The present article reviews the historical and popular uses of garlic, its antioxidant, haematological, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective and antineoplastic properties and its potential toxicity (from sulfoxide). Garlic has been suggested to affect several cardiovascular risk factors. It has also been shown that garlic and its organic allyl sulfur components are effective inhibitors of the cancer process. Since garlic and its constituents can suppress carcinogen formation, bioactivation and tumour proliferation, it is imperative that biomarkers be established to identify which individuals might benefit most. Garlic powder, aged garlic and garlic oil have demonstrated antiplatelet and anticoagulant effects by interfering with cyclo-oxygenase-mediated thromboxane synthesis. Garlic has also been found to have synergistic effects against Helicobacter pylori with a proton pump inhibitor. The active compound allicin may affect atherosclerosis not only by acting as an antioxidant, but also by other mechanisms, such as lipoprotein modification and inhibition of LDL uptake and degradation by macrophages. Freshly prepared garlic homogenate protects against isoniazid+rifampicin-induced liver injury in experimental animal models. Several mechanisms are likely to account for this protection.