The ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine is thy food.”
For as long as anyone can remember, garlic has been used not just as a tasteful
accompaniment to cuisines across the world, but also as a natural remedy for various ailments.
Garlic is one of the most pungent vegetables in the onion family, it is classified as a vegetable
as it falls under the herbaceous group, which means the roots, leaves, stems, and bulb may be
enjoyed by all.
Most people will think that garlic is only a culinary additive to enhance the smell, taste, and appearance of soups, stews, and other dishes. However, garlic has been tried, tested, and proven to assist in the treatment of many ailments, viral and bacterial infections, certain diseases, and improve your overall health. This article will explore some of the amazing health benefits garlic has to offer and shed some detailed light on a question I have been asked time and time again, “what is the benefits of garlic?” And should I consider eating more of it?
Allicin in garlic for the win
Garlic is exceptionally high in vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, calcium, iron, magnesium,sodium, potassium, and zinc. However, one compound that stands out is Allicin.
Allicin, an amino acid, is released from the garlic clove when it is chopped or crushed. This compound has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Allicin properties will only be beneficial for approximately 2 days after a garlic clove has been chopped or minced, thereafter allicin is no longer present. To benefit from the potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it is advisable to purchase your garlic bulbs fresh and grate or chop them yourself. Store-bought crushed garlic would not offer the same health benefits, as the allicin will no longer be present. Something to remember, allicin is also heat sensitive and therefore it is advisable not to heat it above 23 degrees centigrade. Some ideas to reap the rewards of raw allicin is to add it to salad dressings, hummus, or tzatziki.
Garlic for the common cold and arthritis
History has shown us that garlic was frequently used for medicinal purposes by the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and the Chinese. One of the most common health benefits of garlic today is its ability to help fight against the common cold, and even the flu. An old remedy my mother believed in was garlic tea, this was made from crushing some garlic, ginger, and honey together and placing it in a tea strainer. She would then allow it to steep in lukewarm water before making me drink as much of as possible. The fever that I experienced would soon break, as garlic is said to help reduce fever overnight. Eating or swallowing fresh chopped garlic would have the same effect, this might be an easier option for those who do not enjoy the strong taste and smell. But please do not chew it, we all know garlic breath is not the most desirable.
I have an elderly mother that suffers from arthritis, so I have first-hand experienced with the benefits of garlic and the way it fights inflammation in her hands and feet. Within the first month of taking her garlic supplements, I could already see an improvement in the mobility of her hands.
Immune system boost and stress relief
Garlic has a bacteria and virus-fighting capability. It helps with coughs and colds as it has antibacterial properties and it supports the immune system. In WW2 soldiers used garlic to effectively treat gangrene. Garlic helps reduce stress: it is shown to fight the signs of stress and fatigue as it affects the bodies adrenal glands (the fight or flight mechanism in the body) and assists the body in producing fewer stress hormones, thus aiding the immune system. It is common that when we are stressed, we tend to feel ill a short time after.
Garlic aids digestion
The phytonutrient found in garlic, allicin, has a high concentration of Sulphur. It is this high level of Sulphur that gives garlic its antibiotic properties which aids the digestive system by flushing out harmful toxins. If you have a fructans’ intolerance, then garlic is not for you since it is considered a high-fructans’ food. Those with this intolerance may experience bloating and pain in the abdomen.
A new study has shown that red blood cells process compounds from digested garlic and convert them into hydrogen sulfide. It is the hydrogen sulfide than relaxes the blood vessels and increases blood flow: this aids the digestion process as food can be digested at a much easier pace for the human body. Those who have blood disorders or are using blood thinners must consult with their GP or physician before consuming vast amounts of garlic or garlic supplements.
Reduction in acne
Due to garlic possessing strong antibacterial and antiviral properties, it can fight off acne-causing bacteria. It can help reduce troublesome acne as it helps remove impurities from the bloodstream. Other than ingestion, garlic can be used as a topical application since it reduces the inflammation of the skin caused by the acne-causing bacteria and improves blood flow. The topical application can be achieved by juicing
the garlic bulbs or cutting the clove and rubbing it onto the affected area.
One might even combine it with plain yogurt and use it as a face mask.
The use of garlic or garlic oils may reduce skin irritations, rashes, swelling, and itchiness because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
Lower cholesterol levels
Studies are still ongoing to prove the effects of garlic on cholesterol levels, but thus far, research have shown positive results in lowering cholesterol levels. Due to the various Sulphur compounds, it has proven effective in decreasing the plasma concentration of cholesterol. This may result in the inhibition of hepatic cholesterol synthesis.
Garlic and cancer
Cancer is a progressive disease that is still being extensively researched, although possible methods have offered relief to fighting cancer, we still need a more aggressive cure. Recent studies have shown that the allium compounds in garlic has anti-cancer properties. Studies continue daily and have shown that garlic extract is effective in reducing the occurrence of colon tumors in chemically induced mouse. The organosulphur compounds of garlic have also shown to inhibit the growth of tumor cells in humans.
Benefits of garlic oil
Garlic oil can be ingested or applied topically. Make sure you buy food grade garlic oil when considering ingestion. If you are going to apply the oil topically then ensure that it is always mixed with a carrier oil, like coconut oil. Garlic oil can be used to treat ear infections by mixing a few drops of garlic oil with a couple of drops of mustard or olive oil and warming it on low heat. Once cooled, dab some of the mixture onto cotton and place it inside your ears for some time. This garlic oil mixture can also be used to treat toothache.
The bioactive compounds contained in garlic exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Ethyl linoleate, diallyl disulfide, and 14-kDa protein are the anti-inflammatory compounds in garlic that limit the effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Garlic can provide relief to asthmatics as asthma is an inflammatory disease: it dilates the blood vessels, relaxes the lungs, and aids with fewer attacks.
The compounds present in garlic, namely S-allyl cysteine sulfoxide, allicin, and allyl propyl disulfide, help raise insulin levels in the blood. Since a fresh bulb of garlic is a great source of vitamins B-6, it plays an important role during carbohydrate metabolism. Carbohydrates metabolize quickly in the body and this causes our blood sugar levels to rise, but garlic can ensure that the carbohydrates are metabolized at a regulated rate, thus helping maintain our blood sugar levels.
The bulb’s bottom line
Though garlic, in its most purest raw form has always shown to give the best results. Garlic can be taken as a supplement but always look for non GMO supplements and ask your pharmacist what he/she would recommend. Discuss additional supplementation if you have any health conditions or underlying ailments. As you can see, garlic has proven to be highly beneficial, however take note that it may cause gas, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and body odor if taken is excess amounts. Monitor your consumption and understand how your body responds to garlic. If you experience any side effects of raw garlic in your diet, then rather opt for the oil or supplement. Whether you enjoy using garlic in your everyday cooking, take it as a supplement to maintain or treat an ailment or use it to treat a cold or flu. The natural health benefits of this little vegetable are truly undeniable and have proven itself trough the ages – maybe even more than we know.
Please leave some comments on your new-found experiences with garlic
Until next time