garlic from threats, it can also protect us. Numerous studies have been performed on allicin, particularly for treating bacterial, fungal, and viral infections.
Here are just some of the studied health benefits of allicin:
- Fighting infections
- Reducing cholesterol
- Reducing high blood pressure
- Boosting immunity
- Reducing inflammation
- Fighting cancer
- Thinning blood
- Treating acne
- Reducing exercise-related muscle soreness 2, 3, 4, 5
Allicin As an Alternative to Antibiotics
One of the most exciting benefits of allicin is that it is a natural alternative to antibiotics. Remember how I said that garlic forms allicin to prevent infection when the plant is damaged? Well, it can fight off infections in our bodies too.
Why wouldn’t you just take a pharmaceutical antibiotic for infection?
There are a lot of reasons not to take antibiotics, like antibiotic resistance or their high cost. But, for me, the biggest risk of antibiotics is that they disrupt your gut flora.
Disruption in gut flora (gut flora dysbiosis) is linked to severe health problems including IBS, SIBO, and even obesity and mental health disorders!
It is no wonder that hospitals are now buying allicin to put on feeding tubes, catheters, etc. as a means of preventing infection!6
I personally used an allicin supplement (Allimed) for fighting my bad case of SIBO. You can read about herbal alternatives to antibiotics for SIBO here.
Here are just some of the other infections that allicin may help treat:
- Antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant
- Cold Sores
- Sore Throat
- UTIs6, 7
FDA Disclaimer: These statements have not been approved by the FDA. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbal remedy or natural treatment!
So, Should I Start Eating Raw Garlic to Get Allicin?
Garlic has a lot of health benefits but, if it is allicin you are after, eating lots of raw garlic isn’t exactly a good solution. Aside from the obvious smelly breath problem, you’d have to eat a LOT of garlic to get significant amounts of allicin – and your body wouldn’t absorb it anyway.
Amount of Allicin in Raw Garlic
A single garlic clove has about 5 to 18mg of allicin.5 In the studies which found health benefits of allicin, much higher amounts of allicin were used.
For example, in this study on the antimalarial potential of allicin, rats (it is hard to find allicin studies with human subjects; most are on lab animals or in vitro) were given 5 to 8 mg of allicin per kilogram of body weight.
In human terms, that means around 400 to 640 mg of allicin per day – or around 45 garlic gloves per day!
Allicin in Raw Garlic Isn’t Absorbed
Allinase is inactivated by the stomach’s pH. Thus, if you eat garlic in hopes of getting allicin, the allinase will just be destroyed before any significant amount of allicin can be produced.
For example, in one study, subjects were given 25 grams of raw garlic. Their blood and urine were checked in the 1 to 24 hours afterwards and no significant amounts of allicin or its transformation products were found. This suggests that allicin in raw garlic is not bioavailable.8
That’s disappointing, but you probably weren’t going to eat 45+ cloves of garlic per day anyway! 😉
Oh, and btw… Raw Garlic Might Wreak Havoc on Your Gut…
If you have SIBO, IBS, or fructose intolerance, your body might react badly to garlic because it contains FODMAPs. You can read more about FODMAPs here.
Allicin doesn’t contain the FODMAPs part of garlic, so it is safe to consume even if you have those conditions. Of course, check with your doctor first!
What about Garlic Supplements for Allicin?
A seemingly easier way to get allicin is to take a garlic supplement. There are plenty of these on the market, but don’t be too quick to think they’ll provide you with allicin.
Remember, allicin is only produced when garlic is damaged and the enzyme allinase converts alliin into allicin. Once allicin is produced, it quickly starts to deteriorate into sulfur-containing compounds such as diallyl disulfide.
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, the half-life of allicin in crushed garlic is only 2.5 days. So, it is no wonder that studies have shown that garlic supplements contain no allicin.8, 9
Let’s repeat that:
Garlic supplements contain ZERO allicin!
Here’s where things get a little confusing. Garlic supplements do contain allinase and alliin (the precursors to allicin). If the garlic supplement is enterically coated, it can get to the small intestine (which has a more-neutral pH) without being damaged. The alliin can then be converted into allicin for the body to use.10
Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve the problem that little allicin is being produced in the first place. Lots of garlic supplements like to boast their “allicin yield” or “allicin potential” but these labels are often inaccurate or misleading. The allicin yield is tested in pH-neutral environments which are not representative of the stomach or even small intestine.11
A Reliable Allicin Supplement?
I’m not going to leave you hanging! Yes, there actually is an allicin supplement that I can feel confident recommending. It is called Allimed in the United States and it is the one I used for treating SIBO.
Unlike other allicin supplements, Allimed is made from stabilized allicin known as Allisure. Allisure won’t be broken down by GI acids and can actually be absorbed into the body. Allimed has been around for over a decade now and has been used in numerous tests and achieved great results.
***You can buy Allimed here.***
Have you ever tried using allicin as an alternative to antibiotics? How did it work for you? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section below!