Allicin is the major active sulfur-containing moiety that is released when garlic cloves are crushed or damaged.
Since its first recorded use in ancient times to ward off snakebites and by the physician Hippocrates to treat pneumonia and heal wounds, allicin has come a long way and its attributes now include antimicrobial and anti-insecticidal activities.
Given the rapid appearance of resistant microbes and insects, allicin clearly has merit in these spheres, even more so as resistance does not appear following its usage.
More recently allicin has been successfully used as a complementary treatment for chronic inflammatory diseases, which include type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even certain tumors.
Having a "natural" medicine, which is associated with an absence of side effects, can only be beneficial in conditions requiring long-term usage and it is clear that allicin's potential as an individual or adjunct medicine needs to be evaluated.
The gold standard for phase III human studies are double blind randomized placebo controlled trials and allicin's success in this area is just beginning to be realized.
Allicin has great potential, and maximizing its bioavailability could be enhanced using computational chemistry methodology combined with the stabilization methods already used for other phytomedicines, such as curcumin.
Given the attention it deserves, it is likely that allicin will provide much needed alternative management strategies for decreasing infection and disease over the next decade.