The Health Benefits of Garlic

People have always seen garlic as a medicinal food. Hippocrates reportedly used garlic vapors to treat cervical cancer. During WWII, garlic poultices were placed on wounds as an effective alternative to hard-to-get anti-biotics.

Allopathic medicine is just now beginning to understand the potential health benefits of this amazing food. While some recent studies have cast doubt on certain health effects of garlic, others have supported long-held beliefs on the health effects. More research needs to done. Let’s take a quick look at some of the claimed benefits of garlic.

It seems to be all about the allicin.

When crushed, garlic releases allinaise, an enzyme that changes amino acids in the garlic to allicin, a molecule containing sulphur. It is that allicin that produces the wonderfully pungent garlic smell that makes your mouth water and your skin stink. In every study I reviewed it turned out it is the allicin that seems to give nearly all the health benefits of garlic. Allicin is very fragile, however, and disappears quickly. There is much less of it in preserved garlic than in the freshly crushed kind.

Allicin has been shown to kill upwards of twenty-three types of bacteria. That includes such bad guys as staphylococcus and salmonella. It has long been claimed that the flu, the common cold and other infectious diseases are disrupted by the allicin in garlic.

Several studies found that garlic can suppress the growth of tumors. Still others showed garlic can reduce LDLs or “bad” cholesterol. One study from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) found that one clove of garlic a day could reduce cholesterol by 5-9 percent (although a 2007 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine questioned whether garlic might prevent cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol). It has also been studied as a blood-thinning agent that could help avoid the blood clots that could lead to strokes and heart-attacks. These benefits appear to come from a “relaxing” affect the allicin has on blood vessels.

I’ve long taken garlic for my asthma. I’ve found that the garlic significantly reduces the inflammation in my lungs on bad days. This effect comes from allicin’s ability to inhibit certain inflammation producing enzymes that are a trigger for things like asthma and arthritis.

According to a widely quoted 2000 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating garlic is an excellent way to lower your risk of cancer. In fact, the study seemed to indicate a forty percent reduction in overall risk, just by eating garlic!! The authors were careful to note that the apparent benefit could have been due to increased total vegetable intake by the subject rather than just the garlic consumption. They also noted that it was unclear as to how much garlic needed to be consumed and for how long. A much larger follow up study published in 2006 found that, indeed, the consumption of onions and garlic can significantly reduce your cancer risk.

Yet another study published in the American Journal of Hypertension concluded that allicin may also be able to help you lose weight by regulating blood sugar and stimulating blood circulation!

Garlic also contains decent amounts of Vitamins A, B and C which are also known to help the body fight carcinogens and cleanse it of toxins. Some say it can even raise a man’s sperm count. Viagra out, garlic in!

One thing that none of the studies seem to agree on is just how much garlic you should consume but they all agree it should be consumed fresh.

Eat up! Garlic is good.

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