Garlic doesn’t just repel vampires

August 16, 2011

The folk wisdom that eating garlic fights illness is ancient. In these more modern times, fruit and vegetable extracts that can inhibit the growth of pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms are actually being evaluated as food preservatives, in part because consumers are demanding fewer synthetic chemical food preservatives. Now, a team led by researchers from Washington State University, Pullman, has found, contrary to expectations, that a group of garlic-derived organosulfur compounds has greater antimicrobial activity than garlic-derived phenolic compounds. The research is published in the August 2011 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology

“The novelty of this paper is that we found that diallyl sulfides contribute more to antimicrobial activity of extract than do phenolic compounds,” says coauthor Xiaonan Lu. “We used biophysical techniques, namely infrared and Raman spectroscopy, to demonstrate that diallyl sulfide can freely penetrate bacterial membranes and combine with sulfur containing proteins and enzymes, which is the major antimicrobial mechanism of these organosulfur compounds.”

“This is the first time researchers have combined infrared spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy, which are complementary techniques, to study the mechanisms of bacterial injury and inactivation,” says Lu. “While previous studies have validated that volatile thiosulfinates, a group of intermediate, unstable and volatile bioactive sulfur-containing compounds, have antimicrobial activity against Helicobacter pylori, our result demonstrated that the garlic-derived organosulfur compounds have the potential to be used as antimicrobial agents.” 

Campylobacter jejuni, the target microbe in this study, is thought to be the most prevalent cause of bacterial food-borne illness in the world, causing abdominal cramps, fever, and diarrhea accompanied by gross blood and leukocytes. There are no previous reported studies investigating the ability of allium species, including garlic, to control the growth of C. jejuni.

The history of using garlic to fight disease goes back several thousand years, says Lu. That history probably contributed to the notion that garlic could repel vampires, which predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula, according to the website garlic-central.com. “In ancient society,” says Lu, “people used garlic to cure diseases; however, they did not know why it worked.” Now we are finding out.

Explore further: Be careful when using garlic to treat childhood ailments

More information: X. Lu, et al., 2011. Investigating antibacterial effectxs of garlic (Allium sativum) concentrate and garlic-derived organosulfur compounds on Campylobacter jejuni by using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and electron microscopy. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 77:5257-5269.

Related Stories

Recipe for healthy garlic: Crush before cooking

February 15, 2007

"Stop and smell the garlic — that's all you have to do," advised William Shatner, whose starring roles ranged from Captain Kirk in Star Trek to himself in Iron Chef USA. New scientific research is editing Shatner's advice ...

Love that garlic? Fresh may be healthier than bottled

June 9, 2008

The next time you use garlic for its renowned antibacterial effects, consider fresh garlic instead of those bottles of chopped garlic. Researchers in Japan report that fresh garlic maintains higher levels of a key healthy ...

Freshly crushed garlic better for the heart than processed

July 29, 2009

A new study reports what scientists term the first scientific evidence that freshly crushed garlic has more potent heart-healthy effects than dried garlic. Scheduled for the Aug. 12 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and ...

Recommended for you

Some vaccines support evolution of more-virulent viruses

July 27, 2015

Scientific experiments with the herpesvirus such as the one that causes Marek's disease in poultry have confirmed, for the first time, the highly controversial theory that some vaccines could allow more-virulent versions ...

Mammoths killed by abrupt climate change

July 23, 2015

New research has revealed abrupt warming, that closely resembles the rapid man-made warming occurring today, has repeatedly played a key role in mass extinction events of large animals, the megafauna, in Earth's past.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.