Garlic – The Common Man’s Cure All

Garlic_3A recent study published in the Journal of Cancer Prevention Research by investigators in China compared the outcome of patients with lung cancer who consumed fresh garlic against those who did not. In the study of 1,424 lung cancer patients there was a 44 percent reduction of the risk of lung cancer for non-smokers.  Even among smoking patients the risk of lung cancer was reduced by 30 percent.

The findings of the study are consistent with a treatise that I published several years ago on garlic (Garlic: Medicinal Food or Nutritious Medicine? Robert A. Nagourney, Journal of Medicinal Food, 1998). In this study, I examined the history of garlic, as well as its chemistry and its medicinal properties. In addition to its anti-cancer properties, garlic is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of blood clots, lowers cholesterol and may serve as an anti-aging nutrient.

Where the recent study struck chord was its concordance with my strong recommendation from that 1998 article that we consume fresh garlic over the other preparations. The aged garlic extracts, dried garlic and garlic oil preparations lack the most important chemical constituent of all – allicin. Allicin, also known diallyl disulphide oxide (2-propanethiol sufinate) imparts the characteristic odor to garlic. It is only formed when the precursor alliin is enzymatically converted to the allicin via the action of the enzyme alliinase. Once allicin is exposed to excess heat or oxygen it undergoes a variety of conversions that lead to diallyl sulfone as well the diallyl di, tri, and tetra sulfides.

These compounds, though biologically active, do not carry the potency of allicin. It is for this reason that I have, over the past two decades, urged my patients, family and friends to consume fresh garlic as a foodstuff. Indeed as I write in my book, Outliving Cancer, our family consumes the equivalent 2 – 3 liters of fresh garlic a month.

The history of garlic as a medicinal is indeed rich. And it was Gallen, in 130 AD, who described it as “Theriacum rusticorum” (the common man’s cure all). I am pleased that two millennia later Chinese cancer researchers have provided additional data to support his prescient observation.

About Dr. Robert A. Nagourney
Dr. Nagourney received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Boston University and his doctor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, where he was a University Scholar. After a residency in internal medicine at the University of California, Irvine, he went on to complete fellowship training in medical oncology at Georgetown University, as well as in hematology at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla. During his fellowship at Georgetown University, Dr. Nagourney confronted aggressive malignancies for which the standard therapies remained mostly ineffective. No matter what he did, all of his patients died. While he found this “standard of care” to be unacceptable, it inspired him to return to the laboratory where he eventually developed “personalized cancer therapy.” In 1986, Dr. Nagourney, along with colleague Larry Weisenthal, MD, PhD, received a Phase I grant from a federally funded program and launched Oncotech, Inc. They began conducting experiments to prove that human tumors resistant to chemotherapeutics could be re-sensitized by pre-incubation with calcium channel blockers, glutathione depletors and protein kinase C inhibitors. The original research was a success. Oncotech grew with financial backing from investors who ultimately changed the direction of the company’s research. The changes proved untenable to Dr. Nagourney and in 1991, he left the company he co-founded. He then returned to the laboratory, and developed the Ex-vivo Analysis - Programmed Cell Death ® (EVA-PCD) test to identify the treatments that would induce programmed cell death, or “apoptosis.” He soon took a position as Director of Experimental Therapeutics at the Cancer Institute of Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. His primary research project during this time was chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He remained in this position until the basic research program funding was cut, at which time he founded Rational Therapeutics in 1995. It is here where the EVA-PCD test is used to identity the drug, combinations of drugs or targeted therapies that will kill a patient's tumor - thus providing patients with truly personalized cancer treatment plans. With the desire to change how cancer care is delivered, he became Medical Director of the Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Memorial in 2003. In 2008, he returned to Rational Therapeutics full time to rededicate his time and expertise to expand the research opportunities available through the laboratory. He is a frequently invited lecturer for numerous professional organizations and universities, and has served as a reviewer and on the editorial boards of several journals including Clinical Cancer Research, British Journal of Cancer, Gynecologic Oncology, Cancer Research and the Journal of Medicinal Food.

9 Responses to Garlic – The Common Man’s Cure All

  1. Julia says:

    I wonder if you could give an exact recommendation for garlic consumption? How many times a week, how much, and in what form (just peeled and then eaten)? My mother has been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer and I would like her to do this. Thank you.

  2. Julia:

    Your question regarding the amount form of garlic is a good one. While there are no absolute guidelines, I recommend the following.

    First, the most active chemical specie in garlic is Allicin. This is formed after the Alliiin (substrate found in the flesh of the clove) is exposed to the enzyme Lyase (found in the membrane of the garlic clove). Therefore I recommend the consumption of freshly pressed, grated or finely chopped garlic.

    As to the amount, we have animal studies that examined dimethylhydrazine induced colon cancer and found that the minimum effective dose of garlic that afforded protection was 4.76 g/m2/day. Extrapolating that to humans, I suggest 10 grams or 3-5 medium to large sized cloves per day.

  3. Julia says:

    Thank you! Very helpful!

  4. hphblog1 says:

    Reblogged this on Hope Practiced Here and commented:
    Garlic anyone????

  5. Keko says:

    Should the garlic be raw? If so, is there any benefit to cooked garlic?

  6. Hello Doctor Nagourney,…It is always nice to talk to you .
    Regarding the issue : I usually buy pre-peeled garlic, to be kept in the freezer, of course it would not have the same efficiency of fresh garlic but the question is, in this way the garlic lose some nutritional properties but as help in lowering the risk of lung cancer will be the previously peeled garlic would be equally effective?

    • Shehrazad,

      Peeled garlic kept in the refrigerator would maintain much of its benefit. If frozen however, the formation of ice crystal within the garlic clove might release the active compound allicin formed when the enzyme lyase in the peel comes in contact with the substrate alliin.

      If you mean refrigerated, this should be fine. If you mean frozen (blew 0 centigrade) there is the risk of loss of potency.

  7. Actually I meant frozen (freezer) …
    and this information was extremely helpful…. Thank you very much Doctor….

  8. powerfulheart says:

    I find that cutting an orange into 4 pieces biting the peeled garlic clove and sucking the juice from the orage pieces as I chew the garlic is very pleasent

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