Patrick Woloszyn, M.D., obtained his B. S. in Chemical Engineering from Clarkson University in 1978 and his degree in medicine from the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1985. He presently lives in Corpus Christi, Texas with his wife Lydia and their two daughters, Anna and Bethany. Dr. Woloszyn works for the Texas Department of Health. He has a keen interest in the nutritional approach to illness.
The medicinal effects of garlic have been known for thousands of years. Some early Greek and Roman writings listed it as a treatment for dozens of health problems, including hypertension, infections, and interestingly, tumors.
Although garlic continued to be used as an antibiotic and anti-hypertensive agent throughout the years, there seems to be little recorded about its use in cancer till recently.
In 1957, two researchers at Case Western University (then called Western Reserve University) published a preliminary report describing their research using garlic extracts to inhibit tumor-growth! Garlic extracts had been found to inactivate certain sulfur containing enzymes. The author theorized that garlic might inhibit tumor growth because of the abundance of sulfur-containing enzymes (more specifically, sulfhydryl enzymes) found in some rapidly growing tumor cells.
The researchers injected 5 million sarcoma ascites tumor cells into the abdomen of white mice. The cells were incubated in a solution for 15 minutes before injecting them into the mice. The mice were divided into several groups. Group A used saline (salt water) as an incubating solution. Group B used a solution containing a sulfur-containing amino acid found in garlic. Group C used a solution containing an enzyme found in garlic. Group D solution contained both the amino acid and the enzyme.
One hundred percent of the mice in groups A, B and C developed tumors and died within 16 days. After 300 days all of the mice in group D were still alive with no signs of cancer.
The same researchers also administered some garlic extracts intravenously to some mice who had previously received intra-peritoneal injections of tumor cells. The IV treatment seemed to delay the onset of tumor growth and, in some cases, prevent tumor formation.
If the enzyme was heated to a 56 degrees C (13F) prior to reacting it with the amino acid, tumor growth was not inhibited. The amino acid used in this study was alliin (s-allyl L-cysteine sulfoxide). In the presence of the enzyme alliinase, it is converted to allicin. This is the same reaction that occurs when garlic is crushed and the familiar odor of allicin is released.
Dr. Benjamin Lau at Loma Linda School of Medicine has also conducted quite a bit of research on garlic. In a recent study3, he injected bladder cancer cells into the hind legs of laboratory mice and measured the tumor growth. He compared four different forms of immune therapy by injecting the immunotherapy agents into the same location as the cancer cells. One single injection of garlic extract was found to result in much smaller tumors. If multiple injections were used, tumors did not develop and no cancer cells were found on microscopic exam.
In the same study, it was found that giving garlic extracts by another route (intraperitoneal instead of intralession) resulted in some but not complete inhibition of tumor growth.
Another study, comparing extracts from three herbs (garlic, ginseng, and ciuwjia) showed all to have some ability to protect liver cells from damage due to carbon tetrachloride, a known cancer-causing agent.4 Extracts from ciuwjia were found to be most protective followed by one of the garlic extracts.
Garlic has also been shown to protect colon cells from carcinogenic changes due to 1,2 dimethylhydrazines as well as to protect stomach cells from benzopyrene.6 Similarly, onion extracts have been shown t9 have anti-tumor properties when used in a skin cancer study.
Many of the studies on cancer prevention with garlic have been funded by the National Cancer Institute. Presently, federally-sponsored research is being conducted on this topic at Ohio State University and New York University Medical Center.
One important point that should be kept in mind is that the chemistry of garlic is very confusing. The sulfur-containing compounds change very readily into compounds with different chemical structures. Using different temperatures and solvents to extract the compounds results in different end products.8 Also, the products are not pure compounds; they are a mixture of different compounds (unless additional chemical purification is used).
Some of the above research used chemically extracted garlic compounds while others used synthetic compounds. Some have even used commercially prepared garlic products similar to those available at health food stores.
Based on a review of these studies, it appears that there are several anti-cancer compounds available from garlic. Some of these compounds may not be particularly beneficial for certain cancer types. It would seem reasonable that in order to maximize benefit, one could consume garlic prepared in different methods (boiled in soup, raw, baked etc.)
While garlic alone is not a substitute for a holistic approach to cancer, its benefits seem too great to ignore.
- Tumor-inhibiting Effects Derived from An Active Principle of Garlic (Allium Sativum), Austin Weisberger and Jack Pensky. SCIENCE; Nov. 29, 1957; Vol. 126, 3283; pp. 1112-1114.
- Tumor Inhibition By A Sulfhydryl-blocking Agent Related To An Active Principle of Garlic (Allium Sativum), Austin Weisberger and Jack Pensky. CANCER RESEARCH; Dec. 1958; Vol. 18, No. 11; pp. 1301-8.
- Superiority of Interlessional Immunotherapy With Corynebacterium Parvum and Allium Sativum in Control of Murine Transitional Cell Carcinoma, Benjamin H.S. Lau et al. J. OF UROLOGY; Sept. 1986; Vol. 136; pp. 701-5.
- Cytoprotective Activity of Components of Garlic, Ginseng, and Ciuwjia on Hepatocyte Injury Induced by Carbon Tetrachloride in Vivo, S. Nakagawa et al. HIROSHIMA J. OF MED. SC.; Sept. 1985; Vol. 1, No. 34, No. 3; pp. 303-309.
- Diallyl Sulfide – A naturally occurring thioether that inhibits carcinogen-induced nuclear damage to colon epithelial cells in vivo, Michael J. Wargovich and Mark Goldberg. MUTATION RESEARCH; 143 (1985); pp. 127-129.
- Effects of Alhyl Methyl Trisulfide on Gluthathione S-Transferase Activity and BP-Induced Neoplasia in the Mouse, V.L. Sparnins et al. NUTR. CANCER; 8, pp. 211-215, 1986.
- Onion and Garlic Oils Inhibit Tumor Promotion, Sidney Belman. CARCINOGENESIS; Vol. 1, No. 8; pp. 1063-5; 1983.
- The Chemistry of Garlic and Onions, Eric Block. SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN; 3-85; pp.114-9.
Tips On Garlic
- Look for firm, plump bulbs with clean, dry, unbroken skins. Do not buy spongy garlic.
- Store garlic in a dry, cool place in an open container. Need not be refrigerated.
- Eating fresh parsley or any chlorophyll-loaded food will cleanse the breath of garlic’s effects.
Additional Garlic Research
An interesting article entitled “Study Indicates Garlic Helps Ward Off Cancer” appeared in the April 13, 1987 edition of the “Daily News.” It seems that among the diseases that this ancient bulb may offer protection against is cancer.
Dr. Tarig Abdullah of the Abkar Clinic and Research Institute of Panama City, Florida has stated that the white blood cells taken from persons who ate raw garlic killed 139% more tumor cells in the test tube than did like cells from those who ate no garlic. Furthermore, tests on another group of volunteers showed that the white blood cells of those who ate garlic which had been cold-dried for two years killed 159% more tumor cells than those of the control group.
These findings were presented by Dr. Abdullah at the annual meeting of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. He also expressed the opinion that garlic “kills a broad spectrum of disease-causing organisms from viruses to bacteria to protozoans” and feels it warrants further exploration.