Garlic Chemistry 101

Garlic Toast For those who like to dig deeper into the chemistry of food, the post provides a brief overview into garlic’s various benefits, whether heated, raw, or fermented. I try to buy at least 20-lbs of garlic each year (this year shipping it in from an Amish farmer using chemical-free methods) so that I have enough to create every version.

Garlic is well-known as a healing food and a powerful medicine, owing its natural anti-biotic to allicin, an anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. When switching from a standard American diet of processed foods, garlic is useful to detoxing your digestive tract and boosting the immune system. Healing with Whole Food

Fermented garlic – whether in a brine or miso – is our favorite form, because of its versatility. It’s still considered by raw-food enthusiasts to be a raw food. A clove of fermented garlic, added to gently-melted grass-fed butter, changes its chemical properties to yet another venue of health-giving properties.

“A member of the lily or Allium family, which also includes onions, garlic is rich in a variety of powerful sulfur-containing compounds including thiosulfinates (of which the best known compound is allicin), sulfoxides (among which the best known compound is alliin), and dithiins (in which the most researched compound is ajoene). While these compounds are responsible for garlic’s characteristically pungent odor, they are also the source of many of its health-promoting effects. In addition, garlic is an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of vitamin B6 and vitamin C and a good source of selenium.” Whole Foods – Garlic

“Phytotherapy” is the practice of using phytonutrients to cure, heal, etc. Garlic has a wide number of chemical compounds that are still being discovered, identified.

Raw, sliced, whole, and heated garlic all offer different compounds. Some are increased by fermentation. Others are activated when the garlic clove is crushed. Yet others are activated when heated.

SAC, DADS and DATS benefits:

  • When allicin (a powerful antibiotic and anti-fungal compound naturally occurring in garlic) is fermented, it turns into S-allylcysteine (SAC) which is more easily absorbed by the body.
  • SAC increases over time – up to 5 years when fermented!!
  • Compounds in garlic – S-allylcysteine or SAC, and diallyl disulfide or DADS, or diallyl trisulfide (DATS) – have anti-carcinogenic properties.
  • Kazuko Sakamoto, a Penn State research associate in nutrition, reported that diallyl trisulfide (DATS), a compound in processed garlic oil, slowed the growth of — or even killed — human lung tumor cells grown in culture. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
  • SAC interfered with the formation of breast tumor cells in rats, while DADS inhibited the growth of human cancer cells (colon, skin, and lung) grown in lab cultures.
  • DATS to be 10 times as effective as DADS. “Gourmet Garlic” has a well done article here
  • The effectiveness of DATS was comparable to that of 5-fluorouracil, a widely used chemotherapy agent, Milner says. In addition, while DATS was effective against the lung cancer cells, it was considerably less toxic to healthy cells.
  • DATS and DADS can be found in ordinary clove garlic.
  • DATS and DADS are found in garlic oil preparations, which are available (usually in capsule form) in many health food stores.
  • Deodorized garlic products, on the other hand, typically do not contain DATS and DADS, although they do contain SAC.

Some of the more reader-friendly articles I’ve found on garlic are located:

Gourmet Garlic Gardens – In-depth look at the chemistry of garlic; health benefits as well as interesting information on topic use of garlic as a way to get it into the system faster as well as infusing wine, as another means of speeding it up into the system (since allicin, the key component is usually neutralized or greatly reduced by saliva and the stomach’s digestive enzymes, not necessarily making it into the digestive tract, etc.)

Gourmet Garlic – When Allicin Breaks Down – Featuring more in-depth information on what happens with allicin breaks down in the system, and what other components are delivered due to that breakdown.

Oregon EDU – How heat affects garlics ability to inhibit yeast. Key points include:

  • “The antimicrobial activity of Allium is due to volatile sulfur compounds derived from S-alk(en)yl-L-cysteine sulfoxides, nonprotein amino acids found in garlic. The main sulfonxides are alliin (s-allyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide is degraded into allicin (allyl 2-propenethiosulfinate.
  • Alliin (substrate) and alliinase (enzyme) are located in different cells in garlic cloves and therefore the thiosulfinates are generated only after the garlic tissues are injured.
  • Garlic heated to 121C was found to strongly inhibit the growth of yeasts, but not that of bacteria.
  • The potency and stability of the antiyeast activity of heated garlic were compared with those of fresh garlic, garlicoil, and allyl isothiocyanate.
  • The inhibitory activity of heated garlic was stable, and the minimum inhibitory concentration did not change for up to 30d at 37C.
  • The antiyeast activity of heated garlic was not influenced by pH.
  • Alliin heated in distilled water showed an antiyeast activity pattern similar to that of heated garlic, suggesting that the compound(s) thermally generated from alliin are the principal antiyeast compound(s) of heated garlic.
  • The antiyeast activity was increased as time of heating increased up to 45 min at 121C, and the activity did not change when garlic was further heated for up to 120 min.”