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Garlic

Garlic
© Sertürner Bildarchiv

Botanical name

Garlic - Allium sativum L.

Family

Onion family (Alliaceae)

Useful information about the plant

Central Asia is considered the home of garlic, but the plant has been maintained through farming for a long time and almost the entire world, especially the Near East, cultivate it. The European demand for garlic is covered by crops in southern Europe. The long tradition as a cultivated crop is expressed in the epithet sativum (Latin "sativus" = cultivated, planted, sown). The etymology of the genus name Allium is unclear, it may be derived from the Latin "olere" (= to smell) which refers to the distinctive odour of the Allium species, including garlic, onion, wild garlic, chives. In contrast to onion (Allium cepa), garlic is not a bulb with nested layers. Its tubular-shaped, separate, white leaves grow side by side around the compressed axis. Each leaf encloses 3 to 5 "cloves". That is what the closely wedged together pieces are called and they have slightly angular, curved sides, on top of the bulb it is covered with rootlets around the elongated-ovoid head. The edible part of a clove consists of a fleshy lower leaf of the rhizome (underground stem portion), which surrounds the tubular bud. One must remove the white and red paper-like encasing of the clove before using it. Major and minor bulbs are also encased together with several dry-skinned whitish lower leaf sheaths, giving the impression that it is an "onion". The plant is a perennial, it grows 25 to 70cm tall with an erect, rigid stem, leafy to the middle with flat, broad-linear, pointed foliage. The flowers are on long stalks, but mostly in the bud stage, the petals are reddish or greenish white.

Medicinally used plant parts (drug)

The dried cloves are used in the form of a powder. Garlic is imported from the Mediterranean countries and also from China.

Ingredients of the drug

The fresh garlic clove contains the odourless alliin [(+)- S-allyl-L-cystein sulfoxide], whilst cutting and drying it, the contact with the garlic enzyme alliinase creates allicin (allyl 2- thiosulphate propane). This gives the pleasant smell of fresh garlic, but then it turns spontaneously into the strong smelling volatile sulfur compounds. The alliin-alliinase system must remain as intact as possible whilst producing the drug, this is achieved through the fast and gentle drying of the bulb.

Descriptions of the quality

The quality of garlic powder (Allii sativi pulvis bulbi) is specified in the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur.).

Medical Application

Recognised medical use

In order to support dietary measures to increase the blood lipid levels and prevention of age-related vascular changes (general hardening of the arteries - atherosclerosis) (Commission E, ESCOP); ESCOP also mentions the popular use of garlic for infections in the upper respiratory tracts and colds, but judges this very critically because of lack of clinical data.

Traditional use

Garlic has no listing as a traditional medicine (§ 109a).

Medicinal herbal preparations in finished drug products

  • Garlic bulb powder in capsules and tablets
  • Garlic oil macerate in capsules

Dosage

Prepared drugs: see package insert;
Fresh garlic bulb: Average daily dose 4g. The preparation of a tea infusion is not worthwhile, since the alliin contained in Garlic is barely soluble in water and therefore hardly goes in a tea; furthermore, it would spontaneously release the unpleasant-smelling sulfur compounds when being prepared.

Preparation of a tea infusion

N/A

Advice

Taking garlic and garlic preparations leads to changes in the smell of your skin and breath. There is no evidence of risk in pregnancy and breast-feeding, however, garlic substances will enter the breast milk. The disease of atherosclerosis is not relevant to children and adolescents.

Side effects

None known

Interactions

There aren´t any entirely clarified references to a possible strengthening effect of concomitantly ingested anticoagulants (Marcurmar etc.) and medical products to reduce the blood pressure; also there is no clarified indication of a possible weakening effect of the HIV protease inhibitor, Saquinavir.

References

Drug monographs

Commission E, ESCOP, WHO (Vol. 1)

Further reading

Wichtl: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka, pg. 59
Schilcher: Leitfaden Phytotherapie, pg. 150
Van Wyk: Handbuch der Arzneipflanzen, pg. 39
Kommentar zum Europäischen Arzneibuch (Garlic powder, no. 1216)

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