The healthful benefits of Garlic
Garlic is high in carbohydrates, low in fat content, and moderate in protein content. It contains some vitamin C and B vitamins, and is high in selenium, sulfur, and germanium.
Garlic is an odiferous member of the Lilly family of plants, which contains healthful benefits and disadvantages. Garlic has been used since ancient times in China and India both as a foodstuff and as a medicinal agent. Greek and Roman soldiers used to swallow garlic before a fight to improve their performance. Greek athletes ate garlic as part of their training. Sir John Harrington in 1607 outlined the benefits of garlic:
A Sith garlicke then hath powers to save from death,
Beare with it though it make unsavory breath
In addition, scorn not garlicke, like some that thinks
It only makes men winke, drinke, and stinke.
Hippocrates, the father of medicine included garlic in a number of remedies. Garlic-eating French priests in the 18th century were found not to catch the plague while the English priests who avoided it caught the plague. Garlic inhalants and compresses were used by the British to treat tuberculosis before the First World War. The British used garlic juice diluted in water on wounds to combat infection during World War I.
Folk medicine uses of garlic include the following: poultices for wounds and ulcers, treatment of worms and parasites, coughs and tuberculosis, colds, toothache, and kidney disorders. In Indian medicine, garlic has been used for everything from heartburn and sciatica to asthma, colds, parasites, and snakebites.
Garlic is high in carbohydrates, low in fat content, and moderate in protein content. It contains some vitamin C and B vitamins, and is high in selenium, sulfur, and germanium. Selenium is beneficial in preventing oxygen damage from free radicals, while germanium may increase oxygen transport through the tissues and have anticancer effects. Garlic also contains the minerals calcium, aluminum, iron, zinc, and calcium.
ACTIVE MEDICINAL INGREDIENTS IN GARLIC
Some medicinal properties of garlic reside in sulfur-containing compounds (polysulfide). The volatile oils of garlic contain these polysulfides and much of the medicinal properties of garlic can be obtained from using these volatile oils. Garlic is somewhat richer than onion in these oils, which may explain its greater medicinal potency.
Alliin is the chemical in garlic that is converted into allicin, the odiferous chemical with much of garlic’s medicinal value. The unbruised clove of garlic does not have a smell; but when it is cut, an enzyme converts the alliin to the odiferous allicin. Allicin is effective in killing certain bacteria.
The alliin content of garlic can vary up to six fold in different batches of garlic grown in different areas. This variance is probably why research has shown that not all garlic has the same medicinal effect. Future research on garlic should focus on alliin itself and other separate ingredients from garlic in standardized amounts. Cooking garlic converts allicin into ajoene, which has blood thinning effects but not the same properties as allicin. In addition, there are bioflavonoids in garlic and onions, which protect from free-radical damage. Many beneficial foods have a multitude of substances that provide the overall benefit. Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
The most pungent garlic is probably more effective than the less pungent varieties. Hopefully high potency batches of garlic will become commercially available so there is less uncertainty about its strength. White-skinned garlic has the strongest flavor, and like strong white onions, presumably the greatest medicinal effect. Pink garlic is milder but with fewer medicinal effects.
The volatile oils of garlic and onions contain odiferous sulfides, polysulfides, and much of the medicinal properties of garlic and onions can be obtained from using these volatile oils. Garlic is somewhat richer than onion in these oils, which may explain its greater medicinal potency. There are beneficial plant substances in garlic, like bioflavonoid, which protect from free-radical damage.
STUDIES OF CHOLESTEROL LEVELS
Studies done in India compared cholesterol and triglyceride levels of people who ate a similar diet except that one group never ate garlic and onions, a second group ate small amounts and a third group ate larger amounts of garlic and onions in their diet. The group that ate the most garlic and onions had the lowest cholesterol and triglycerides levels. Those who ate the smaller amounts of garlic and onions had intermediate levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Those who ate no garlic or onions had the highest cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
When garlic is fermented for one and one half years, it is called Kyolic. Kyolic retains most of the benefits of garlic without the odor, and (Kyolic) it is less irritating to the stomach than fresh garlic. Kyolic has been shown to retain the antioxidant potency of garlic and the antiviral properties of garlic, but it is unclear if fermented garlic has all the beneficial properties of fresh raw garlic. It is economical and probably more effective to use fresh garlic rather than fermented or processed garlic for its medicinal effects.
Use the fermented or odorless preparations if you or your neighbors cannot tolerate fresh garlic and onions. Cooking garlic or onions briefly in the microwave will dispel most of the odor and most people can then eat them without any distress. Cooking may inactivate some of the medicinally active compounds in garlic.
Preparations of dried garlic, which contain the polysulfide of garlic and a fair amount of the unconverted aliin, are available. Standardized preparations with a known amount of alliin in each tablet are also now available. (KWAI is a commercial dried garlic preparation with standardized alliin concentrations. Most people who use this preparation can detect no odor from it.)
OTHER PREPARATIONS OF GARLIC
Garlic is available as a juice and mixed with oil. While some of the potency of garlic is present in these preparations, the fresh cloves of garlic are still preferable to the liquid preparations. Garlic can also be stored in olive oil and refrigerated. Blending garlic in olive oil makes a marvelous start for salad dressings.
Garlic can be placed in a jar of honey for several weeks and the garlic oils will seep into the honey. Garlic can be stored in brandy. Shake the brandy bottle several times a day and store at room temperature for two weeks; then strain out the garlic cloves to make garlic tincture. Garlic and onions can be pressed to obtain their juices.
Despite the usefulness of these preparations, fresh diced garlic and onions, either raw or lightly cooked are the least expensive and most medicinally active form for garlic and onions. Garlic powder is probably less active medicinally than fresh garlic.
An ancient method of obtaining the benefits of garlic was to place it in the shoes. The crushed garlic is absorbed through the skin to some extent. This use of garlic may treat local fungal infections and keep neighbors away.
printer friendly page
"The healthful benefits of Garlic"
Dr. Kesden earned his MD degree from the University of Miami. He is board certified in internal medicine. He currently has a private practice in internal medicine in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida. His primary interests aside from internal medicine includ...