Garlic (Allium sativum), is used widely as a flavoring in cooking, but it has also been used as a medicine throughout ancient and modern history; it has been taken to prevent and treat a wide range of conditions and diseases. Garlic belongs to the genus Allium and is closely related to the onion, rakkyo (an onion found in Asia), scallion, chive, leek, and shallot. It has been used by humans for thousands of years and was used in Ancient Egypt for both culinary purposes and its health and therapeutic benefits.
Garlic has been used all over the world for thousands of years. Records indicate that garlic was in use when the Giza pyramids were built, about 5,000 years ago.
Richard S. Rivlin wrote in the Journal of Nutrition that the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (circa. 460-370 BC), known today as "the father of Western medicine," prescribed garlic for a wide range of conditions and illnesses. Hippocrates promoted the use of garlic for treating respiratory problems, parasites, poor digestion, and fatigue.
The original Olympic athletes in Ancient Greece were given garlic - possibly the earliest example of "performance enhancing" agents used in sports.
From Ancient Egypt, garlic spread to the advanced ancient civilizations of the Indus Valley (Pakistan and western India today). From there, it made its way to China. According to experts at Kew Gardens, England's royal botanical center of excellence, the people of ancient India valued the therapeutic properties of garlic and also thought it to be an aphrodisiac. The upper classes avoided garlic because they despised its strong odor, while monks, "...widows, adolescents, and those who had taken up a vow or were fasting, could not eat garlic because of its stimulant quality."
Throughout history in the Middle East, East Asia, and Nepal, garlic has been used to treat bronchitis, hypertension (high blood pressure), TB (tuberculosis), liver disorders, dysentery, flatulence, colic, intestinal worms, rheumatism, diabetes, and fevers.
Calorie for calorie, garlic is incredibly nutritious.
A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of garlic contains:
- Manganese: 23% of the RDA
- Vitamin B6: 17% of the RDA
- Vitamin C: 15% of the RDA
- Selenium: 6% of the RDA
- Fiber: 0.6 grams
- Decent amounts of calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B1
Garlic also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients. In fact, it contains a little bit of almost everything you need. This comes with 42 calories, 1.8 grams of protein and 9 grams of carbs.
Eating garlic regularly is not only good for us; it has been linked to reducing or even helping to prevent four of the major causes of death worldwide, including heart disease, stroke, cancer and infections. The National Cancer Institute does not recommend any dietary supplement for cancer prevention, but it does recognize garlic as one of several vegetables with potential anticancer properties.
Probably the most amazing characteristic of garlic is that it’s been shown to help reverse early heart disease by removing plaque buildup in arteries. A 2016 randomized, double-blind study published in the Journal of Nutrition involved 55 patients, aged 40 to 75 years, who had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. The results of the study showed that aged garlic extract effectively reduced plaque in coronary arteries (the arteries supplying blood to the heart) for patients with metabolic syndrome.
Allium vegetables, especially garlic and onions, and their bioactive sulfur compounds are believed to have effects at each stage of cancer formation and affect many biological processes that modify cancer risk.
In the words of the NIH National Cancer Institute, “Several population studies show an association between increased intake of garlic and reduced risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and breast.” It also includes an answer to a very key question: How can garlic act to prevent cancer? The National Cancer Institute explains that “protective effects from garlic may arise from its antibacterial properties or from its ability to block the formation of cancer-causing substances, halt the activation of cancer-causing substances, enhance DNA repair, reduce cell proliferation, or induce cell death.”
A team of researchers from St. Joseph Family Medicine Residency, Indiana, carried out a study titled "Treatment of the Common Cold in Children and Adults," published in American Family Physician. They reported that "Prophylactic use of garlic may decrease the frequency of colds in adults, but has no effect on duration of symptoms." Prophylactic use means using it regularly to prevent disease. Though there is some research to suggest that raw garlic has the most benefits, other studies have looked at overall allium intake, both raw and cooked, and have found benefits. Therefore, you can enjoy garlic in a variety of ways to reap its advantages.
Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
As people age, their arteries tend to lose their ability to stretch and flex. Garlic seems to reduce this effect. Taking a specific garlic powder supplement (Allicor, INAT-Farma, Moscow, Russia) twice daily for 24 months seems to reduce how much hardening of the arteries progresses. Higher doses of this product seem to provide more benefits in women than men when taken over a four year period. Research with other products containing garlic along with other ingredients (Kyolic, Total Heart Health, Formula 108, Wakunga) have also shown benefits.
Garlic seems to modestly reduce pre-meal blood sugar levels in people with or without diabetes. It seems to work best in people with diabetes, especially if it is taken for at least 3 months. It’s not known if garlic reduces post-meal blood sugar levels or HbA1c levels.
While not all research agrees, the most reliable evidence suggests that taking garlic can reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, "bad" cholesterol) by a small amount in people with high cholesterol levels. Garlic appears to work best if taken daily for more than 8 weeks. However, taking garlic doesn't help increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL, "good" cholesterol) or lower levels of other blood fats called triglycerides.
High blood pressure
Taking garlic by mouth seems to reduce systolic blood pressure (the top number) by about 7-9 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by about 4-6 mmHg in people with high blood pressure.
May Help Prevent Alzheimer's disease and DementiaGarlic contains antioxidants that support the body's protective mechanisms against oxidative damage. High doses of garlic supplements have been shown to increase antioxidant enzymes in humans, as well as significantly reduce oxidative stress in those with high blood pressure.
The combined effects on reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as the antioxidant properties, may reduce the risk of common brain diseases like Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
May Help You Live Longer
The potential effects of garlic on longevity are basically impossible to prove in humans.
But given the beneficial effects on important risk factors like blood pressure, it makes sense that garlic could help you live longer.
The fact that it can fight infectious disease is also an important factor, because these are common causes of death, especially in the elderly or people with dysfunctional immune systems.
May Improve Bone Health
No human studies have measured the effects of garlic on bone loss. However, rodent studies have shown that it can minimize bone loss by increasing estrogen in females. One study in menopausal women found that a daily dose of dry garlic extract (equal to 2 grams of raw garlic) significantly decreased a marker of estrogen deficiency. This suggests that this supplement may have beneficial effects on bone health in women. Foods like garlic and onions may also have beneficial effects on osteoarthritis.
Garlic and the Immune System
Not surprisingly the presence of all these antioxidants in garlic have a very positive effect on the immune system in general and can therefore protect the body against all types of bacterial and viral attacks. Research has recently even shown it to have an inhibiting effect on MSRA which is currently reeking such havoc in U.K. hospitals.
Garlic also acts as a good cold medication, decongestant and expectorant. It is a surprisingly good source of vitamins C, B6 and the minerals selenium and manganese all of which have long been associated with immune system boosting as well as other benefits.
Athletic Performance Might Be Improved With Garlic Supplements
Garlic was one of the earliest "performance enhancing" substances. It was traditionally used in ancient cultures to reduce fatigue and enhance the work capacity of laborers. Most notably, it was given to Olympic athletes in ancient Greece.
Rodent studies have shown that garlic helps with exercise performance, but very few human studies have been done. People with heart disease who took garlic oil for 6 weeks had a 12% reduction in peak heart rate and better exercise capacity. However, a study on nine competitive cyclists found no performance benefits. Other studies suggest that exercise-induced fatigue may be reduced with garlic.
Did you know that garlic is also a powerful anti-inflammatory? Specifically, garlic oil is noted as a potent treatment for sore muscles and painfully inflamed joints when the oil is massaged directly into the affected area. Research published in the journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology, outlined the short-term effects of raw garlic extracts for reducing inflammation, due to the pro-inflammatory cytokines in raw garlic. The study showed positive outcomes, but cautions that heating garlic extracts lowered the anti-inflammatory prowess.
Garlic Home Remedies
- Sore Throat: Garlic is an invaluable medicine for asthma, hoarseness, coughs, difficulty of breathing, and most other disorders of the lungs, being of particular virtue in chronic bronchitis, on account of its powers of promoting expectoration.
- Asthma: An older remedy for asthma, that was most popular, is a syrup of Garlic, made by boiling the garlic bulbs till soft and adding an equal quantity of vinegar to the water in which they have been boiled, and then sugared and boiled down to a syrup. The syrup is then poured over the boiled garlic bulbs, which have been allowed to dry meanwhile, and kept in a jar. Each morning a bulb or two should be taken, with a spoonful of the syrup.
- Ear Infections: Wrap a small piece of garlic in some tissue, and insert it into the ear. Leave it there overnight if possible. Pain is almost immediately removed and the infection tends to start clearing up overnight.
- Scratchy Throat: Put a small slice of garlic in your mouth and suck on it for 10-15 minutes. You can put it between your teeth and cheek, then scratch it with your teeth a little to help stimulate juice from the garlic slice. This juice slides down your throat and removes the pain.
- Insect Bites: Garlic can heal the pain caused by insect bites like those of scorpions and centipedes. The juice of fresh garlic mixed with salt can be applied to bruises, sprains and ringworms.
- Colds: At the first sign of a cold, chop up 4 cloves of raw garlic and eat or use it as a garnish in soups etc.
- Toothache: Cut raw garlic and rub the cut edge on the tooth and gums a couple of times a day to stop toothache.
- Warts: Take fresh garlic cloves and crush them, apply to warts until they disappear.
- Garlic Breath Tip: Crush a clove or two onto a dessert spoon then add olive oil and down the hatch. You get the benefits of raw garlic with none of the breath issues.
- Sinuses: Melt some butter and add minced garlic cloves, spread on toast and eat.
- Herpes: Take a garlic clove and cut in half. Eat one half and take the other half and rub into the affected areas.
- Rashes: Use raw garlic juice on rashes and bug bites, it stops the itching immediately.
- Coughs: 8 to 10 of garlic juice mixed with 2 TBLS of honey four times a day cures a persistent cough.
- Tonsillitis: Peel a clove of garlic and cut them in half lengthwise. Boil for a couple of minutes in about 1.5 cup water and add a pinch of salt, teaspoon of butter, a pinch of pepper and sprinkle with nutmeg.
- Bloating - Constipation: Cut a garlic clove into small pieces. Swallow them all in one go with a little water to cure bloating, stomach cramps and constipation.
- Asthma Cure: 10 drops of garlic juice with 2 teaspoon of honey cures asthma.