Paavo Airola - Let's Live - November 1977Index

Garlic: Poison Or Miracle Food?

FROM THE readers of Nutrition Forum, I receive hundreds of questions every week. Since the Forum space is limited, I can answer only a fraction of all the questions I receive, giving preference to questions of general interest that can be answered by short replies. Sometimes I receive a question that elicits a thorough and elaborate answer, where my contentions and claims must be substantiated by well-researched facts. The following question, I feel, is one of those. It deals with one of mankind's most well-known and cherished foods - garlic.

Nutrition Confusion

You don't have to read far into American so-called health literature to discover that there is a great diversity of opinion on many pertinent questions related to nutrition and health. There are many reasons for this: the almighty dollar - the greedy commercialism - is, perhaps, the prime reason. Many experts are inVolved in manufacturing and selling the products and services which they recommend. It is difficult to be totally objective when you have an axe to grind. Also, medicine and nutrition are not exact sciences. Every vitamin or food brings a different reaction in each individual, and, therefore, it is often difficult to draw a generalized conclusion. Scholastic dogmatism in the area of human nutrition, the scientifically rigid adherence to a principle or tenet, without taking the varied and changeable human element into consideration, can only result in pseudoscience and confusion.

Moreover, not only is the study material human and varied, but nutritionists and health writers are human, too. They are very subjective in their judgement. Many of their conclusions and beliefs may be colored by their own likes and dislikes. For example, the son of one of the most knowledgeable and prolific health writers, now deceased, wrote that his father's strong pro-meat, high-protein stand was motivated by his own personal liking for the taste of meat. There is also a deplorable lack of dependable research on nutrition in our country. Almost all research is done and/or financed by the giant commercial food industries involved. And, "he who pays the piper calls the tune." Just a hypothetical example: it would be naive to expect that research on the nutritional value of sugar, financed by the sugar industry, would turn up revealing facts that sugar is a mass killer - which, in fact, it is.

Outdated Information

Another point to consider is that although nutrition is as old as mankind, the science of nutrition is a relatively new field of research. It has been said that we have learned more about nutrition in the last 20 years than in the preceding 2,000 years.

For example, the idea that garlic and, onions are poisonous foods originated with the writings of natural hygienists more than a half a century ago, then was picked up by some of their contemporary followers. Their conclusions were based on outdated, obsolete beliefs and speculations, rather than scientific data. Since then, Russian, Finnish, Indian, Japanese, and American research has shown that garlic and onions are miracle health-promoting and disease-preventing foods, as I will show later in this article.

The Price of Freedom

We live in the freest and most wonderful country in the world. Currently, Americans are obsessed with self-criticism and fault-finding, seemingly oblivious to the fact that in spite of our imperfections, corruption, and crime rate, the United States is still, and by far, the best, the freest, and the safest country in the world. Not only do we have the highest living standard in the world, but we have more personal freedoms and basic human rights than any nation on earth. But, worthwhile things don't come free. We have to pay a price for this freedom. Nutrition confusion is just one of the prices we must pay for living in a free country, where there is a free press - i.e., where anyone can write books and pose as an expert. One of our most knowledgeable nutritionists, Dr. Carlton Fredericks, hit the nail on the head when he said, "everyone who eats thinks he is an authority on nutrition." Consequently, we have a growing number of book-writing "experts," who present their dramatically opposing and contradictory views on virtually any given subject, leaving their readers and followers in total confusion and bewilderment. I don't know how we could remedy this situation without infringement on our highly cherished freedom of expression and freedom of the press. I guess the reader just has to make his own choice of experts and nutritional gurus and follow the ideas and advice that make the most sense to him or her. But, in the question cited earlier, I was asked for facts - facts that substantiate my enthusiastic endorsement of garlic as a miraculous healing and health-building food. Here they are:

Empirical Evidence

Garlic has been used for thousands of years both as food and as medicine. Most people around the world, especially those known for their excellent health, absence of disease, and long life, have used and are now using garlic extensively in their daily diet. I have studied the diets of Russians and Bulgarians, where onions and garlic are consumed in astronomical quantities! Not a single case of garlic poisoning has ever been known among them. On the contrary, healthy Russian centenarians often have told me that the large amount of garlic and onions in their diets was one of the main causes of their exceptional health and long life. Garlic has also been attributed with miraculous healing powers, and used throughout medical history in the treatment of many kinds of disease. Ancient records show that garlic was used as medicine as early as 3,000 BC. by Babylonians, Chinese, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Vikings. Egyptian pyramid builders had raw garlic as part of their food ration. Most great physicians of old - Pliny, Dioscorides, Hippocrates, and Galen, to name a few - as well as some more contemporary medical greats such as Are Waerland, Werner Zabel, Ragnar Berg, Albert Schweitzer, Bircher Benner, and many others, used garlic to cure everything from intestinal infections and digestive disorders to high blood pressure, senility, and impotence. 1

Modern Garlic Research

There are several scientific studies that confirm the ancient beliefs of the therapeutic and preventive properties of garlic. Dr. F.G. Piotrowski, of the University of Geneva, used garlic on 100 patients with abnormally high blood pressure. The study revealed that garlic treatment brought "excellent results." Garlic, according to Dr. Piotrowski, has a dilating effect on blood vessels and is effective in reducing blood pressure. 2

A study in India, conducted under the direction of Drs. Sainani, Desai, and More, showed that garlic and onions have a preventive effect on the development of arteriosclerosis and consequent ' high blood pressure and heart disease. 3

Pathologist Dr. R.C. Jain, of the University of Benghazi, in Libya, demonstrated in experimental animal studies that garlic can prevent plaque formation in arteries and, thus, help prevent the development of atherosclerosis and heart disease. 4

A controlled Australian study by Dr. K. Halwax showed that garlic extract (odorless liquid garlic extract, Kyolic) has a beneficial effect in the treatment of anemia. Studies show that the hemoglobin and red cell count were significantly higher in the group of 10 female patients with chronic anemia after 8 weeks of treatment, as compared to 10 patients with the same degree of anemia who were given placebos. 5

In Japan, the Department of Surgery at Fukuyama Army Hospital of Self Defense Force tested the same garlic extract on patients with lumbago and arthritis. The extract showed "remarkable" effectiveness on 86% of the patients. 6

Antibiotic Property

Russian electrobiologist, Professor Gurwitch, discovered that garlic emits a peculiar type of ultra-violet radiation called mitogenetic radiations. These emissions, now referred to as Gurwitch rays, have the property of stimulating cell growth and activity and have a rejuvenative effect on all body functions. Russians also found that garlic has antibiotic properties. They commonly refer to garlic as Russian penicillin. Russian clinics and hospitals used garlic extensively, mostly in the form of volatile extracts that are vaporized and inhaled.

During my travels in Russia, studying the health system, the native diets, and their effects on health and longevity, I observed that Russian doctors, through the available channels of public health education, advise people to eat lots of garlic and onions as a health-promoting and disease-preventing measure. It is not uncommon to see Russians munching on a large onion the way we eat apples. And the fact that they eat lots of garlic can be evidenced by the unmistakable aroma every time you mingle with the crowds.

Antibacterial And Antifungal Properties

Numerous studies demonstrate that garlic juice exhibits strong antibacterial and antifungal properties. Due to those properties, garlic has, been Widely known as a blood purifier. Nobel Prize Laureate, Dr. Arthur Stoll, established in the 1940's the antibiotic and bactericidal effect of garlic and ascribed this power to the allicin, a sulfur-containing amino acid present in garlic. 4

In Russian studies by Drs. D.B. Dubova 7 and E.P. Leskinov,8 it was established that a number of fungus diseases responded to treatment with garlic juice. According to Indian studies by Datta and others, the active factors in garlic, allistatin I and allistatin II, were found to be powerful agents against staphylococcus and escherishia coli (E. coli). Russian studies demonstrated that garlic extract was useful in treatment of such disorders as grippe, chronic colitis, gastritis, and whooping cough.

Anticancerous Properties

Garlic preparations of various kinds, mostly in natural form, but also as extracts or juices, have been used successfully against cancer, both in animal and human studies.

In animal studies by Weisberger and Pensky, as reported in Science, 1957,9 mice injected with cancerous cells died within 16 days. When cancerous cells were treated with garlic extract and injected into the animals, no deaths occurred for a period of 6 months. In other studies, feeding fresh garlic to female mice completely inhibited the development of mammary tumors. 10 And, in Russian studies, garlic preparation was found not only to retard the tumor growth in animals, but also in humans. 11

Germanium And Cancer

At a recent Cancer Control Convention in Los Angeles, Dr. K. Asai, from Japan, reported on his extensive studies of trace mineral, germanium, which has been found to have both preventive and curative effects on cancer. 12 Garlic is one of the best natural sources of germanium. Although there are many active factors in garlic that have been shown to possess therapeutic effects, the germanium, according to Japanese research may be one of the most important factors. The reason for making such an assertion is based on empirical evidence of the low cancer incidence among peoples like Chinese and Koreans, who eat large amounts of garlic daily. Also, the results of the animal experiments conducted at the Tokyo Medical University Laboratory of Hygienics, show that garlic in the daily diet can prevent formation of cancer. Injections of cancer cells were given to two groups of rats. One group received garlic as an addition to the diet, while the control group received no garlic. Although cancer developed in the group that received no garlic, the garlic-fed group remained totally free from cancer.

Therapeutic Property of Garlic

In the clinical studies - animal as well as human - mentioned above and reported in major medical journals worldwide in the last couple of decades, garlic has been shown to have preventive and/or therapeutic properties in the treatment of a variety of ailments. Here is a list of diseases that have been successfully treated by raw garlic or garlic extracts: In the treatment of the above-mentioned diseases, garlic has been Used by biologically oriented physicians singularly or as an effective adjunct to other nutritional and biological modalities. Personally, I have used garlic very successfully in my clinical practice to treat patients with diarrhea, intestinal putrefaction, dyspepsia, asthma, and high blood pressure. In most cases, the blood pressure was reduced 20-30 mm in one week by taking large amounts of garlic or garlic preparations.

How And Why It Works

Although there is plenty of empirical and clinical evidence that garlic is effective both in prevention as well as treatment of disease, scientific studies are meager as to what specific factors in garlic are responsible for these beneficial effects. I am sure that future studies will reveal more "unidentified factors" in garlic in addition to the factors which are presently known. For example, the famous Finnish Nobel Prize winning scientist, Dr. A.I. Virtanen, in his thorough biochemical analysis of onions, discovered 40 new beneficial substances!

At present, research and clinical observations have shown the following active factors being present in garlic (Allium Sativum):

Perhaps the most clearly observable effect of garlic in the treatment of most diseases is its detoxifying effect on the body. Whether due to the factors mentioned above, or some other unidentified factors, garlic is a powerful detoxifier. It neutralizes toxins present in the digestive tract and eliminative organs, as well as in the blood, and has a beneficial effect on the function of the liver, kidneys, nervous system, and circulatory system. Garlic, being an antitoxin, also strengthens the body's defenses against allergens and is, therefore, used in the treatment of allergies and asthma.

Heavy Metal Poisoning

The threat to our health from environmental poisons is increasing every day. Lead, mercury, cadmium, and copper poisoning are becoming epidemic. Lead and mercury come mostly from polluted air plus industrial and medical uses, such as lead-containing paint and amalgam dental fillings. Copper enters our bodies usually from copper water pipes - commonly used in plumbing.

Heavy metal poisoning is difficult to treat. Expensive chelation treatment is the only known medical treatment that is effective in detoxifying the body of heavy metals. Now, the Japanese study conducted by Doctors Ikezoe and Kitahara, show that Kyolic, a raw garlic extract developed in Japan, is effective in protecting the body from the toxic effects of the heavy metal poisoning. 14

Dr. Kitahara and his co-workers, Ikezoe and Yamada, conducted controlled studies on animals (rabbits) and humans. The method of study was: observation of release of potassium and hemoglobin by heavy metals from erythrocytes, and destruction of erythrocyte membrane. The conclusion of the study was the garlic preparation prevented the poisoning effect arising from heavy metals and protected the erythrocyte membrane from destruction.

In another study conducted in Russia, a drug made from garlic extract was given to workers in industrial plants who were suffering from chronic lead poisoning and lowered the high porphyrin levels in the urine. The preparation also normalized the elevated blood pressure in the majority of workers. 15 Russian researchers believed that the efficacy of the garlic preparation is due to garlic's high content of sulfur compounds.

These studies may have a far-reaching effect, as it is becoming more and more difficult to avoid deadly toxic metals, especially lead and mercury, in our poisoned environment.

Garlic, An Antioxidant

Like onions, marjoram, and green chilies, garlic is known to possess an antioxidant property, and is used for this purpose in food preparation in many countries, for example in the preparation of ghee. Ghee is a heated butter that is very stable in terms of rancidity. An Indian study showed that garlic exhibited a high antioxidant property as determined by the peroxide values of the products by the swift stability test. 16 Garlic restrained the development of all characteristic indexes of rancidity (acidity, peroxides, iodine No., etc.). Garlic retained its antioxidant property for a half year after harvesting.

Delicious Gourmet Food

In addition to having such miraculous preventive, protective, and healing properties, garlic is also a most delicious food, enjoyed and treasured by most peoples around the world. Used wisely and in moderation, it can improve the nutritional quality as well as enhance the taste of many cooked dishes as well as raw salads. In French, Spanish, Italian, and Mexican cuisine, garlic is used almost in everything. One favorite Mexican dish is garlic soup - something like French onion soup, but made from garlic.

Personally, I use garlic in and on anything except fruit. My favorite dish is a raw vegetable salad with lots of tomatoes, avocados, and 2-3 finely chopped cloves of garlic. I also love garlic and cheese sandwiches. On a slice of dark sourdough rye bread, spread a layer of chopped raw garlic and cover with a thick slice of natural cheese of your choice. Delicious! And, of course, no soup is complete without some garlic or garlic powder.

So, don't let anyone confuse you regarding garlic! It is most certainly a terrific health food as well as a miraculous medicine. In fact, garlic fulfills more than any other food I know Hippocrates' requirement of a perfect food - "let your food be your medicine - Let your medicine be your food."

But aside from all the scientific evidence presented in this article, perhaps the most effective, common-sense proof of garlic's harmlessness is the fact that Italians have been, and are now, using so much garlic in their daily diets, that, if the author referred to in the beginning of this article was right in his claim that garlic is poisonous, the Italians would all be sick or dead by now. Yet, they are some of the healthiest peoples on this planet. Apparently, garlic and olive oil can even counteract the negative effect of too much pasta!.

Kissing Question

"If he kissed you once, will he kiss you again?"

Now, I hear my readers complaining in unison: "Okay, okay! I believe you! I am convinced by the evidence you presented, and it all makes sense to me. But! I am a social creature, I am married, I have a family, I work, I mingle with people. If I eat garlic the way you recommend, my husband will divorce me, I will lose my job, and will never be able to come within six feet of anyone! It may be okay in Italy, but here, in the land of mouthwashes and deodorants, you just don't go around reeking of garlic."

It is true that in our culture, eating garlic may have social repercussions and impose some social limitations. Of course, there would be no problem if everyone ate garlic - like everyone in Italy does. Those who eat garlic themselves cannot detect the odor of garlic from others. It's similar to smoking those who smoke don't notice the objectionable odor of stale tobacco coming from others.

Usually, garlic, when used in cooking, does not leave garlic breath - only raw garlic does. Throughout the years, there have been several garlic and onion breath deodorizers, but none of them has proved to be effective. Eating parsley or other chlorophyll-rich vegetables helps a little, but it does not remove the odor completely. Odorless garlic pills? I have tried many brands but haven't found one yet that does what it promises. Garlic oil capsules are almost safe, as far as breath is concerned, but even they do not pass the close-up test, such as kissing.

Great News From Japan

Last year, I made an extensive tour of Japan where I studied their eating and living habits as well as presented several public and professional lectures on behalf of the International Academy of Biological Medicine. I learned many health secrets from the health-oriented Japanese, such as buckwheat soba, soy miso, and their many ways of eating large amounts of seaweed daily. But one of the most exciting items of health news I brought from Japan was actually not a part of their traditional diet at all. It was the new, completely odorless garlic preparation developed by the highly enterprising and ingenious Japanese. They have developed a garlic supplement called Kyolic (Kyo-Leopin in Japan, or Leopin in Canada), which retains all the traditional well-known medicinal-nutritional properties of raw garlic, but without garlic's odor. By a special process, which involves curing garlic for 20 months without the use of heat, organically grown garlic loses its odor through a natural fermentation process. It is sold in liquid or tablet form and it has been available in Japan for several decades as one of the most widely used supplements. It has been tested for its therapeutic value by several research clinics in Japan and Australia, and it is approved by the Japanese equivalent of our FDA for preventive and therapeutic use. Best of all, Kyolic is now available in the United States and is sold in most health food stores. It is the only garlic product I know of that leaves no breath odor or body odor, even when taken in large doses.

So, if after reading this article, you are convinced that garlic has a great health-improving, disease-preventing potential, and would like to incorporate it into your daily diet, but are afraid to do so because of possible social repercussions, you can safely enjoy garlic's traditional benefits by using Kyolic. Or, train your whole family to eat garlic in its many natural forms every day, and associate yourself socially with other garlic eaters. Let's make garlic eating the new "in thing" (just like non-smoking or jogging are) so that those of us who eat garlic regularly will not have to excuse ourselves for its delightful health-giving aroma.

How Much Garlic?

Now, only because you know that garlic is good for you doesn't mean that you can gorge on it in unlimited quantities. Remember, garlic is not so much a food as a condiment or seasoning, and should be used judiciously, the way other strong spices such as peppers and chilies are used. The excess of volatile oils in garlic may cause some unpleasant symptoms if used in extreme excess. Two or three small cloves of garlic in one meal are sufficient, possibly only one clove in most cases. The garlic pills and other preparations should be taken as recommended in the directions on the label. Kyolic is usually taken in doses of 3-4 capsules twice a day; super-kyolic tablets - 3 to 4 a day; garlic oil pills usually 2-3 pills with each meal. The only exception to this limitation rule is when garlic is used in cooked form. When used in cooking, I don't know of any danger of consuming even large amounts, like a whole bulb in garlic soup. When used as seasoning for salads, garlic should be used very sparingly, as its flavor will overpower other more delicate scents and flavors of milder vegetables.


The empirical and scientific evidence presented in this article shows that garlic is, indeed, a wonderful health food and a miraculous healing plant. It can truthfully be called "the king of the vegetable kingdom." Garlic, in its natural form, or in the form of special garlic pills, tablets, and other supplements (sold in health food stores), should be incorporated in the Optimum Diet as one of the most beneficial and delicious natural seasonings and flavor enhancers. Garlic not only will improve and enrich the diet, but will help to improve your health, prevent disease, and prolong life.


  1. Airola, Paavo, Are You Confused?, Health Plus Publishers, Phoenix, Arizona, 1971.
  2. Piotrowski, F.G., Praxis, July 1, 1948.
  3. Nutrition News Byline, Alive, Canadian Journal of Health and Nutrition, #12, 1977.
  4. Passwater, Richard, Supernutrition for Healthy Hearts, the DiaL Press, New York, N.Y., 1977.
  5. Halwax, K., Research paper published by Wakunaga Pharmaceutical Co., Hiroshima, Japan.
  6. Wakunaga Pharmaceutical Company, report, with detailed study data.
  7. Dubova, D.B., Mikrobiologlya, 19, 222, 1950.
  8. Leskinow, E.P., Byull. Eksperim. Biologiskoy Mediciny, 21 [1] 70, 1947.
  9. Weisberger, A.S., and Pensky, J., Science, 126, 1112, 1957.
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  11. Rommanyuk, N.M., Ukrainskaya Blokhim, Zh., 24, 53, 1952.
  12. Asai, K., report at Cancer Control Convention, Los Angeles, California, July 5, 1977. The tape of Dr. Asai's report can be obtained from the Cancer Control Society, 2043 N. Berendo, Los Angeles, CA 90027.
  13. Matzukawa, et. al, Journal of Pharmaceutical Society of Japan, 72, 1585, 1952.
  14. Ikezoe, T., and Kitahara, S., Medical Journal, Kiso-to-Rinsho, Japan, March, 1975.
  15. Petrov, V,, et. al, Gigieva Trudalproflabolevaniya, 9[4],42, 1955.
  16. Dhar, D.C., Journal of Indian Chemical Society, Ind. & News Ed. 14, 1951.