Allicin: chemistry and biological properties

Allicin is physiologically active in microbial, plant and mammalian cells. In a dose-dependent manner allicin can inhibit the proliferation of both bacteria and fungi or kill cells outright, including antibiotic-resistant strains like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Furthermore, in mammalian cell lines, including cancer cells, allicin induces cell-death and inhibits cell proliferation. In plants allicin inhibits seed germination and attenuates root-development. The majority of allicin’s effects are believed to be mediated via redox-dependent mechanisms. In sub-lethal concentrations, allicin has a variety of health-promoting properties, for example cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering effects that are advantageous for the cardio-vascular system. Clearly, allicin has wide-ranging and interesting applications in medicine and (green) agriculture, hence the detailed discussion of its enormous potential in this review. Taken together, allicin is a fascinating biologically active compound whose properties are a direct consequence of the molecule’s chemistry.

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