- Hippocrates prescribed garlic for many different health issues.
- Excellent source of manganese and B6.
- Packed full of potent sulfur compounds, which are powerful antioxidants.
- Reduces the risk of clot formation, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cardiac injury.
- Studied for the prevention and treatment of many types of cancer.
- Fights many infections including the common cold and Candida.
Garlic, otherwise known as Allium Sativum, is widely-used and loved in households around the world. Closely related to the onion, chive, shallot, and leek, garlic graces our cooking with its uniquely strong flavor. However, it has also been used throughout history for its many medicinal qualities.
Ancient Indians believed garlic was an aphrodisiac…
Before the science of antibiotics, garlic cloves represented an alternative to pharmaceuticals, and proved itself as a trusted remedy for a range of health conditions across the ancient world. There is evidence of the use of garlic in Ancient Egypt. Archaeologists have even discovered sculptures and drawings of garlic bulbs in various crypts (2), as well as in Ancient Greece. Hippocrates, often called The Father of Western Medicine, is said to have prescribed garlic for a range of health conditions, including; respiratory problems, digestive issues, parasites, and fatigue. The ancient Indians also used garlic for its medicinal properties, and believed it to be an aphrodisiac. Perhaps the same quality that encouraged the original Olympic Athletes to take it for its perceived performance enhancing qualities (1).
Garlic was one of the most trusted medicinal plants…
In the Vedas – the Indian holy book and one of the oldest religions on the planet – garlic was one of the most trusted medicinal plants, and often only used as medicine. Said to have originated in Asia (2), garlic was used across East Asia, Nepal, and the Middle East to treat high blood pressure, tuberculosis, diabetes and intestinal worms, before eventually being introduced to the New World by the Spanish, French and Portuguese. In 1720, 1000 inhabitants of Marseille were saved from the plague epidemic, due to their use of garlic (2).
Today garlic is taken as a potent anti-infection agent…
Garlic’s long and worldly history has lead to its inclusion in kitchens across the world. Some of its traditional uses include treating snakebites, and fighting off infections. Due to its natural ability to kill bacteria, garlic is effective in the treatment of parasites, fungi, and Candida in the gut. Various studies have also shown that garlic is a great natural agent for prevention wound infection, warding off the common cold, and the treatment of malaria, asthma, and diabetes (3). In modern times, raw garlic is taken as a potent anti-infection remedy. A popular way of doing this is to cut the clove of garlic up into four pieces and swallow two of them with a glass of water, much like taking a pharmaceutical pill.
Recently, there has been a rise in the use and popularity of black garlic. Black garlic is white garlic but after a month-long fermentation process with strictly controlled humidity and heat. The result is a dark colored, jelly-like texture that has a similar taste to figs, and is free from the usual garlic odor. Black garlic has a much higher allicin content than regular un-fermented white garlic, with almost double the amount of antioxidants. Fortunately, you can find both black garlic and white garlic supplements in many natural health stores in the form of oils, powders and tablets.
Garlic Nutritional Information
Garlic is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin B6, and a good source of vitamin C, copper, vitamin B1, calcium and selenium (5). However, it is the sulfur compounds found in the garlic that make it extremely beneficial to your health. Sulfur is known to play a critical role in our health, including detoxification, joint and connective tissue health, and supporting healthy metabolism. The sulfur in garlic gives rise to its range of potent antioxidants, making garlic highly beneficial for cardiovascular and immune system health. The cloves of garlic themselves contain sulfur rich amino acids, including alliin, and the enzyme alliinase, both acting as a catalyst when the clove is crushed allowing the body to absorb the many nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants (4).
Cooked garlic has many of the same benefits as raw garlic, but often with a reduced effect. Research has shown that cooking garlic can deactivate the enzyme alliinase, thus reducing its medicinal benefits. Black garlic on the other hand contains an added compound called S-Allycystiene, which assists in the absorption of allicin, making black garlic far more beneficial as a medicine than white garlic.
Medicinal Properties Of Garlic
Allicin – When garlic is chopped or crushed, the enzyme Alliinase converts allin into allicin, creating that iconic fresh garlic aroma. Alliin is known to treat bacterial infections, as well as viral and fungal infections.
Flavonoids – Flavonoids are one of the largest nutrient families known in modern science. They are most famous for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as their diversity of color pigments in many of the natural foods we eat. They work towards supporting the cardiovascular and nervous systems by aiding the body in its detoxification of tissue-damaging molecules. Their intake is also associated with a decreased risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer and lung cancer (6).
Garlic & Heart Health
In the alternative medicine world, garlic is known for its anti-thrombotic actions. Anti-thrombotic medicines reduce the formation of blood clots. In studies examining the effect of garlic on thrombotic risk, garlic proved far more effective than a placebo (7).
Garlic is also referred to as a cardioprotective herb. Its active compounds have been shown to reduce cardiovascular and metabolic risk, abnormal platelet aggregation (blood clots), high blood pressure, and cardiac injury. Therefore, incorporating garlic into your daily life helps support the overall function of the heart and arteries.
Another beneficial action of garlic is the fact that it is a hypolipidemic. This means that it has the ability to lower lipid levels in the blood. Studies have shown that garlic can lower cholesterol (a common lipid) by up to 12% when compared with a placebo (7).
Garlic & Cancer
Recently, there have been many studies on the correlation between garlic and cancer, with many showing an inverse relationship between the consumption of garlic and the onset of the disease. Nineteen human studies have revealed that garlic may have a positive effect in preventing colon, prostate, esophhageal, larynx, oral, ovary and renal cell cancer (8). What’s more, clinical intervention trials, which used aged garlic extract as an active treatment, found that the size and number of colon adenomas (benign tumors) had significantly decreased when compared to the control group. Most animal and human studies show that garlic is a powerful preventative agent for several types of cancer, due to its ability to inhibit cell proliferation (increase in abnormal cells), and block invasion and metastasis.
Garlic & Infections
Over time, passed down through generations, and through many scientific studies, garlic has proven itself to be one of the most potent plants for fighting infections. It is highly effective at killing microorganisms that can cause some common, and some more rare, infections. For example. In a study conducted during 12 weeks of cold season (November-February), participants took either a garlic supplement or a placebo. Those who took the garlic were less likely to develop colds, and recovered quicker if they did contract one (9). The antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties in garlic make it an excellent option for adding to your holistic medicine cabinet.
Garlic & Diabetes
Eating garlic regularly is effective at regulating blood sugar levels, and in turn decreasing the effects of diabetes. Garlic acts as a hypoglycemic agent, meaning it has the ability to lower the amount of glucose floating around in the bloodstream. This is not just beneficial for individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes, it is also an excellent option for the prevention of diabetes. Many people suffer from poor glucose regulation without even realizing it.
Why Garlic Is Important For The Gut
As garlic is an extremely potent anti-fungal, it makes sense that it is a great dietary addition when we are focusing on gut health. One of the most important antifungal agents in garlic is Ajoene. Ajoene has proven effective in fighting off many fungal infections, including Candida in the gut (11). Candida is an overgrowth of aggressive yeast that can affect the entire digestive system, often resulting in a weakened immune system, liver and bowel issues, and vaginal yeast infections. Various studies have found that garlic is highly effective at halting and inhibiting the growth of candida inside the body.
On top of preventing the overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast in the gut, garlic is also a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut. This is essential for the gut microbiome, and in turn for overall mental health.
Garlic is one of the many vegetables you can grow at home in pots, or in your garden. It all starts with just onea clove. It is best to use an organic garlic clove from a trusted source as using supermarket garlic cloves can bring disease into your garden. If you are planting the clove outside, aim to plant in fall, it should start to sprout in around a month, and you will be able to harvest your new garlic cloves by early summer! Garlic does not grow in very cold climates, but luckily it can be easily grown in a pot indoors. Place the cloves pointy side up in the soil, at least three inches apart, and cover with around 2 inches of soil. Make sure the soil does not dry out, watering the plant regularly. Once you have harvested your garlic (about 6 months later) cut the plant about 1-2 inches above the bulbs and braid the tops together to form strings. Hang the bulbs, ready for use, knowing that you have one of the greatest natural medicines abundant in your home.
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