“The deeper you look into garlic’s wonderful chemistry; the more you tend to discover what you didn’t know before.” Dr. Eric Block, professor of the State University of New York, at the First World Congress on Garlic
If you have seen the movie “Medicine Man” with Sean Connery, then you can get a feel for the complexities of finding the “active ingredient”. In this movie, Connery is a physician in the Amazon’ Jungle who feels that he has found the cure for cancer, but cannot quite re-create his initially successful herbal formula. As he races to find the “active ingredient”, the jungle is rapidly being consumed by bulldozers and fire. Finally, he finds that the active ingredient: the feces from spiders after they had eaten out of the sugar bowl.
Amazing Healing Powers of Garlic
The reason for this little anecdote is to prepare you for the complexities and confusion surrounding the “active ingredients” that are to be credited for garlic’s amazing healing powers. You see, the health care industry is built around our $80 billion per year drug business. In spite of pressure from Congress to lower drug prices and worldwide recessions in the health care arena, international pharmaceutical companies still report 20-30% annual profit margins to their stock holders.
Drugs are profitable because they are patented and therefore protected from competition by law and therefore can extract major profits from those who need the drugs. Drug companies feel that they have a right to recoup their $150 million investment that is required to jump through the 5 years worth of hoops setup by the Food and Drug Administration for official FDA approval.
Garlic Cannot Be Patented
Garlic cannot be patented because it is a natural product. But if someone can find the active ingredient in garlic, then perhaps a major drug company can create a synthetic analog, or chemical that is similar in structure, and then someone can make a serious fortune off the healing actions of garlic. That is why this quest for the “holy grail” of the active ingredient in garlic. This video shares more about the health benefits of garlic.
Meanwhile, according to a nutrient content chart from the United States Department of Agriculture, here is what’s in 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of edible garlic:
Nutrient Content of Garlic
|Fiber||1.5 g||Fat||0.2 g|
|Ash||1.5 g||Potassium||259 g|
|Sodium||19 mg||Iron||1.5 mg|
|Absorbic Acid||15 mg||Niacin||0.5 mg|
|Thiamine||0.25 mg||Riboflavin||0.08 mg|
This nutrient listing is very unremarkable, but it is like a cover-story for Superman–a bland appearance belies the dynamo within. Let’s glean from the world’s best scientists and look behind the scenes at the REAL active ingredients in garlic.
PROTEIN. While garlic is only a modest 6% protein, the unique sulfur-bearing amino acids in garlic provide a piece of the puzzle in deciphering its potent healing ability. S-allyl cysteine, S-allylmercaptocysteine, S-allyl methyl cysteine, and gamma glutamyl S-allyl cysteine are among the unique amino acids found in garlic that are primary candidates for potent medicines.One of these agents, S-allyl cysteine, is odorless, stable, and safe and has been demonstrated by itself to reduce cholesterol in the blood, thin out the blood to prevent strokes, prevent cancer in animals, and detoxify the liver.
- ENZYMES. Enzymes are the chemical “workers” that take things apart and put things together. Garlic contains at least 9 water-soluble enzymes. One of the more important enzymes, alliinase, acts on alliin to produce allicin, which was once considered the “active ingredient” in garlic. However, allicin is unstable and deteriorates within a few hours. Something else in garlic will have to get credit for the incredible health-restoring abilities.
- CARBOHYDRATES. Most of garlic is a collection of starches and sugars. There are 17 identified sugars, including fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) which help to promote the growth of friendly bacteria (like acidophilus) in the gut. FOS is another reason why garlic helps so many people with so many different health problems. Are you eating the right type of carbohydrates?
- VITAMINS, MINERALS. Based on what we know, there is nothing special
- TRACE MINERALS. There is a small amount of selenium in garlic which could help explain its ability to detoxify the body and protect against the ravages of aging. Also, garlic contains 1 part per billion of germanium, which is not much unless your body is starving for this mysterious trace mineral that seems to help oxygenate the cells.
- NUCLEOSIDES. These are substances that help to build the DNA in the body, which is the blueprints , to make a whole new you. There are six different nucleosides in garlic, including adenosine, which may be another clue to garlic’s value.
- SPECIAL OILS. This is where the : stinky part is found. Among the oily compounds in garlic are diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide, and small amounts of other volatile and unstable oils.
Some of the experts claim that only aged and deodorized. garlic has any health value. Some claim that raw garlic is actually harmful. Some claim to have a unique process for extracting their own favorite “active ingredient” from garlic. Green tea also has many active ingredients with unique properties.
There’s probably value in all of these variations on garlic. Excessive amounts of raw garlic (30 cloves per day) which were used during WWI and WWII to treat infections have been shown to create anemia, diarrhea, and other problems in some sensitive individuals.