Garlic Can Heal the Brain—and It Has Other Health Benefits

Via William Harryman
on Sep 20, 2010
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Sometime yesterday, Ramesh Bjonnes posted an article here at the Elephant entitled, “Why Garlic Is a Brain Toxin!” I eat a lot of garlic, and I regularly recommend it to my clients for controlling cholesterol, boosting the immune system, and even for increasing testosterone levels in aging men. So I figured I’d better read the post.

I did. And then I did a Google Scholar search for “sulphone hydroxyl ion,” which is the constituent the author said causes brain toxicity. Nothing came up – I mean, like, zero. That’s rare for anything that actually exists in the world. What this means is that no scholar or scholarly journal, magazine, or web site has ever mentioned this substance. In general, that would mean it does not exist.

So then I did a Google Scholar search for “garlic, brain, toxicity,” assuming that if garlic is in any way toxic to the brain, someone would have noticed that by now (garlic is a widely studied subject). I did not find anything that suggests garlic is toxic to the brain, but many articles have looked at the ways in which garlic can remove other toxins from the brain, and maybe even stop neuronal apoptosis (neuron death). In general, garlic (especially in very high doses, most commonly as an aged garlic supplement, which makes it more stable – beyond what one might get in the diet) is neuro-protective, anti-cancer (including its possible use to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease and other neuro-degenerative disorders), and may extend the life span of cells, and therefore, of us.

Each of the following is an open-source, academic, peer-reviewed study (you can read the whole study at the link):

Mechanisms of Inhibition of Chemical Toxicity and Carcinogenesis by Diallyl Sulfide (DAS) and Related Compounds from Garlic

Chung S. Yang, Saranjit K. Chhabra, Jun-Yan Hong and Theresa J. Smith

Laboratory for Cancer Research, College of Pharmacy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8020


Diallyl sulfide (DAS) is a flavor compound derived from garlicand is sequentially converted to diallyl sulfoxide (DASO) anddiallyl sulfone (DASO2) by cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1). These compoundshave been shown to reduce the incidence of a multitude of chemicallyinduced tumors in animal models. The impediment of phase I activationof these carcinogens is hypothesized to be accountable for thereduction in tumor incidence. Indeed, DAS, DASO and DASO2 arecompetitive inhibitors of CYP2E1. DASO2, in addition, is a suicideinhibitor of CYP2E1. These compounds have been shown to reducecarbon tetrachloride-, N-nitrosodimethylamine- and acetaminophen-induced toxicityin rodents. All three chemicals are substrates for CYP2E1. The protectiveeffect was observed when the organosulfur compounds were givenbefore, during or soon after chemical treatment. DAS and DASO2inhibited the bioactivation of 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone(NNK) and related lung tumorigenesis in A/J mice. Because CYP2E1does not play a key role in NNK activation, the inhibition ofother CYP enzymes active in NNK metabolism is likely. DAS alsohas been shown to induce other CYP and phase II enzymes as wellas decrease hepatic catalase activity. All of these effectsare observed at concentrations much higher than what is normallyingested by humans. The biological activities of garlic and itsrelated compounds at lower concentrations that mimic human consumptionremain to be studied further.

* * *

Antioxidant Health Effects of Aged Garlic Extract

Carmia Borek

Department of Community Health and Family Medicine, Nutrition and Infectious Diseases Unit, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02111


Oxidative modification of DNA, proteins and lipids by reactiveoxygen species (ROS) plays a role in aging and disease, including cardiovascular,neurodegenerative and inflammatory diseases and cancer. Extractsof fresh garlic that are aged over a prolonged period to produceaged garlic extract (AGE) contain antioxidant phytochemicals thatprevent oxidant damage. These include unique water-soluble organosulfurcompounds, lipid-soluble organosulfur components and flavonoids,notably allixin and selenium. Long-term extraction of garlic(up to 20 mo) ages the extract, creating antioxidant properties bymodifying unstable molecules with antioxidant activity, suchas allicin, and increasing stable and highly bioavailable water-solubleorganosulfur compounds, such as S-allylcysteine and S-allylmercaptocysteine.AGE exerts antioxidant action by scavenging ROS, enhancing thecellular antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase, catalaseand glutathione peroxidase, and increasing glutathione in thecells. AGE inhibits lipid peroxidation, reducing ischemic/reperfusiondamage and inhibiting oxidative modification of LDL, thus protectingendothelial cells from the injury by the oxidized molecules,which contributes to atherosclerosis. AGE inhibits the activationof the oxidant-induced transcription factor, nuclear factor(NF)-{kappa}B, which has clinical significance in human immunodeficiencyvirus gene expression and atherogenesis. AGE protects DNA againstfree radical–mediated damage and mutations, inhibits multistepcarcinogenesis and defends against ionizing radiation and UV-induceddamage, including protection against some forms of UV-inducedimmunosuppression. AGE may have a role in protecting againstloss of brain function in aging and possess other antiagingeffects, as suggested by its ability to increase cognitive functions,memory and longevity in a senescence-accelerated mouse model.AGE has been shown to protect against the cardiotoxic effectsof doxorubicin, an antineoplastic agent used in cancer therapyand against liver toxicity caused by carbon tetrachloride (anindustrial chemical) and acetaminophen, an analgesic. Substantialexperimental evidence shows the ability of AGE to protect againstoxidant-induced disease, acute damage from aging, radiationand chemical exposure, and long-term toxic damage. Althoughadditional observations are warranted in humans, compellingevidence supports the beneficial health effects attributed toAGE, i.e., reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke,cancer and aging, including the oxidant-mediated brain celldamage that is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.

* * *

For this next one, I’m posting the whole introduction since it covers so many of the research findings on the health benefits of garlic.

Garlic Reduces Dementia and Heart-Disease Risk

Carmia Borek

Department of Public Health and Family Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02111


Risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high cholesterol,high homocysteine, hypertension and inflammation, increase therisk of dementia, including its most common form, Alzheimer’sdisease (AD). High cholesterol is also associated with elevatedß-amyloid (Abeta), the hallmark of AD. Oxidative damageis a major factor in cardiovascular disease and dementia, diseaseswhose risk increases with age. Garlic, extracted and aged toform antioxidant-rich aged garlic extract (AGE or Kyolic), mayhelp reduce the risk of these diseases. AGE scavenges oxidants,increases superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase,and glutathione levels, and inhibits lipid peroxidation andinflammatory prostaglandins. AGE reduces cholesterol synthesisby inhibiting 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase and isadditive with statins in its action. Inhibition of cholesterol,LDL oxidation, and platelet aggregation by AGE, inhibits arterialplaque formation; AGE decreases homocysteine, lowers blood pressure,and increases microcirculation, which is important in diabetes,where microvascular changes increase heart disease and dementiarisks. AGE also may help prevent cognitive decline by protectingneurons from Abeta neurotoxicity and apoptosis, thereby preventingischemia- or reperfusion-related neuronal death and improvinglearning and memory retention. Although additional observationsare warranted in humans, compelling evidence supports the beneficialhealth effects attributed to AGE in helping prevent cardiovascularand cerebrovascular diseases and lowering the risk of dementiaand AD.


Recent evidence suggests that midlife risk factors for cardiovasculardisease, such as high cholesterol, hypertension, high homocysteine,and inflammation, are important risk factors for dementia inlater years (15), with high cholesterol and hypertensionshowing a consistent association with increased risk of Alzheimer’sdisease (AD)4 and vascular dementia, pathological conditionswhose frequency increases with age.

High cholesterol levels promote the formation of atheroscleroticplaques that are risk factors for both heart attacks and stroke,in the latter case the resulting ischemia may result in neuronaldeath and lead to dementia. High cholesterol is also associatedwith increased levels of free-radical–producing ß-amyloidpeptides (Abeta), the hallmark of AD. Hypertension may contributeto cognitive decline seen in AD by causing cerebral small-vesselpathology and increasing the number of neurofibrilar tanglesand amyloid plaques. Small-vessel disease resulting from hypertensionmay be associated with the observed atrophy of the hippocampusand amygdala in AD (6).

Elevated plasma homocysteine (hyperhomocysteinemia) is an independentrisk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and dementia,including AD (7,8). Studies on people 65 y and older and onyoung people ages 4–18 show that plasma levels of homocysteineincrease progressively with age, posing a serious threat forthese diseases in aging individuals. Hyperhomocysteinemia iscaused largely by deficiencies in vitamins B-6, B-12, and folate.The adverse vascular and neurotoxic effects of homocysteineare associated with oxidant stress; homocysteine impairs DNArepair in the hippocampus, sensitizing neurons to amyloid toxicity(9).

Reactive oxygen species. Reactive oxygen species and oxidant stress are implicated incardiovascular disease, cancer, and various forms of dementiaincluding AD (10). Oxidative damage to DNA, proteins, lipids,and other molecules rank high as a major cause in the onsetand development of these diseases. Reactive oxygen species,including free radicals, are by-products of normal metabolismand increase during infection and inflammation, hyperhomocysteinemia,and exposure to exogenous sources, including nitrous oxide metabolitepollutants, smoking, certain drugs (e.g., acetaminophen), andradiation.

Oxidative modification of LDL cholesterol increases the riskof atherosclerosis, cardiovascular, and cerebrovascular disease.Free radical–producing Abeta triggers neuronal apoptosis,increasing the risk of brain atrophy and dementia, includingAD, its most common form (11).

Garlic antioxidants. Garlic ranks highly among foods that help prevent disease, largelydue to its high content of organosulfur compounds and antioxidantactivity. Fresh garlic, however, may cause indigestion, andits pungent odor that lingers on the breath and skin can bea social deterrent. These disagreeable effects of fresh garlicare due to allicin, an oxidant released upon cutting or chewingthe clove.

Aged garlic extract. An alternative source of garlic that is odorless and rich inantioxidants is aged garlic extract (AGE) (12,13). The well-standardizedand highly bioavailable supplement is produced by prolongedextraction and aging of organic fresh garlic at room temperature.The process converts unstable compounds, such as allicin, tostable substances and produces high levels of water-solubleorganosulfur compounds that are powerful antioxidants. Theseinclude S-allylcysteine (SAC), AGE’s major component, and S-allylmercaptocysteine,unique to AGE. Among other compounds present are low amountsof oil-soluble organosulfur compounds, flavonoids, a phenol,allixin, selenium, and saponins.

AGE and cardiovascular disease. AGE has been shown to modulate cardiovascular risk factors inboth clinical and preclinical settings (1423). AGE hasbeen shown to reduce blood pressure, inhibit platelet aggregationand adhesion, lower LDL and elevate HDL cholesterol, reducesmoking-related oxidative damage, inhibit the production ofprostaglandins involved in inflammation, and lower homocysteine.SAC has been found to lower cholesterol by deactivating 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoAby as much as 41% (15). AGE efficacy in reducing cholesterolsynthesis is additive with statins, which inhibit 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoAreductase at a transcriptional level. Other possible contributorsto protection against cardiovascular disease and dementia arethe effects of AGE in increasing microcirculation (21) and protectingendothelial cells from oxidative damage, a factor most importantin diabetes where the microvasculature is damaged, and the riskof dementia is high. AGE can also temporarily increase, by 30–40%(23), the synthesis of constitutive nitric oxide, a protectivefactor against myocardial ischemic or reperfusion injury, riskfactors in cardiovascular disease and dementia following stroke(24). AGE has been found to inhibit the progression of coronary-arterycalcification (25), thus reducing the risk of a myocardial infarct.

AGE and the heart-dementia risk link: neuroprotective effects. The broad range of cardiovascular protection afforded by AGEmay be extended to a protective effect on the brain, helpingreduce the risk of dementia, including vascular dementia andAD. AGE has potential to protect the brain against neurodegenerativeconditions. Mechanisms include lowering cholesterol, inhibitinginflammation, reducing homocysteine, preventing oxidative braininjury following ischemia, protecting neuronal cells againstapoptosis (a programmed cell suicide triggered by oxidativestress) by inhibiting caspase 3, and preventing Abeta-inducedneurotoxicity.

Homocysteine. People with cardiovascular risk factors and a history of strokeshave an increased risk of both vascular dementia (arterioscleroticdementia), which can occur after a stroke, and AD, the mostcommon form of progressive dementia, accounting for over 70%of all cases.

Elevated homocysteine damages endothelial cells that line bloodvessels and induces thrombosis that can lead to heart attacksand stroke. Homocysteine produces breaks in DNA and inducesapoptosis, a major cause of neuronal death in dementia (79).The link between high levels of homocysteine and dementia, includingAD, has been observed in epidemiological studies and confirmedin case-control studies, where people with vascular dementiaand AD had higher levels of homocysteine than healthy people.A recent study (7) provided compelling evidence of a directlink between increased plasma homocysteine and loss of cognition,showing that in adults with intact cognition, an elevation inplasma homocysteine, over time, is associated with an increasedincidence of dementia, including AD.

Consumption of AGE has been shown to reduce homocysteine levels.In a preclinical study, levels of homocysteine in a 4-wk folate-deficientdiet containing AGE were compared with a folate-fortified dietcontaining AGE. Plasma homocysteine was 30% lower in the folate-deficientanimals that received AGE, but not in those with adequate folate.The results suggest that AGE may serve as an added treatmentin hyperhomocyteinemia (26). A clinical study, showing thatAGE inhibits the progression of coronary artery calcification,also showed a trend in lowering homocysteine levels (25).

Protection against ischemic or reperfusion adverse effects. Single ischemic or thromboembolic infarcts that occur in strategicareas of the brain hemispheres may cause a dementia-like syndrome;multiple temporally staggered small cerebral infarcts can giverise to progressive cognitive deficits and dementia. Areas ofthe brain supplied by small penetrating arterioles are especiallyprone to degenerative changes in patients with hypertensionand diabetes. Ischemia followed by reperfusion results in anincreased production of free radicals and oxidant stress thatmay lead to neuronal death by apoptosis and contribute to thedevelopment of dementia following stroke.

AGE has been shown to lower blood pressure and protect braincells from the deleterious effects of ischemia, increasing theirsurvival. The high antioxidant level in AGE helps prevent theoxidant damage that occurs during ischemia or reperfusion. Theprotective effects of AGE were observed in a preclinical studyof ischemia, and the findings showed that treatment with SACattenuated damaging reactive oxygen species and prevented braininjury, reducing infarct volume. None of the lipid-soluble compoundstested had a protective effect (27). SAC prevented neuronaldeath following ischemia and increased cell survival in thehippocampus, the memory region of the brain, by 30%, comparedwith controls (28).

Preventing neuronal apoptosis. The brain of an individual with AD exhibits extracellular plaquesof aggregated Abeta, intracellular neurofibrillary tangles thatcontain hyperphosphorylated tau protein and a loss of forebraincholinergic neurons that enervate the hippocampus and the neocortex.The accumulation of Abeta may trigger or contribute to neurodegeneration.Neuronal apoptosis, one of the characteristics of Alzheimer’sdisease, is associated with Abeta. Reactive oxygen species producedby Abeta are thought to play a role in the apoptotic mechanismof Abeta-mediated neurotoxicity.

Several routes lead to apoptotic cell death; a major route isthrough a mitochondrial- dependent pathway that results in therelease of cytochrome C, followed by the activation of caspases,with caspase-3 leading cells to their death (29). AGE and SAChave been shown in a number of in vitro studies to protect neuronalcells against Abeta toxicity and apoptosis (3034). Inone of the studies, PC12 cells exposed to Abeta showed a significantincrease in reactive oxygen species. Treatment with AGE andSAC suppressed the generation of reactive oxygen species andalso attenuated caspase-3 activation and DNA fragmentation,associated with apoptosis, and protected the cells against Abeta-inducedapoptosis. In another study AGE was found to inhibit caspase-3in a dose-dependent manner (33).

Caspase-3 catalyzes the formation of Abeta peptide (34) andis activated by Abeta (35). Their neurotoxic effects, however,appear to be independent; that is, in the presence of specificcaspase inhibitors, Abeta-induced neuronal death still occurredwith different morphological features (35). The findings thatAGE can inhibit Abeta toxicity, attenuate caspase-3 activation,and inhibit apoptosis enhances the potential of AGE as a neuroprotectoragainst AD.

Other anti-aging neuroprotective effects. Preclinical studies in models that are genetically prone toearly aging show that AGE has additional anti-aging effects(36,37). Treatment with AGE or SAC prevented the degenerationof the brain’s frontal lobe, improved learning and memory retention,and extended life span. Isolated neurons from the hippocampusarea, grown in the presence of AGE or SAC, showed an unusualability to grow and branch, which may be linked to the findingsthat AGE increases learning and cognition (37).

* * * *

Intake of Garlic and Its Bioactive Components

Harunobu Amagase, Brenda L. Petesch, Hiromichi Matsuura, Shigeo Kasuga and Yoichi Itakura

Department of Research and Development, Wakunaga of America Company, Mission Viejo, CA 92691 and; Institute for OTC Research, Wakunaga Pharmaceutical Company, Hiroshima 739-11, Japan


The health benefits of garlic likely arise from a wide varietyof components, possibly working synergistically. The complexchemistry of garlic makes it plausible that variations in processingcan yield quite different preparations. Highly unstable thiosulfinates,such as allicin, disappear during processing and are quicklytransformed into a variety of organosulfur components. The efficacyand safety of these preparations in preparing dietary supplementsbased on garlic are also contingent on the processing methodsemployed. Although there are many garlic supplements commerciallyavailable, they fall into one of four categories, i.e., dehydratedgarlic powder, garlic oil, garlic oil macerate and aged garlicextract (AGE). Garlic and garlic supplements are consumed inmany cultures for their hypolipidemic, antiplatelet and procirculatoryeffects. In addition to these proclaimed beneficial effects,some garlic preparations also appear to possess hepatoprotective,immune-enhancing, anticancer and chemopreventive activities.Some preparations appear to be antioxidative, whereas othersmay stimulate oxidation. These additional biological effects attributedto AGE may be due to compounds, such as S-allylcysteine, S-allylmercaptocysteine, N{alpha}-fructosylarginine and others, formed during the extraction process. Althoughnot all of the active ingredients are known, ample researchsuggests that several bioavailable components likely contributeto the observed beneficial effects of garlic.

I did come across one article – Garlic as an antioxidant: the good, the bad and the ugly – that suggests whole garlic in high doses may have some toxicity for the liver, kidneys, and heart. Unfortunately, the article is not open-source [always lame when information is kept behind a pay-wall].

However, in following that rat trail, I did come across this article:

Clarifying the Real Bioactive Constituents of Garlic

Harunobu Amagase

Department of Research and Development, Wakunaga of America Co., Mission Viejo, CA 92691


Compounds in garlic work synergistically to produce variouseffects, but, because of garlic’s chemical complexity, processingmethods yield preparations with differing efficacy and safety.Although thiosulfinates such as allicin have been long misunderstoodto be active compounds due to their characteristic odor, itis not necessary for garlic preparations to contain such odorouscompounds to be effective, and they decompose and disappearduring any processing. Garlic exhibits hypolipidemic, antiplatelet,and procirculatory effects. It prevents cold and flu symptomsthrough immune enhancement and demonstrates anticancer and chemopreventiveactivities. In addition, aged garlic extract possesses hepatoprotective,neuroprotective, antioxidative activities, whereas other preparationsmay stimulate oxidation. Additional effects may be caused byS-allylcysteine, S-allyl mercaptocysteine), saponins, N{alpha}-fructosylarginine, and other substances formed during a long-term extractionprocess. Although not all of active ingredients of garlic areknown, and allicin-like transient components are not directlyactive, ample research suggests that an allicin-free garlicpreparation that is standardized with a bioavailable componentsuch as S-allylcysteine, is active and various effects of garlicmay be attributed to it. Furthermore, various chemical constituentsin garlic products, including nonsulfur compounds such as saponins,may contribute to the essential biological activities of garlic.Further studies are needed to confirm their bioavailabilityand associated activities.

So, my advice? Get some whole garlic, press it, add it to some ground basil, and a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, with whatever other ingredients you like (maybe some Romano cheese), then slather some over the top of a grilled free-range chicken breast covered in melted Havarti cheese. Add some steamed asparagus, also covered with some pesto and grated cheese, and you have a really healthy dinner that is good for your heart, your immune system, and your brain.


About William Harryman

I am a writer/editor, fitness trainer, integral coach, and a graduate counseling psychology student. I blog at Integral Options Cafe and The Masculine Heart. I am an occasional contributor to Elephant Journal.


35 Responses to “Garlic Can Heal the Brain—and It Has Other Health Benefits”

  1. pauloone says:

    Yay, hurray for our team. I couldn't live without garlic. This is why Yoga and other holistic approaches get mocked by so many: a few practitioners advocating half-baked theories based on nothing but hearsay and fiction. Thank you William!

  2. liz says:

    ohhh, studies with REAL data! thank you thank you thank you for the rational post! i read the anti-garlic posts and thought "surely this can't be the case…i've read several studies that say otherwise…right?" so yes, thank you for doing the research and posting (with lots references) for the rest of us. i am going to go get some thai food tomorrow and ask them to load up on the garlic! 😀

  3. judy says:

    Thank you. I’m tired of crack pot theories dressed up as ancient science.

  4. YogiOne says:

    Ramesh – Though I agree with others about the lack of support for your original post, I enjoyed reading the largely non-reactive reply you posted here. Seeing adults discussing issues in a mature way is refreshing.

    William – That you for sharing your research here. We could certainly benefit from more voices of reason. As many have noted, as a group, Yogis tend to lean the other direction. That isn't of course a criticism in itself. Yoga's strength is in the fact that it is very close to individual experience. Where we have to be careful is that individual experience does not necessarily generalize to others experience the same way that science does. We simply need to be more Conscious of that fact.

  5. Ramesh says:

    Thanks, Yogione, for your nice feedback. Yes, it would be counterproductive to argue that garlic makes you angry and to respond to those who disagrees with anger. Not very yogic, indeed.

    We are in agreement on the physical properties of garlic that they are beneficial to the body in so many ways. So the argument I made does not dispute what William has posted above. The missing link is that further scientific studies of the mental effects of garlic needs to be made. So, if anyone can find a scientific study saying that garlic is great for meditation, then William has a point, otherwise not, because I do not dispute the many physical benefits of garlic.
    However, for those of you into yoga, I would urge you to be open to the possibility that this is not just a dogma, this is actually based on empirical experience. That is what yoga is, after all, a body-mind-spirit practice. Yoga is holistic, so one cannot dispute the inner experience of yoga with the science of chemistry. That simply does not hold water. That is not scientific. So the jury is out. You garlic lovers need to prove that garlic is good or neutral to meditation. And I need to find some more studies in addition to Dr. Beck's to back up the yogic claims that garlic is not conducive to meditation. Let's not mix apples and oranges here, folks! let's be scientific.

  6. Ramesh says:

    Experience is not belief. Experience is experience. If you experience that coffee keeps you awake, it is because it's caffeine does, not because you believe it. The same goes for garlic. It 's effects on the mind is based on experience, not belief. If you don't experience the negative effects of garlic in meditation, keep using it. Or make an experiment: stop using it for a while and see if there is a difference. If you do, why not stop. It's really that simple.

  7. Ramesh says:

    William, I am not a chemist, but after some research, it appears that the substance Dr. Beck refers to is sulfone, not sulphone (misspelled in the article)and this apparently contains hydroxyl. (See below) At any rate, I am not saying that garlic does not have many benefits, but before you can show me a scientific study that claims it is great for meditation, your point is a moot one, because my articles have only focused on that aspect.

    Perhaps Dr. Beck is the only one who has studied garlic's effect on the mind, but before you can show me a study disproving that garlic has adverse effects on meditation, you don't really have an argument, because we basically agree on everything else. It truly amuses me that you garlic lovers are so worked up about this.
    Scientific studies are generally made when there is profit involved. There are few vested interests benefiting from studying the effect of garlic on meditation, so that's mainly why there are none to be found. However, there are many vested interests who benefits from garlic's medicinal value, because garlic is a commercial food crop, thus there is funding available for such studies. Hopefully one day some scientists will be able to study this further.

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Jump to: navigation, search
    A sulfone. It consist of a sulfonyl group bonded with two hydrocarbon substituents.

    A sulfonyl group is an organic radical or functional group obtained from a sulfonic acid by the removal of the hydroxyl group. Sulfonyl groups can be written as having the general formula R-S(=O)2-R', where there are two double bonds between the sulfur and oxygen. The names of sulfonyl groups typically end in -syl, such as in tosyl chloride which is p-toluenesulfonyl chloride, CH3C6H4SO2Cl or mesyl chloride which is methylsulfonyl chloride, CH3SO2Cl. Sulfonyl groups can be reduced to the hydrocarbon with lithium aluminium hydride (LiAlH4).

  8. Actually, it is not the garlic lovers who need to prove anything. You are, via Beck, claiming a specific "fact" about the effects of garlic on brain, mind, and meditation – it is up to you to prove the effects you claim are valid and not simply someone's opinion.

    The available evidence, as I have cited, shows that garlic has many neuroprotective compounds, and there is considerable evidence that the benefits of garlic may not be limited to, or even based on allicin, which as you have pointed out, has a very short half-life.

    What we have been talking about here, in terms of the science, is the effect of garlic on the gross body, but there may be some negative effect on the subtle body – but that would mean (1) proving that there is a subtle body, (2) demonstrating that the substance Beck names is real and causes neuronal excitation, and then (3) proving that this substance interferes with meditation practices.

    If someone has a theory, they can almost always find a way to conduct a test of it.

    From my perspective, it's not that I want or need to defend garlic – if it's unhealthy, I'll stop eating it – but rather that I want to defend the scientific method from assaults by pseudo-science. It's bad enough that the Christian fundamentalists continue to reject actual science, we don't need the progressive spiritual community also discarding real science in favor of opinions or tradition.

  9. Not the Buddha says:

    "So, my advice? Get some whole garlic, press it, add it to some ground basil, and a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, with whatever other ingredients you like (maybe some Romano cheese), then slather some over the top of a grilled free-range chicken breast covered in melted Havarti cheese. Add some steamed asparagus, also covered with some pesto and grated cheese, and you have a really healthy dinner that is good for your heart, your immune system, and your brain."

    — Not to mention good for your tastebuds! After reading that description, I'm hungry, now! 🙂

    Thanks for weighing in on the pros of garlic. In World War II, when the Russians lacked access to penicillin in the war front, they used copious doses of garlic with great success. It came to be known as "the Russian penicillin."

  10. William.

    Just a short note to thank you for taking the time to do the research and to speak up for rational thinking and evidence-based medicine.

    I don't care so much about garlic, but I care deeply, as you clearly do, about how we go about trying to determine the truth on any issue, and on what basis one can declare this or that provocative thing to be true.

    Bob W.

  11. kimberly says:

    I agree that for the most part, experience is experience, and I have nothing against self-experimentation. I'm just saying that some items, which may not have a strong effect in either direction, can have a placebo effect based on what the user is expecting to happen. This is Psychology 101. However, while I feel like I have decent grasp on psychological issues, I won't pretend that I understand the hard science enough in either direction, I just tend to feel pretty comfortable believing the results of many, many peer-reviewed studies. If your entire point of the article is simply that garlic can be considered a slight stimulant or depressant in some ways and therefore might want to be avoided prior to meditation, just like one would avoid chocolate or green tea right before meditating, then I can jump on board with that statement. But to claim that it is a "brain toxin" and poisonous just because one dude said it in a lecture…

  12. YogiOne says:


    Interesting arguments. However, I think overstated in some respects. It isn't that science ignores evidence from less methodologically rigorous sources, it is just that science generally rates evidence based on generalizability. This is true for many reasons, among them, science seeks universal principles and the fact that it is possible, and frequently observed fact that the majority of people hold to delusional beliefs based on the the type of "broader" science you describe. In this case, people are simply being lazy or ill-informed, jumping ahead to believing a thing before completing the scientific process. The place for such information is in the descriptive, hypothesis generation stage of science.

    You would also be clearly incorrect in suggesting that it is the responsibility of critics to provide disconfirming evidence when questioning whether an idea has adequate support to generalize it. It is always the responsibility of the person making the positive assertion of a fact to provide adequate support for the idea. This is because of the logical falacy involved in attempting to "prove" a negative.

  13. peter says:

    Today i will eat garlic. Then I will go and meditate. I'll let you know what happens…

  14. Ramesh says:

    Yogione, always a pleasure to read your viewpoints. I do disagree, however, because Western science is in itself very biased. And we see this in reaction to my articles. Those who vehemently claim rationality and science have hardly acknowledged that I never disputed the scientific evidence regarding the many physical benefits of garlic. Instead they attack what they claim is quackery coming from the East. I state it again: If you claim that something is quackery, where is your proof? Otherwise, this is nothing but a witch hunt against those suggesting a different scientific paradigm. If you want to disprove the mental effects of garlic, you need to be scientific. You need to collect the data, just like the yogis have done. You cannot simply serve me a platter of scientific evidence based on how garlic benefits the body when I never disputed that in the first place.
    You may be doubtful, you may plead ignorance, but do not claim I am unscientific.

    The yogis claimed for hundreds of years that the asanas effected the glands in the body long before western science caught up to the fact that the endocrine system benefits from these ageold exercises.
    Would it be wise to cry foul before this was investigated and confirmed? I think not. Please apply the same logic when it comes to garlic, and you will most likely conclude that we are all largely in agreement. Because I have also taken garlic as medicine, but it did effect my meditation, so I stopped and found other forms of herbs doing the same trick.

  15. YogiOne says:


    Thanks for you response. Sounds like you feel a little bit ganged up on. As one of the science guys around here, that shoe is often on the other foot. It doesn't feel good either way. I hereby acknowledge for all scientifically minded folks (they can tell me to buzz off if they disagree) that you never disputed the scientific evidence regarding the many physical benefits of garlic. Your post was about garlic disturbing/inhibiting meditation.

    I think that William and others who questionned this assertion are definitely practicing both good science and good yoga when they question the validity of this claim, and the basis for its support. If you think that it generalizes to others, you need evidence at that level of science, no matter what your paradigm. I also believe that studies showing health benefits for the body are at least partially pertinant to that question. The brain is part of the body and generally benefits from the same things that are healthy for the rest of the body. Thus, a hyothesis that argued the opposite would require a greater level and extent of support than one in line with current knowledge.

  16. YogiOne says:


    The cases of hydrocephalus that don't result in death early in life dohave much to teach us. They are interesting for a variety of reasons. First is that the effects of hydrocephalus in these cases are much more profound in the cortex than in other, evolutionarily old parts of the brain. This is what allowed them to survive childhood where most of their cohort does not. Remember also that the brain is only about 75% developed at birth and it continues to develop rapidly for the first five years of life, then decreasingly so throughout the rest of the first 20 or so years of life, with minor structural changes after that until the deterioration we see in old age. The cortex, being the newest part of the brain is most plastic (changable) throughout life. The big question that hydrocephalic anamolies raise for scientists is how much brain tissue we actually need to function, not whether the brain is necessary. Lorber acknowledged this himself before he died. There is a huge amount of redundency in the brain and the evolutionalry advenatage to this is obvious.

  17. YogiOne says:

    Now for the rest of your post. I take exception to your statement that " …according to yoga, mind and brain are not the same. Brain is the physical extension of the mind…" First of all, yoga itself thinks nothing. Yogis appear to do so at times, but they certainly are not of like mind about this issue. Similarly, Catholics also for the most part no longer believe the Earth is flat. If I made the statement that "Some Yogis believe that the brain is a manifestation of mind," that would be accurate, but implying that it is currently an accepted dogma within Yoga is purely false – a violation of Satya.

  18. J.Hull-Jurkovic says:

    I regard myself as a scientist, I have worked as a materials scientist and designed and conducted many experiments some of which have been published. I know scientific method.

    Some years ago, when I became interested in meditation, my teacher recommended I stop eating garlic and onion. How preposterous!. I naturally researched as much as I could and found that there were so many scientifically proven health benefits of garlic and nothing scientifically credible on the ill effects.

    But I am an open minded scientist, so I designed an experiment. I would stop eating garlic and onion for 6 weeks, and then eat a big dose and measure the effective difference. I will add, that I am vegetarian, and I was recommended to do the experiment as vegetarian as meat can have a similar effect to garlic on the mind and cloud the result. (Okay, I am still open minded, and I did not see that this would cloud the results).

    So, how was I going to measure the effects?? The reputed effects are mental. How can I measure the mind? Sure we can measure this permeability and that electroencephalogram, but what do they really mean in the world of the mind? What I quickly concluded was that I needed to move into the murky world of subjectivity, and out of the flourescent light of scientific method. I was going to have to record a feeling! Well – that put this whole thing out of the scrutiny of peers and into a world I was not accustomed to.

    Well, if that was the way forward, then so be it. I only needed to prove this to myself, not to anyone else. So, I decided to use as my yardstick, the act of meditation itself. How long could I keep my mind in a particular track without being disturbed by other thoughts ( I now think that perhaps this could be measured with eeg brainwave patterns..).

    So I did this experiment. 6 weeks no alums. One meal with Garlic. Wait for the meal to digest and then do the same meditation I had been practising before under the same conditions. I would go on to repeat this experiment several times to give a statistically believable result. The outcome?

    Well, as a scientist, there is no way I would publish my findings because they just aren’t credible in the scientific community. However, one thing that Ramesh wrote struck a chord with me – “Experience is experience”. I could not deny my experience, nor the experience of those around me that conducted similar self-experiments.

    I would love to see a proper scientific study done in the above way, perhaps using brainwave pattern as the measurement, and double blind testing with de-odorised garlic. Does that mean I am going to remain a garlic eating sceptic until I see that study?

    My experience told me no a long time ago. The yogis may not be seen as adherents of classical scientific method, but, then their entire worldview is subjective. They were able to trust their feelings, why is it that scientific method alienates us from ours? Isn’t it that many great scientific breakthroughs came because a scientist had the guts to follow his or her feelings?

  19. YogiOne says:

    Oh, one other thing about those case studies of hydocephalus – many of them came to the attention of physicians when the subject died prematurely with no obvious cause. Upon autopsy, they found that the subject died due to the hydrocephalus. So, from that perspective, I'd also have to say that the brain probably is necessary. :-).

  20. Ramesh says:

    very good suggestion. This will at least satisfy the hard scientists among us. I am in regular email discussions on a list with over 300 long term yogi meditators worldwide, none of whom eat garlic regularly. There has been discussion about trying to set up such a study. We have some scientists in the forum as well. I will let you know if anythings comes out of it.

  21. Ramesh says:

    J. Hull-Jurkovic,
    thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences albeit in a non-scientific way! I share your wish for double-blind testing.

  22. Ramesh says:

    I referred to yoga philosophy which certainly has an opinion about all kinds of subject. Accusing me of violating satya is really way off the charts. Just look up the koshas in yoga or Vedantic philosophy and you will learn that the body (annamaya kosa) is the outer shell of the mind which again is enveloped by spirit. The Vedantic kosha system is universlly accepted with the yoga community. Not something I made up. It basically states that body, the energtic body (pranamaya kosha) and the higher koshas constitute the mind. So, according to yoga consciosness (Atman) enveloped the mind, which envelopes the energetic body which again envelopes the body, of which the brain is a part. So all these kosahs are interrelated and the brain would not function without these higher and deeper functions of the mind and soul, nor would the mind and soul be able to express without the brain. The kosas are like a banana flower, one layer enveloping the next, thebody and the brain being the crudest and consciousness the most subtle, but in the utlimate sense it is all consciousness, all soul, even matter, just different functions and manifestations. So yoga deals with both objective and material as well as the subjective and spiritual reality in a beautiful and ultimately nondual way. The five kosshas:annamya (body), pranamaya (energetic body) Manomaya kosha (mind body) Vijanamaya kosha (wisdom level), Anandamaya (bliss level)
    In Tantra the kosha model is a bit different, with a slightly different emphasis,, but it is basically the same–from crude to subtle, from physical to mental to spiritual.
    But the fact is my friend, there is widespread agreement in yoga philosophy, ayurveda about all this.

  23. Anil A says:

    P.R. Sarkar, my spiritual mentor does agree that while garlic may have many medical and physical benefits, he cautions us against using it as food. He .states in the upcoming book Natural Medicine. The passage in Shabda Cayanika' 21 concludes with:

    "A garlic-eater has little urinary continence. . . . "A person accustomed to eating garlic in excess is certain to have skin ailments. Lymph degenerates under the influence of garlic. The influence of garlic on the mind is very harmful."

    Garlic (Rasun)

    All the parts of the garlic are static. The Saḿskrta name for garlic is “rasona”. It has five out of the six tastes (rasas). The six tastes are: tikta – neem (bitter); katu – chilli (hot and spicy); kaśava – plantain (alkaline); lavańa (salty); amala (acidic); and madhu (sweet). Garlic has all of the tastes except acidic.

    Garlic is indigestible, so it comes out in the perspiration. Thus, it helps in the expulsion of hidden diseases. Yet, it has negative effects also, so it is not to be eaten by persons following a sentient diet. Those who eat garlic emit a very foul odour. Garlic can be used as a medicine, but it is not necessary to eat it as a food.

    In very cold climates static food becomes mutative, and mutative food becomes sentient. In such climates householders (grhis) may take garlic.

    There is a children’s rhyme about garlic. A bird sang a song and everyone heard different things. The bird sang, “Na na na na nanan na”. The scholar heard, “Rama, Siita, Dasharath”. The mullah heard, “Allah, Mohammad, Hazarat”. The wrestler heard, “Dan, Baithaka, Kasarat”. The cook heard, “Rasun, Piaz, Adarak”.

    Garlic is propagated by planting bulbs (kovas). Each bulb should be planted so that three quarters is below the ground and one quarter is above the ground. The quarter above the soil must not be buried under any circumstances, and it must also remain above water during irrigation. The water requirement for garlic is less than that of small onion (chota piaz), but more than that of big onion (bara piaz).

    Garlic can be cultivated on the border line of wheat and early boro paddy fields. When growing garlic with rice, sow the garlic in two rows so that it forms equilateral triangles. One line of safflower seeds (kusum biija) should be sown between the rows of garlic so that each seed is in the middle of one triangle.

    Research should be done on garlic to pinpoint its medicinal properties, and to ascertain whether there is any possibility of producing garlic oil from the leaves.

    Ideal Farming Part 2

  24. Anil A says:

    Whenever any new theories were propounded or mentioned they always were faced with opposition and ridicule. History has many testaments to this. I know of so many crackpot theories of the past which are sworned truths today.Like the flat vs the round world theory,earth being the centre of the universe ( I think they jailed the man who dared propound this theory).Maybe soon through proper research we may be able to verify this garlic theory soon as well.

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  31. Ebeth says:

    In many eastern spiritual traditions with a focus on a concentrated meditation lifestyle, onions and garlic are eliminated from the diet, not because they are not healthy, but they create heat and stimulation to the body which is opposite from what you want to produce for optimum meditation. Zen monks while training abstain but after are allowed to have them in their daily diet. New mothers know not to eat onions as the nursing baby cannot digest the components and gets colic. Garlic, along with dairy, wheat, peanuts, and soy, is one of the top food allergens. But the people who eat it and have it as their cultural programming from birth, thrive.

    This diet from PR Sarkar and Ramesh is also against wild field mushrooms (not domesticated mushrooms as they had not been invented in the 1950s), and many spiritual paths rely on the mushrooms, now found to contain high concentrations of Vit D. I read from PR Sarkar that if onions are what there is to eat, let the people eat the onions. (In rural Hungary, breakfast was raw slices of onion on thick bread.) After all, Sarkar came from a country with often limited food sources and constant starvation due to abject poverty, very different than what we have here in the West with unlimted access to dozens of foods and money to buy them. We also get to have a choice what to eat. The monks who come from India to the USA for the first time are bowled over by the diet and said to be addicted to American juice it is so delicious (and love pizza parlors). There are many spiritual and mystical traditions in the West, and most certainly in the Mediterranean area, the diet relies on onions and garlic. Just try to get anyone to stop eating them! The Mediterranean diet happens to be, in recent studies, one of the most healthy of diets. In Indian history, the first recorded diet was a vegetarian menu and did not contain onions, garlic, eggs, or mushrooms. So this diet is many thousands of years old in regular Indian society and not just for spiritual aspirants. What Ramesh doesnt know is there are many followers of Sarkar, with whom I am acquainted, who yearly take garlic detoxes with great success and with deep secrecy as to not follow the diet in Ananda Marga, you will be ostracized and criticized as not a spiritual person. Being dogmatic about diet immediately sets up the them vs us, we are superior than others headspace. The sentient diet is one of the first social norms to adapt to after learning meditation as the entry point into the closed insular AM society.

    The other point is that all this about the sentient diet and its elements needs to be revised. Foods that were clean and healthy in the 1950s India when rice was locally grown, every family had their own cow and garden, are now compromised with pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics in milk, arsenic from the soil transferred thru the water into vegetables, and jet fuel and anti depressants in the fresh water sources around the world. Since garlic and onions have antibiotic, anti viral and anti parasitic qualities, they may be needed by modern man to balance the imbalance.

    I have found each person has their own diet. The healthiest people cook for themselves. One person can survive nicely on a vegan or vegetarian diet, yet anther cannot survive without concentrated animal protein instead of plant protein. The majority of Ananda Marga followers tend to be violent, aggressive, devious, and angry towards each other, said to be part of the tantra's influence, so I am not sure where or if the diet helps that.

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  33. FattyBurnedBirdCarcass says:

    Nothing healthy in that meal. I can tell by that recipe that you are not well researched on nutrition. All that cheese is not good for your heart, and contrary to popular belief neither is olive oil, it is bad for the heart as it restricts bloodflow (by nearly a third) and damages endothelial cells.

    50 Raw Garlic Clove Challenge |Warning: Extreme Vomit|
    The toxins (and medicine) are Allicin and sulphone hydroxyl – this is the plants protection method, since the bulb’s function is propagation.

    Onions release another organosulfur compound called syn-Propanethial S-oxide, causing the eyes to produce water to wash away the irritant.

  34. Atraxmelden says:

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