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  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert

Garlic and Cosmetics? Really?

Updated: Dec 24, 2019

Garlic (Allium sativum) is used worldwide by chefs, and home cooks. It is also used in cosmetics and dermatologic applications, for its interesting properties. By reviewing patent literature, it appears as if individuals and companies have supported personal care industry interest in garlic.

According to a 2016 article by Cosmopolitan Magazine, there is a good reason why women (and men) are rubbing garlic on their faces. Allicin, garlic's most potent compound, provides the largest range of garlic's health benefits, including antibiotic and antifungal properties. The fresh garlic bulb contains alliin, alicin and volatile oils and, when the garlic clove is crushed, the odorless compound alliin is converted to allicin via the enzyme allinase. Allicin begins to degrade immediately after it is produced, so individuals should use it immediately after crushing it. Garlic's sulfur content is said to tone the skin and give hair more sheen. Apparently, sulfur works in conjunction with vitamin B complex to retain skin elasticity in tissue cells, as well as treating and preventing dandruff. WARNING -some people have reported that allicin can cause painful blisters on the skin when applied directly.

Researchers in Korea found that diallyl disulfide (DADS), the most prevalent oil-soluble sulfur compound in garlic, inhibited cell proliferation in many cell lines. Scientists found that cancer cells died following 24 hour DADS treatment that activated the a particular cancer gene. in addition, topical application of garlic extract can potentially be effective on psoriasis, alopecia areata, keloid scar, wound healing, cutaneous corn, viral and fungal infection, leishmaniasis, skin aging and rejuvenation. Scientist and clinical researchers are just beginning to explore the effectiveness of garlic extract for these purposes. The two major organosulfur compounds in aged garlic extract, namely S-allylcysteine (SAC) and S-allylmercaptocysteine (SAMC) appear to prevent oxidant damage. Studies are revealing these compounds protect DNA against free radicals and defends against UV-induced damage.

In 2015, Derek Pratt’s and his team at the University of Ottawa, Canada, brought chemical rigour to studying allicin’s biological action with their latest research, by observing the effects of these natural compounds and some synthetic analogues in more relevant biological conditions - the biphasic systems of liposomes and cells. ‘Our data show that allicin and petivericin are not antioxidants in cells at all,’ states Pratt. ‘These compounds just kill the cells by arresting cell growth.’ In the model systems, glutathione levels dropped when allicin and petivericin were added, initiating a cell death cascade of biochemical reactions. ‘It appears that they are antioxidants but really, they’re toxic.’ Pratt hypotheses that the hydrophilic sulfenic acids derived from these compounds partition to the cytosol. Here, they are physically sequestered away from free radical species at the lipid membrane so cannot actually trap radicals.

Dermatologic applications of topical garlic extract

Anti-aging: According to an investigation, garlic shows beneficial effects on the maximum proliferative capacity of fibroblasts, therefore, garlic can play a role as an anti-aging and rejuvenative agent.

Wound healing: According to a study conducted by Bojs et al., contact allergy to garlic can be effective on wound healing. Investigation on chicken skin wounds exposed to aged garlic extract show an increase in the re-epithelialization and profuse dose-dependent neovascularization.

Treating warts: Garlic is full of allicin which has great antibacterial properties. You can make garlic ointment at home or can directly apply garlic juice on these warts.

Psoriasis: A factor known as kappaB has now been linked with psoriasis. Extensive researches in the last few years have shown this pathway. Research is showing that this factor can be interrupted by garlic (diallyl sulfide, S-allylmercaptocysteine, ajoene).

Health Tonic: Mince 2-3 garlic cloves and let them soak in a glass of white wine for 3 days; take a teaspoon every day for two weeks.

Fungal infection: According to a study diallyl sulphide (DAS) and diallyl disulphide (DADS) significantly inhibit proteinase, phospholipase secretion and dimorphism in candida albicans. These compounds can, therefore, act as a potent anti-fungal in the management of candidiasis. On the other hand, ajoene (allium-derived thiosulfinate compound) has been shown to be effective in short-term treatment of tinea pedis. One study shows the use of ajoene as a 0.4% (w/w) cream results in complete clinical cure of tinea pedis. Therefore, ajoene can be an alternative, efficient and low-cost antimycotic drug for short-term therapy of tinea pedis and superficial mycoses. The fact that ajoene can be easily prepared from an alcoholic extract of garlic may make it suitable for Third World public health care.

Alopecia areata: A double-blinded randomized controlled trial shows that the use of garlic gel significantly adds to the therapeutic efficacy of topical betamethasone valerate in alopecia areata and it can be an effective adjunctive topical therapy for alopecia areata.

Keloid scar: Keloid scar is a chronic disease. It is hypothesized that garlic extract is able to inhibit nuclear factor-k B (NF-κB), nitric oxide (NO), matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2, Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE); therefore, it can be potentially an effective treartment for keloid scar.

Viral infection: Components of garlic have been shown to have antiviral effect and inhibit cellular proliferation of virally infected cells. One placebo-controlled trial demonstrates that the application of chloroform extracts of garlic result in the complete resolution of cutaneous warts without recurrence after 3–4 months.

Cutaneous corn: A clinical trial reveals that the application of garlic extract on the cutaneous corns causes the complete removal of locations. The surrounding fibrin tissue of the corn capsule is lyzed and the capsule is separated from the main tissue. It seems due to the fibrinolytic effect of garlic extract.

Leishmaniasis: Treatment of leishmaniasis potentially relevant to Th1-type immune response. In vivo and in vitro studies demonstrate that garlic extract reduces footpad lesions in leishmania mexicana-infected BALB/c mice by inducing IFN-gamma production from T cells as a Th1 immunomodulator. In vitro, garlic extract reduce macrophage infection through induction of nitric oxide (NO) production. It may thus act on both T cells and macrophages to stimulate IFN-gamma production and NO synthesis for parasite killing. On contrary, a double blinded, placebo controlled study on 197 patients who received garlic cream 5% or placebo demonstrated it is not effective treatment for cutaneous leishmaniasis.

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Try garlic health benefits.

  • Soothe Psoriasis with Garlic: Since garlic has proven anti-inflammatory properties, it could be useful in relieving uncomfortable psoriasis outbreaks.

  • Treat Athlete's Foot With Garlic: With its anti-fungal properties, some research suggests that garlic may help relieve itchy athlete’s foot. Soak your feet in a bath of warm water and crushed garlic.

  • Keep Mosquitoes at Bay with Garlic: Scientists aren’t exactly sure why, though it appears as if mosquitoes don’t like garlic. Research reveals that people who rubbed a mixture of garlic oil (and other liquids) on their legs and arms weren’t bothered by mosquitoes, according to an article from Colorado State University. Try making a solution of garlic oil, petroleum jelly, and beeswax for a natural repellant or carry a few crushed cloves of garlic in your pocket.

  • Garlic and Cold Sores: Garlic appears to have beneficial properties for our mouth. A popular home remedy for cold sores is to hold a smashed or crushed garlic directly on a cold sore. After a few minutes, the garlic's natural anti-viral properties has helped some people reduce pain and swelling, according to a 2014 study in Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. WARNING: Dermatologist have said that when garlic is rubbed directly on the cold sore can lead to a plant dermatitis and even blistering.  It is much better to stick with an approved medicine, just to be safe!

  • Garlic Acne Cleaner: garlic may help banish unsightly blemishes. Its antioxidants kill bacteria, so try rubbing a sliced clove of garlic on the pimple. WARNING: Dermatologist have said that when garlic is rubbed directly on the acne spot it can lead to a plant dermatitis and even blistering.  It is much better to stick to a formulated spot gel for a quick fix of an inflamed spot to be safe!

Dermatol Reports. 2011 Jan 31; 3(1): e4.

Published online 2011 Apr 28. doi: 10.4081/dr.2011.e4

PMCID: PMC4211483

PMID: 25386259

Garlic in dermatology

Nader Pazyar and Amir Feily


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Jere Folgert is the owner of GroEat Garlic Farm in Bozeman, Montana. GroEat Farm is a small, sustainable family farm located in the beautiful Hyalite Foothills, in the shadows of the Gallatin Mountain Range.  The hardneck varieties that they grow on their farm flourish, due to the combination of the cold winters, temperate summers, moist spring, and the dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Range.

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