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If it weren't for the bad breath that results after eating, garlic would be the best-selling food supplement. Its health benefits are well known: garlic increases longevity and improves heart conditions, high blood pressure, and circulation.

If it weren't for the bad breath that results after eating, garlic would be the best-selling food supplement. Its health benefits are well known: garlic increases longevity and improves heart conditions, high blood pressure, and circulation. Aged garlic extract provides good health while avoiding the problem of bad breath.

A Legendary Folk Remedy

The healing power of garlic has been documented since ancient times. A Chinese herbal text from 2700 BC lists garlic along with more than 1,000 other medicinal herbs as a folk remedy for a number of ailments. Other legends, myths, and fairytales, backed by faith or superstition, mention garlic as both medicine and seasoning. While garlic is seldom used in the traditional foods of northern countries, it plays a great part in most Mediterranean and Oriental foods.

In biblical times Jews learned from Arabs to prepare meals with garlic. The ancient Greeks and Romans also ate garlic, as reported in Virgil's Eclogues (pastoral poems written 37 BC). However, garlic's smell was considered so objectionable that any ancient Greek who ate it was not allowed to enter the temple of Cybele, mother of the gods.

Foul Breath

Today, people either love garlic or hate it. It's the awful smell of allicin-the chemical compound in fresh garlic-that creates the odour when cut and exposed to oxygen. This odour dominates the breath and even seeps through the skin.

Garlic odour on the breath is socially unacceptable. I know it. My father loved garlic, big portions of it. I remember my mother admonishing him to be more considerate of others and not reek of garlic. But he insisted that garlic was good medicine: good for the immune system, and keeping colds away. Perhaps that was because it repelled people.

Good News for Garlic Lovers

A garlic extract is available without the garlic odour. In June I accepted an invitation from Wakunaga Pharmaceuticals to join an international study group to travel to their factory in Japan to observe first-hand the production of the odourless aged garlic extract Kyolic.

The story begins with the German doctor Eugene Schnell, a former professor at the University of Berlin, immigrating to Japan in the 1930s to lead research for a Japanese chemical company. In 1954 US General Headquarters appointed him to supervise the Japanese Pharmaceutical Administration to observe the effects and control the overuse of antibiotics after the Second World War. Soon thereafter he discovered the antibiotic properties of garlic and realized that it could substitute for antibiotics to rehabilitate and maintain the health of the Japanese people, especially those who suffered from atomic radiation.

At about this time Dr. Schnell also met a banker, Mr. Manji Wakunaga, who shared his commitment to produce safe and effective pharmaceuticals. They joined forces at Wakunaga Pharmaceuticals, where Dr. Schnell made a significant discovery. He found that garlic extract, when aged in airtight containers over a period of two years, not only loses its strong smell, but increases its effectiveness as a healing agent. The foul-smelling and transient compound allicin is converted to water-soluble, sulphur compounds that have the same antibiotic function.

The Hiroshima Garlic Factory

While touring the company's Hiroshima factory with Vice-President Yoru Fuwa, PhD, I learned that garlic needs to sleep for three years. The first sleep is in the fields of northern Japan where the garlic is grown. There, farmers plant in early summer rather than spring and grow the garlic during the fall, allowing it to rest in winter under snow cover. The following spring the growing cycle continues until the mature bulbs are harvested in early summer. All garlic is grown organically in rich composted soil without chemical growth enhancers.

After harvesting, the best garlic bulbs are selected and transported from the cool climate of northern Japan to the Hiroshima factory in the south, little more than an hour's drive outside the city. This is also the location of Wakunaga's centre for research and the laboratories where the extraction process takes place. The garlic bulbs are shredded and then stored with water in huge tanks for two years. Dozens and dozens of huge storage tanks, the type one usually usually sees at beer breweries or wineries, line the fields behind the factory.

Our tour guide explained in detail the many steps of production the garlic extract needs to pass under strictest quality control until the finished odourless garlic is ready to be encapsulated and packaged. Kyolic undergoes a total of 250 quality controls, bringing the same scrutiny to bear on this natural product as on pharmaceuticals.

The Wakunaga Process

Removing the odour from garlic extract is a complex process, protected by 12 patents with worldwide registrations. The scientists at Wakunaga found that aging not only results in a more palatable and socially accepted garlic product, it also renders it more effective medicinally. The healing properties and medicinal claims are backed by more than 360 published scientific studies, which can be found on their website

Double-blind studies have shown that the aged garlic extract Kyolic produces no side effects even with its more concentrated palette of active ingredients. These are significant results given that most people experience stomach irritation after ingesting large amounts of raw garlic at one time.

Aged garlic extract offers all the health benefits of raw garlic, but none of the odour. On tour in Japan I found a sweet breath solution, and the generous hospitality of the Wakunaga people.



Innovation for Good

Innovation for Good

Neil ZevnikNeil Zevnik