*Geek Box: Geeking on Garlic
The botanical name for garlic is Allium sativum L., and as noted above contains a multiplicity of bioactive food compounds which are likely all relevant for its wide variety of effects. Let’s start with the sulfuric compounds, i.e., compounds that contain sulfur. You know these compounds; they’re what give onions and garlic their pungent aromas and flavour! There are a number of important sulfuric compounds in garlic, in particular allicin and alliin, and these compounds appear to have a greater bioavailability in raw garlic rather than cooked.
Saponins are bioactive compounds that derive their name due to their ability to form ‘soapy’ substances, particularly in the digestive tract. Because they are poorly absorbed, the main action of saponins is in the digestive tract, where they may exert anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial effects. Garlic also contains over 20 (poly)phenolic compounds, with their associated cardiovascular effects, particularly for blood pressure. And there is also the ‘prebiotic’ effect of garlic polysaccharides, i.e., providing selective fibre types to the colon which are preferentially fermented by beneficial bacterial species, in particular the Bifidobacteria species.
At this point, you may also be thinking, “what is aged garlic extract?” AGE is produced from organically-produced garlic bulbs that have aged for around 20-months at room temperature, soaked in ethanol. The ageing process allows for the sulfuric compounds, which are usually quite volatile [chemically speaking!], to become more stable and be standardised into doses. This makes it more amenable to use as a supplement, with measurable potency.