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Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the Science Hardcover – September 30, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


This book brings to mind the poet Horace’s formula for successful writing: He wins every hand who mingles profit with pleasure, by delighting and instructing the reader at the same time. Eric Block has certainly mixed the useful and the sweet in his book. I started Block’s book as a reviewer and became an admirer. A book that contributes so richly to my teaching and understanding of chemistry is a rare pleasure.

Book Description

This unique book, with a foreword by 1990 Nobel Laureate E.J. Corey, outlines the extensive history and the fascinating past and resent uses of these plants. The author has carefully sorted out fact from fiction based upon detailed scrutiny of historic documents as well as numerous laboratory studies. Readers will be entertained and educated as they learn about early cultivation of garlic and other alliums while being introduced to their remarkable chemistry and biochemistry, much of which prominently features the element sulfur. They will learn how alliums have been portrayed and used in literature, poetry and the arts and how alliums are featured in the world's oldest cookbook. Technical material is presented in a manner understandable to a general audience, particularly through the use of illustrations to simplify more difficult concepts and explain how experimental work is conducted. The book is heavily illustrated with examples of alliums in art, literature, agriculture, medicine and other areas of and includes rare botanical drawings of many members of the genus Allium. Fascinating reading for anyone with a general interest in science.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 474 pages
  • Publisher: Royal Society of Chemistry; 1 edition (October 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0854041907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0854041909
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,730,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Pichierri Fabio on November 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful book on the history, chemistry, and medicine of garlic and other members of the allium family. The author is a scientist (research chemist) that devoted his life to the study of allium chemicals and, along the way, collected a huge amount of information related to the historical, botanical, artistic, literary, and medicinal aspects of this important plant. The first chapter deals with ancient and modern aspects of allium botany. You will learn that ancient Egyptian cultivated garlic and that several allium flowers were (and still are) used as ornamentals. Chapter 2 deals with alliums in literature, the arts and culture. You will learn that the lachrymatory effects of garlic appear in several Shakespeare plays and that both Van Gogh and Renoir made beautiful paintings of onions. Chapters 3 and 4 deal with allium chemistry or, better, the amazing chemistry that takes place in a salad bowl. Although everybody will find them interesting, they are likely being especially appreciated by people with a robust chemistry background. You will learn that Nobel prize winner Artturi Virtanen succeeded in the isolation and characterization of isoalliin which represents the precursor of the onion lacrimatory factor (LF), Z-propanethial S-oxide. Chapter 5 discusses many aspects of folk and complementary medicine related to allium while chapter 6 explains about allium in the environment. Interestingly, it appears that the use of allium among capuchin monkeys has the role of enhancing social ties in the primates (those readers interested in sociobiology can consult Wilson's book: "Sociobiology: The New Synthesis", 2000). The book ends with a rich list of books and about a thousand references for those wishing to dig further into the field, an appendix with a list of flavor precursor content in different allium plants, and 27 historical illustrations of allium plants from Reichenbach's Flora Germanica (1848).
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Format: Paperback
"A common remedy in homeopathic medicine, alliums Cepa, made from red onion, illustrates this principle. When we cut an onion, our nose and eyes water and burn. If you have a cold with these same symptoms, it will be cured with homeopathic doses of alliums Cepa. In healthy people the substance produces the same symptoms one wants to cure in the sick." --Heather Caruso

Alliums have been featured through the ages in literature, where they are both praised and reviled. Many people are amazed that their principle help is effective. However, similar home remedies to the latest medical breakthrough drugs are discussed on The People's Pharmacy. One case was that, "Components of garlic have also shown the ability to slow or stop the growth of tumors in the bladder, prostate, and stomach tissue, and animal research studies have shown that components in alliums vegetables slow the development of cancer in several stages at various body organs: stomach, breast, esophagus, colon, and lungs. Dr. Block also carefully evaluates the mixed evidence for allium efficacy in folk and modern medicine, and explicates the chemistry and treatment of garlic breath. In general, the group of allium vegetables appears to help impede cancer-promoting enzymes, advance DNA repair, and adjust the cell's life cycle. These extraordinary properties of the alliums can be provided by a number of relatively simple sulfur-containing chemical compounds, that are creatively offered by nature in these plants.

Any of numerous, usually bulbous plants of the genus Alliums in the lily family, having long stalks bearing clusters of variously colored flowers and including many ornamental and food plants, such as onions, leeks, chives, garlic, and shallots.
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By TK on February 25, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I did not get a chance to read the whole book yet. However, so far, it is amazing in the amount of information (scientific and non-scientific) that it has about garlic.
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GARLIC AND OTHER ALLIUMS is a very well written book. Eric Block is a biochemist on the forefront of allium biochemistry research and his expertise shows in both the text and the abundant diagrams. The role of stereochemistry is emphasized throughout the text. Due to time constraints, I have thus far read only half of the book. I do, however, look forward to each evening's reading because I learn new facts and new CONCEPTS. Block explores the history of the twists and turns of allium biochemistry research, so the book is not merely a straightforward text of the current state of allium biochemistry. Reading the history gives the reader a deeper understanding of the processes of science. For the average lay person, the biochemistry and the stereochemistry will be a challenge. Still, as important as garlic is as both a food and a cash crop, this book is a milestone and should be on everyone's reading list.
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