Allicin is the active ingredient in garlic, responsible for the characteristic smell of the bulb that we use in the kitchen. With its numerous properties, allicin is useful for cholesterol control and has an antiseptic action. Let’s find out better.
What is Allicin
Allicin is the active ingredient extracted from garlic bulbs, to be clear the part we eat or use to flavor dishes. The garlic cloves contain a series of sulfur substances that carry out important pharmacological actions, among these the alline (S-allyl-cysteine-sulfoxide) stands out, an inactive and odorless substance which is converted into allicin (allyl ester of allylthiosulfonic acid) by the enzyme alliinase, released by breaking the vacuoles that contain it when the cloves are mechanically broken.
Allicin is responsible for the characteristic odor of garlic and the main actions of garlic, such as antiseptic, antimicrobial , antidyslipidemic, antiatherosclerotic, antiplatelet agent.
Where is allicin found
Allicin is found in garlic as well as in other plants, such as onions, always belonging to the Alliaceae family.
Formed as a result of the breakdown of cells, allicin represents a classic example of a defense mechanism that the plant implements when attacked by animals.
The garlic plant is very beautiful. Straight, flattened and long leaves; flowers at the apex of a scape, white or pink. The bulb is divided into various bulbils enclosed by membranous cataphylls.
The drug (that is the part of the plant that contains the active ingredient) consists of the fresh or dried bulb. The oil is obtained by steam distillation of the freshly ground bulbs; powdered drug is obtained from dried bulbs.
Volatile oil contains allicin.
Properties of allicin
Garlic and its essential oil have numerous properties. They are useful remedies to promote a lowering of glycemic levels, cholesterol and blood pressure (hypotension) ; garlic slows down the oxidation of LDL, slows down and reduces the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. LDL are low-molecular-weight proteins (low density lipoprotein), commonly known as bad cholesterol; their oxidation represents the first step for the thickening of the internal wall of the blood vessels and the formation of the so-called atherosclerotic plaques.
The reduction in cholesterol levels appears to follow a mechanism similar to monacolins and statins, i.e. inhibition of the HMG-CoA-reductase enzyme and the endogenous cholesterol synthesis cascade .
Garlic and in particular the thiosulfin compounds (including allicin), have been shown to be useful in inhibiting platelet adhesion and aggregation, both by direct action and by inhibition of the biosynthetic cascade that leads to the formation of prostaglandins and thromboxanes, as claimed by some literature.
Garlic also has important antiseptic properties, that is, it acts in a non-specific way on fungi, bacteria and viruses, preventing their proliferation. It is therefore useful in case of inflammations and infections in the intestine and bronchi. Furthermore, garlic has larvicidal and antiamebicidal properties as well as insecticidal; therefore it is useful against diseases caused by parasites. In the event of an infestation with pinworms, parasites that affect animals (e.g. dogs) but which complete part of their life cycle in the human intestine, particularly in children, garlic proves useful in warding off these parasites and rebalancing the bacterial flora.
In short, garlic proves to be a precious food that should never be missing in the kitchen. Its thousand-year use and popular tradition have made it one of the best-selling supplements.
The recommended doses are 600-800mg of dry bulb extract, titrated at 10-15% in allicin. Bulb macerates in oil can also be found on the market.
Garlic should not be administered to those who take synthetic or vegetable antiplatelet and anticoagulants, due to a sum of the effects.
Particular attention should be paid to those with gastric sensitivity, or to those suffering from gastric ulcer, stomach inflammation or gastroesophageal reflux and is not recommended for those who are intolerant to garlic.
Other contraindications are the known phenomena of halitosis. Although garlic is a precious food, this detail often takes us away from it, also because fresh bulbs should be chewed for a long time to allow the enzyme responsible for activating allicin to be freed from the vacuoles.