PENSACOLA, Fla. -- Garlic, an aromatic herb lauded by ancients for its medicinal value and portrayed in folklore as a way to ward off vampires, may play a key role in the battle against AIDS, a researcher says.
'We feel this is a tip of a good iceberg. We think five years from now, three years from now, it will be confirmed,' said Dr. Tariq H. Abdullah, director of the Akbar Clinic of Panama City during a recent visit to Pensacola.
Abdullah, whose study showed seven AIDS patients in Jacksonville and New Orleans improved after taking garlic extract, will present his findings at the 5th International AIDS Conference this week in Montreal.
'You can't take seven of anything and say it's certain that this is what's going on,' said Abdullah, who will present his findings Thursday. But results are 'suggestive that garlic can play a very helpful role in the treatment of AIDS patients, and more studies are justified.'
There were initially 10 patients in the study, including those with the AIDS virus but no symptoms to those with full-blown acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Three patients in advanced stages could not comply with the regimen and died.
The other seven were given a special garlic preparation as a food supplement for 12 weeks in his study last year. They were given about .16 ounces daily for the first six weeks then .35 ounces daily for the remainder of the time.
By the end of the test period, all seven showed a three- to 14-fold increase in the activity of key immune cells, called 'killer' T cells. Abdullah said the killer cells are believed responsible for destroying virus-infected cells, equating their action to the way the video game 'Pac-Man' gobbles dots on a screen.
Abdullah, a pathologist and general practitioner, said two patients with diarrhea no longer had the symptoms by test end, and three who had sores no longer had them. In two patients with herpes, symtoms ceased.
Abdullah, who ate garlic as a child and still consumes it several times a week, including occasional binges, said his findings were recently published by the German magazine 'Onkologie.'
Ancient civilizations used garlic as a medicine. The anti-virus activity of garlic has long been intimated by long-time users of garlic, who say they rarely have colds or become victims of influenza.
Abdullah said he and his colleagues first began considering garlic as a possible tool in the fight against AIDS after noticing the surprisingly large volume of medical literature about garlic.
He and two associates from Akbar and another from Tulane University wrote an article for the April 1988 issue of the Journal of the National Medical Association reviewing some of the research.
Their review of the literature showed garlic may be effective against a wide range of ailments, including cancer, heavy-metal poisoning, infectious disease, hypertension and immune deficiencies.
They concluded garlic has the potential 'for curing and preventing the major scourges of our times,' including cancer and AIDS. They said it may become known as one of the 'grand conductors' of the body's immune system.
Studies show raw or cold-aged, whole-clove garlic offers the greatest medicinal value since much of the therapeutic composition is lost when the herb is cooked.
Abdullah said garlic appears to be beneficial to the body because the chemical compounds found in the herb have shown to be effective in fighting some viruses, fungi, protozoa, parasites and bacteria.
Some of the organisms that garlic has shown to be effective against are found in AIDS patients. Among them are the fungus Cryptoccocci, which causes meningitis in the pediatric AIDS patients in Africa.
The most commmon fungal infection of U.S. adult AIDS patients is candidiasis of the mouth, throat and esophagus. The fungal organisms that cause it are sensitive to garlic, research shows.
In a study last year by two microbiologists at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, eight viruses were put in a test tube with garlic and tissue. The garlic prevented the tissue from becoming infected. Two of the viruses are associated with AIDS patients -- herpes simplex 1 and 2.
Abdullah plans to continue his research with about 20 patients beginning later this year. He also hopes to get an intraveneous garlic extraction recently used in an experiment in China.
'I feel if enough studies are done and done very well -- good materials, good methods, good designs -- I think that you will convince the most doubting of the Thomases,' he said.