Garlic features in a plethora of cuisines from around the world. The pungency of this herb is uniquely qualified to add a singular flavoring to any recipe. But did you know, that apart from the obvious pleasure to the taste buds, garlic also has a host of health benefits? I bet you didn’t. Most folks will not even consider that garlic has medicinal properties. The truth is that the health benefits of garlic were known to our ancestors and the herb has been widely used for its healing powers just as much as it is used as a flavoring in food.
The botanical name for garlic is Allium sativum L. This humble herb is a relative of the onion. The compound in garlic that gives it its aroma and flavor is known as allicin – which is also what contributes to the health benefits of garlic. Garlic also has high sulfur content, again a compound that has many health benefits. Garlic also contains vitamins C and B6, calcium, magnesium, potassium and flavonoids.
Garlic has been in use all over the world for over 4000 years and it has a rich history. The health benefits of ginger were so valued that garlic was even used as currency at some point in ancient Egypt. In World War II, the shortage of medicine led to garlic being used as an antibiotic in some quarters where it was sorely needed. Garlic is also featured in folklore – from being used to repel vampires and werewolves to growing in the footprints of the devil when he left the Garden of Eden.
There is no such thing as a food that cures everything, and yet, garlic has often been referred to as a cure-all herb because of its potency and efficacy in battling so many ailments. Although garlic has several health benefits, it is mainly known to help fight bacteria and parasites, and it has a very high level of antioxidants. Let’s see how these properties can help keep you in good health and what other health benefits you can gain from this little herb.
Health Benefits of Garlic
A lot of people are gaining an insight into the deceptive nature of the pharmaceutical industry and are thus looking for natural remedies for disease. Fortunately, the information about the healing properties and health benefits of garlic and natural foods is still quite easily available for anyone who is looking. The best part about using garlic and like herbs to maintain health and cure disease is that it has no nasty side-effects unlike pharmaceutical drugs which, in the process of curing you of one disease put you at risk for many others. And since the industry’s profits will be affected by any revelation of this sort, you will likely never be privy to this information which is so important to your health. If you have been looking for natural ways to treat yourself, you will be grateful to learn about the health benefits of garlic, the king of the vegetable kingdom.
Reduces Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a killer. It can damage your arteries, your brain, your kidneys and your heart. These are your vital organs, damage to which can cause severe debilitation or even death. One of the best health benefits of garlic is that it can lower blood pressure. If you take garlic on a daily basis, you can greatly reduce your risk of high blood pressure or hypertension even if you have several of the risk factors. And if you are suffering from high blood pressure already, studies have shown that eating large amounts of garlic can reduce your blood pressure by about 30 mm in as little as one week. Garlic is known to thin the blood, just like ginger, and it also boost blood circulation throughout the body, which in turn promotes healthy blood pressure levels. Another health benefit of garlic is that it is very effective at preventing blood clots, which reduces the risk of heart disease by about 20% and the risk of a stroke by 40%.
Fights Cough and Cold, Plus Respiratory Problems
Even the most brilliant scientists do not yet understand why we catch the common cold, and there is still no cure for this most prevalent of all illnesses. Garlic comes to aid where modern medicine has failed. A regular dose of garlic in your diet will help keep colds and coughs at bay and will speed up recovery if you do suffer from them. The same compounds in garlic that treat coughs and colds can also help to relieve the symptoms of asthma and respiratory distress.
Improves Skin Health
Garlic has antibiotic properties. It is also a very effective blood cleanser. This is what makes it great for treating acne. Garlic’s anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties can also cure or soothe skin diseases that are caused by bacteria or parasites. You can either eat larger than usual amounts of ginger or crush some ginger and apply it directly to the affected area. The latter treatment is especially recommended to get rid of warts and to treat athlete’s foor. But you should always check with a naturopath, a herbalist or an Ayurvedic doctor first to ensure that you do not exacerbate the condition by applying the raw garlic directly on the diseased skin.
Helps Fight Anemia
Another almost unbelievable health benefit of garlic is that it increases the red blood cell count. This may be why it is effective in battling anemia. Some natural health and healing advocates claim that garlic may be able to cure anemia altogether, although this claim has yet to be supported by studies.
May Prevent Cancer
Can garlic protect against cancer? According to a study conducted by Brit scientists, yes, it can. The antioxidants in garlic can inhibit the cancer-causing radicals from spreading. This can prevent tumors from growing, thus making it easier for the cancer to be controlled. Garlic is also recommended for cancer patients as its many health benefits can aid in faster recovery from chemotherapy and radiation therapy, plus it lowers the damage caused to the heart and intestines as a result of the chemo sessions.
Relief from Arthritic Pain
Garlic also has anti-inflammatory properties which can help in the treatment and perhaps even the prevention of arthritis. The sulfur in particular is effective in inhibiting the functions of inflammatory enzymes. Another health benefit of garlic is that the sulfur aids in the production of collagen, which is needed for the formation of cartilage tissue, which is what provides a cushion for the joints. Sulfur is a vital component in cartilage formation but the body cannot produce this compound on its own. Eating large amounts of garlic can help to repair worn out or damaged cartilage tissue and bring relief from pain caused by arthritis.
Gets Rid of Worms
Garlic is an incredible vermifuge. This means that if you have a case of intestinal worms like Ascaris lumbricoides, high doses of garlic will help your body get rid of them in a few days.
Other Health Benefits of Garlic
- Garlic is diluted in plenty of water and administered as a colonic to get rid of parasites in the intestines. Naturopaths believe that intestinal parasites can cause cancer, so they use garlic’s cleansing and anti-parasitic properties to clean out the intestines.
- Another health benefit of garlic is that it decreases bad cholesterol or LDL.
- Diabetic patients can also get the health benefits of garlic. This herb can regulate blood sugar levels by helping the body to release more insulin.
- If you have seasonal allergies, garlic can help you fight them. Just start taking garlic in large quantities a few weeks before the season begins.
- The health benefits of garlic extend to oral health as well. If you have aching gums or a toothache, put some crushed garlic or garlic oil on the affected area. Advocates of this method of pain relief swear by it.
- Garlic is a truly potent anti-bacterial agent. It can fight off a number of deadly bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Staphylococcus. These bacteria are quite resilient and develop a resistance to the drugs that are used to treat them. However, they cannot develop a resistance to garlic.
How To Get The Health Benefits of Garlic
Convinced that garlic has wonderful health benefits but unsure how to get more of this odoriferous herb into your diet? Here are some tips you can use to gain the health benefits of garlic today.
- It is very easy to include garlic in your diet by incorporating it into your regular meals. Garlic has a lovely flavor that goes well with most kinds of food. From pasta to roast chicken to sauted veggies – garlic adds a new dimension of flavor to every kind of food. Be sure to chop your garlic into little pieces and crush them to release the compounds that will give you the health benefits of garlic. You can add whole garlic if you wish, but experts say that you will not derive the best of health benefits this way, and most of the flavor will be lost too. Overcooking garlic causes the taste to get sweeter; the pungent flavor will stay if you cook it as little as possible. So add according to the flavor you are looking for.
- Garlic pills are now easily available in both capsule and tablet form at most health food stores. However, you must be sure to buy the kind that dissolve into the blood. Some garlic pills do not dissolve and thus will not allow you to gain the health benefits of garlic. Speak to an herbalist or a naturopath about the brand of garlic pills you should buy.
- Put some chopped and crushed garlic in a small bottle with some olive oil. You can then sprinkle this oil on your salads or even use it for cooking.
- Several people in South Asian countries already know of the varied health benefits of garlic and will happily chew on raw cloves of garlic. This may not appeal to your palate, but when you think of the health benefits you will be getting it hardly seems like too large a price to pay. If you are brave enough to try this method, simply chew on 1 to 2 cloves of garlic every day, and increase it to 3 to 4 as you get used to the flavor.
- Drink your garlic. Sounds yucky. But this is a great way to gain the health benefits of garlic and to detoxify the body. Simply crush a couple of cloves of garlic in lukewarm water and gulp it down twice a day. But make sure you do not do this on an empty stomach as some people are garlic-sensitive and their bodies do not adapt well to the onslaught.
- If the idea of all this peeling and crushing and preparation does not appeal to you, there is always garlic powder which you can use as a substitute for any of the above tips.
So the next time you think of avoiding garlic because you are worried about bad breath, take a moment to do a quick review of this list in your head. You can easily get rid of the taste of garlic from your mouth, but there are very few foods which are as medically potent and which have as many health benefits as garlic does.
Be wary though. Some folks are strongly allergic to garlic. Others may experience flatulence, heartburn, headaches or stubborn skin rashes. Unless you have been eating garlic regularly your whole life, start incorporating it into your diet very slowly.
Since garlic has blood-thinning properties, it is not recommended for those who are about to undergo surgery or for those who are on anti-coagulant medication. So check with your doctor before starting on garlic therapy. Otherwise, garlic is a safe natural remedy for the young and old, and even for pregnant women