What’s So Great About…Garlic

What’s So Great About…Garlic

Ancient myth suggests that a necklace of garlic bulbs will repel a vampire. Assuming you’re not firmly encamped in Team Edward, I guess that’s a useful tip. Although some European cultures also thought garlic could help ward off werewolves. Mythology aside, garlic gets such glowing reports in the worlds of health and nutrition, I figured there has to be more to it than mere safety from blood sucking demons. Turns out the little pungent cloves do indeed have more to offer, even beyond flavour.

Garlic is referenced as far back as AD 510 in China and it even gets several shout outs in the Bible and the Talmud. Hippocrates (he of the Dr’s oath fame) even mentioned garlic as useful for everything from killing parasites to energy slumps. In fact, garlic has long been valued in non-traditional medicine for some pretty varied and impressive health benefits, but does it stand up to the rigours of modern scientific research. The answer seems to be a definite maybe.

 According to Suzanne Bardos, Director of Equilibrium Nutrition in Toronto, “Raw garlic is a potent antibiotic, especially effective against fungal infections, with antibacterial and antiviral properties. Eating several cloves of raw garlic when you first come down with a cold is reported by many as a successful home remedy.” In studies conducted on rats and mice (poor little guys, taking one for the team yet again), garlic has shown promise in lowering blood sugar levels which could be beneficial for diabetes patients, reducing cholesterol and plaque build-up in the arteries supplying the heart and even preventing the growth of some kinds of cancer cells. Anecdotal evidence shows that in Asian countries where people eat the most garlic (up to 10-12 cloves per day), cancer levels are staggeringly low. On the down side, a 2007 study conducted by the National Institutes of Health showed that garlic “did not reduce blood cholesterol levels in patient with moderately high cholesterol” and warned against putting too much stock in smaller, animal based studies. Researchers did say that perhaps garlic would have a positive effect at higher doses or with patients with more severe cholesterol problems but that more research was needed.   At the same time, the BBC reported on a study which showed that the main property in garlic, allium sativum, has benefits for “preventing and fighting the common cold” and garlic has been proven to aid in blood thinning and the prevention of potentially fatal blood clots.

Perhaps the most impressive data on garlic proves its benefit as a powerful antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal. In a 2009 Science Daily report Dr. Derek Pratt, Canada Research Chair in Free Radical Chemistry, said “basically the allicin compound decomposes in order to generate a potent antioxidant. The reaction between the sulfenic acid and radicals is as fast as it can get. No one has ever seen compounds, natural or synthetic, react this quickly as antioxidants.” Garlic’s stellar ability to manage damaging free radical cells in the body may just be the secret to its link to lower rates of certain cancers including breast and colon cancer.  And research is ongoing into the known antibacterial property of garlic with an eye towards the possibility of lessening our reliance on antibiotics and possibly reducing the risk of antibiotic resistant super-bugs.

 And what about those garlic supplements? Seems like the best of both worlds, all the benefits without the bad breath. Bardos says, “While this may be an easy way to get some of the benefits of garlic without having to prepare it everyday, unfortunately, it loses its antibiotic activity in this form.  I certainly think that if you are able to stomach the strong taste that fresh, raw garlic is the way to go”.  

 Cooked or raw seems to work but apparently crushed is key and allowing the garlic to then sit for about 15 minutes before eating or cooking allows the enzymes to do their healthy magic.

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3 Comments

  1. Mrs Bok
    March 16, 04:26 Reply

    Yum I love garlic! Even the flowers are are so pretty. I put a clove of garlic in my chook’s water and it’s meant to be good for them and repel worms and mites! Seems to work so far…

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