Garlic (allium sativum) is a member of the allium family, which also includes other relatives such as onions, leeks, shallots and chives. The most beneficial compounds found in garlic are allicin and diallyl sulphides. These are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, and help to give it health promoting properties. Allicin is able to enter the body from the digestive system, and travels everywhere to exert its medicinal effects.
Benefits of Garlic
There are many great benefits, the main ones are:
Heart Protection – Heart health is supported, due to the sulphur found in garlic. The sulphur stimulates nitric oxide production in the blood vessels. This aids in relaxing and improving their elasticity – which helps to reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of stroke and atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries). This study concluded that garlic supplementation has the potential for cardiovascular protection (based on risk factor reduction).
Blood Pressure – Many human research studies have found that supplementing with garlic has a profound impact on lowering blood pressure (in those with hypertension). This study suggests that aged garlic extract is superior to placebo in lowering systolic blood pressure similarly to current first line medications in patients with treated but uncontrolled hypertension. And, this study indicates that aged garlic was as efficient as the hypertension drug Atenolol, at reducing blood pressure.
Boosts Immunity – Its volatile oils have antibiotic properties, and may help with coughs and colds by providing a boost to the immune system. This study found that supplementing with aged garlic can help to reduce the number of days with colds or flu by enhancing immune cell function.
Detoxifying – The sulfhydryl found in garlic, aids in removing heavy metals and other toxic substances from the body. This particular study concluded that garlic can be recommended for the treatment of mild-to-moderate lead poisoning, and it also reduced many other signs of toxicity such as headaches and blood pressure.
Blood Sugar Regulation – Garlic can lower the amino acid called homocysteine, which is a risk factor in heart disease and diabetes. Having it regularly will help to boost health improvement in these areas.
How to Use
Fresh – Fresh is the best choice rather than bottled, as its allicin compounds will diminish and degrade easily.
Cooking – Cooked garlic will not have the same levels of allicin as raw garlic, but it will retain the other compounds. After slicing or crushing, let it stand for 5-10 minutes to let the allicin develop – then heat. Do not microwave as all its benefits will be destroyed.
Raw – This is the best way of eating it, scatter over cooked vegetables, or grate into a salad dressing and eat fresh.
Stems – Cook the garlic stems or slice and use in soups or salads.