Allicin (diallyl thiosulfinate) is the best-known biologically active component in freshly crushed garlic extract. We developed a novel, simple method to isolate active allicin, which yielded a stable compound in aqueous solution amenable for use in in vitro and in vivo studies. We focused on the in vitro effects of allicin on cell proliferation of colon cancer cell lines HCT-116, LS174T, HT-29, and Caco-2 and assessed the underlying mechanisms. This allicin preparation exerted a time- and dose-dependent cytostatic effect on these cells at concentrations ranging from 6.2 to 310 μM. Treatment with allicin resulted in HCT-116 apoptotic cell death as demonstrated by enhanced hypodiploid DNA content, decreased levels of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma-2 (Bcl-2), increased levels of bax and increased capability of releasing cytochrome c from mitochondria to the cytosol. Allicin also induced translocation of NF-E2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) to the nuclei of HCT-116 cells. Luciferase reporter gene assay showed that allicin induces Nrf2-mediated luciferase transactivation activity. SiRNA knock down of Nrf2 significantly affected the capacity of allicin to inhibit HCT-116 proliferation. These results suggest that Nrf2 mediates the allicin-induced apoptotic death of colon cancer cells.