Allicin is a sulfur compound that is formed out of the other sulfur compound alliin when garlic is either crushed or chopped. It is touted as the main reason why raw garlic has strong medicinal properties against many airborne pathogens including cold and flu viruses. On its own, allicin is an oily, yellowish liquid that displays that ever popular garlicky odor that so many ethnic food enthusiasts have come to love. It is a highly complex and reactive compound that quickly dissolves when heat is applied and is only partially soluble in water (being more soluble in alcohol).
More and more research is being done on this mysterious organic molecule and much of its pathogen fighting secrets has been unlocked by diligent researchers who hell bent on discovering all of garlic’s medicinal properties so that might mimic them in a pharmaceutical. Most believe that this compounds role is to protect garlic from insects and bacteria when it is damaged. It is successful in its role as pathogen slayer because of its ability to disable the enzymes that help promote infections at the active site. This makes it both a natural bacteria killer as well as a powerful insecticide.
This ability to target the enzymes and virtually starve out the infection, makes many doctors, researchers, and herbalists tout garlic as a natural cure-all useful in protecting the body from pathogens that are derived from viral, fungal, and bacterial sources. The rub (not the garlic rub) is that this powerful antimicrobial happens to be very unstable, breaking down almost immediately after it is created. This is why raw garlic is encouraged for those who are in immediate need of a immune boost.
While most allicin does not survive the chopping and cooking process, some does make it, making a steady diet of cooked garlic beneficial for long term health. Group studies of people who enjoy a steady diet of garlic have shown lower incidences of many cancers (especially those cancers found in the stomach and digestive system). While the debate is still raging whether it is allicin that is helping to curb the oxidizing effects of cancer causing free radicals or whether it is another hardier sulfide compound that is responsible, what scientists do not tend to argue about is the health benefits that garlic most certainly displays.
As of late, researchers and entrepreneurs alike have been trying to unlock the powerful effects of allicin while doing away with the pungent (some may call it stinky) after effects of ingesting raw garlic to help sure your sniffles. Many believed that they have succeeded with the arrival of dried aged garlic extract which manages to preserve the benefits allicin while doing away with the odor and stomach churning side effects of raw garlic.