Affiliation: Department of Chemistry, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701, South Africa.
Garlic (Allium sativum) has been used for centuries as a prophylactic and therapeutic medicinal agent. Importantly, garlic has been suggested to have both cancer-preventive potential as well as significant enhancing effects on the immune system. While these observations are supported experimentally both in vitro and in vivo, the impact of garlic in assisting the immune system in the prevention of cancer still lacks experimental confirmation. Studies addressing the immunomodulatory effects of garlic reveal conflicting data as to pro- or anti-inflammatory responses depending on the particular experimental set-ups and the garlic preparation used (i.e. garlic extract versus chemically pure garlic compounds). Here we provide an overview of the chemistry of the major garlic organosulfur compounds, summarize the current understanding and propose a link between the immunomodulating activity of garlic and the prevention of cancer. We hypothesize that garlic rather elicits anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative responses that aid in priming the organism towards eradication of an emerging tumor.