Throughout history, in Nepal, East Asia, and the Middle East, garlic has been constantly used as a remedy in treating bronchitis, hypertension, tuberculosis, diabetes, rheumatism, intestinal worms, flatulence, liver disorders, dysentery and many more.
Where and when garlic appeared in history is totally unknown but experts believe that it may be in Central Asia. History says garlic was grown in India and Egypt around 5000 years ago and there are folklores that relate to garlic usage. Later it spread to other Asian countries followed by the European countries.
But it was the French, Spanish, and Portuguese who introduced garlic to the New World. As they colonized the countries, they brought with them the knowledge of garlic.
Legends say that Greek loved their garlic so much that they offered garlic bulbs as gifts to God. Hippocrates, also known as the father of Western medicine, used garlic to treat a lot of ailments. He used garlic in the treatment of various respiratory ailments, poor digestion, and fatigue. The French believed that it was the garlic that saved millions of lives from the plague of 1720.
In the Middle ages, people in Slavic countries where the legend of Vampire was born, believed that garlic was the weapon against the demon. In all probability, the popularity of garlic as a fighter both against evil and disease started longer than we can think of.
The experts at Kew Gardens, which is England’s royal botanical center of excellence, stated that the people of ancient India prized the curative properties of garlic and thought it to be an aphrodisiac.
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The Nutritive Value of Garlic
What makes garlic one of the most healthy superfoods is the fact that it has very little calories, saturated fat, and sodium, all of which are bad for health. Also, it is packed with useful minerals like phosphorus, potassium, iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. It has trace minerals like iodine, chlorine, and sulfur.
The USDA National Database asserts that garlic is a rich source of B-Vitamins like folate, thiamine, niacin and Vitamin B6. It also has a good amount of Vitamin C, A, and K. Garlic contains 33 sulfur compounds, several enzymes and 17 amino acids in addition to the vitamins and minerals. The sulfur compounds are the ones responsible for both, garlic’s pungent odor as well as its medicinal benefits.
17 Proven Benefits of Garlic
The sulfur compound that gives garlic its pungent smell is allicin. It has been shown to be antimicrobial in nature. Other than that, garlic has arginine, flavonoids, and selenium which together could be the reason for garlic’s role in good health.
Garlic Eases Cold And Cough
It is popularly known that eating 2-3 cloves of garlic a day in either raw or cooked form or sipping some garlic tea relieves stuffy noses and cures a cold. It also builds immunity against the flu and other viruses.
Nutritionists say that the earliest uses of garlic were by meat-eaters who believed that the infection caused by eating meat could be fought by eating garlic. The myriad health benefits that come with garlic has made both the laborers who are exposed to infection and white-collar workers believe in it and use it.
A 12-week study with aged garlic extract found that it reduced the frequency of cold by 63 percent as compared to placebo. It was also concluded that the average duration of symptoms related to cold, reduced by 70 percent, from 5 days to 1-2 days.
Another study with garlic extract confirmed that eating garlic could reduce the symptoms of flu by 61 percent. However, some other studies couldn’t give a firm assertion, hence strong evidence is lacking.
Summary: Garlic and garlic supplements not only help to prevent cold and flu but also diminishes the severity caused by them.
Garlic Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Research studies with garlic on both humans and animals have suggested that garlic can lower total cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol in the body. Most of the studies related to that showed that the results are fruitful only when subjects ate 1 gram of garlic in a day. Garlic had absolutely no effect on the HDL value.
Allicin, the main sulfur compound of garlic is produced by the action of the enzyme alliinase on alliin. It possesses antioxidant activity and has been shown to cause many beneficial activities in the body.
In a study done in 2012, on mice, it was proved that regular ingestion of allicin not only reduced the LDL cholesterol level to a good extent but also lowered the hepatic cholesterol storage as compared to the control group.
In another study that was conducted in 2000, it was deduced that garlic supplements appeared to reduce both the total cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol. However, garlic didn’t seem to have any effect on the triglyceride levels in the blood.
Summary: The main sulfur compound of garlic, allicin has proved to reduce LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol in both humans and rats, even though it hasn’t shown any effect on the triglyceride level.
Garlic May Lower Blood Pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure affects 1 in 3 adults in the United States of America alone. High blood pressure increases the person’s risk of several diseases like cardiac problems, stroke and kidney diseases.
Research suggests that the ingestion of garlic increases the body’s production of nitric oxide which supports the smooth muscles into relaxing and blood vessels to dilate. These, in turn, can reduce the pressure of the blood on the arterial wall and reduce the blood pressure level.
In another study done in 2013, it was reported that garlic could lower both the systolic and diastolic pressure in patients with hypertension.
Summary: Garlic lowers the blood pressure level in the body by relaxing the smooth muscles in the body and dilating the blood vessels.
Garlic Can Boost Heart Health
Garlic is known to have significant cardioprotective properties. Cardiovascular disease is linked to multiple factors like raised total cholesterol, raised serum LDL, increased platelet aggregation, hypertension and smoking.
Garlic has shown to be able to inhibit enzymes that are involved in lipid synthesis, decrease platelet aggregation, prevent lipid peroxidation of oxidized erythrocytes and LDL, increase the antioxidant status and lastly inhibit the angiotensin-converting enzyme.
All these factors together ensure an inverse correlation between garlic consumption and the progression of cardiovascular disease.
Summary: Two major factors that are the biggest reason for heart attack are hypertension and high cholesterol. Garlic lowers them both and with its antioxidant effect boosts heart health.
Garlic Prevents Heavy Metal Poisoning
Studies have inferred that a high dose of garlic may prevent organ damage caused by heavy metals. This has been particularly true in the case of the metal, lead. The sulfur compounds in garlic reduce lead levels in the blood.
They also prevent the effects that are related to it like headaches and blood pressure. Garlic also aids in better absorption of the metals zinc and iron in the blood.
In a 2012 report that was published in Basic and Clinical Pharmacology and toxicology clearly stated that garlic was effective in reducing blood and tissue lead concentrations among both humans and animals.
Summary: Garlic has shown to significantly reduce the damages caused by lead poisoning.
Garlic May Boost Digestion
It has been mentioned frequently that the inclusion of garlic in the diet aids digestion. Garlic reduces the inflammation and irritation of the gastric canal leading to better digestion. Garlic has been seen to reduce most of the digestive problems like dysentery, diarrhea, and colitis.
Garlic has also been used for a long time in destroying the harmful bacteria in the colon and as a prebiotic food supports the growth of good bacteria. It also relieves stomach gas.
Summary: Garlic with its prebiotic effect supports the growth of good bacteria in the gut and prevents the harmful bacteria thereby aiding in digestion and as a whole ensures good gut health.
Garlic May Reduce Lung Cancer Risk
A seven-year population-based case-control study had been conducted in a Chinese population from 2003 to 2010. It was found that daily consumption of raw garlic at least twice a week could lower the risk of developing lung cancer by 44 percent.
The researchers published their study in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.
It was concluded that garlic may have served as a chemopreventive agent for lung cancer.
Summary: Garlic serves as an anticancer agent and can reduce the risk of developing lung cancer by a big margin.
Garlic May Reduce Brain Cancer Risk
Organosulphur compounds are generally present in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, onion, garlic, cauliflower and more. They contain a sulfur atom that is bound to a cyanate group or a carbon atom. The functional property is obtained when there is a cell disruption by cutting or crushing it.
In garlic, allicin is formed and then rapidly converted to diallyl sulfide, diallyl disulfide or diallyl trisulfide. These products have the main health-promoting functional effect on the disease. These compounds in garlic are effective in destroying the cells in glioblastomas, which is a type of brain tumor that is fatal.
Scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina reported in the journal Cancer that these three organosulfur compounds showed effectiveness in eradicating brain cancer cells and diallyl trisulfide proved to be the most effective. More studies need to be done in the animal brain tumor model before applying it to brain tumor patients.
Summary: The organosulfur compounds present in garlic can effectively eradicate cancer cells in the brain.
Garlic Can Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease And Dementia
Alzheimer’s is a condition in which part of the brain breaks down also known as atrophy and eventually damages the function of the brain. While mild Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by confusion and brain fogginess, the more severe cases result in significant loss of memory.
It is deduced that abnormal clumps of protein which are known as the amyloid plaques and another kind of protein fiber might interrupt the communication between neurons.
Research groups are noting the connections between dementia and breaches in the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier is a layer of cells that regulate the molecules to get in and out of the brain. If the barrier is compromised, it causes problems to the neurons which are responsible for the memory and cognitive functions.
Researchers have indicated that aged garlic extract might help prevent the breakdown or inflammation of this blood-brain barrier so that the bad proteins can not make their way to the neurons. The results are still not conclusive but have been very promising showing a ray of hope in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
Summary: Garlic is full of antioxidants that protect us from aging and cell-damaging. It may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia by eradicating free oxygen radicals that cause damage.
Garlic Lowers Risk of Osteoarthritis
A team at Kim’s College London and the University of East Anglia reported in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders that women who consume diets that are rich in allium vegetables had lower levels of osteoarthritis. The allium vegetables are garlic, leek, shallot, and onions.
It was stated that the findings were extremely promising. They showed that garlic not only lowered the chances but also had compounds that could possibly be used in its treatment.
A long term study on healthy female twins found that diets that included plenty of fruits and vegetables particularly allium vegetables showed remarkable results in lowering the risk of osteoarthritis in the hip joint.
Summary: Garlic has shown to lower the chances of arthritis in the hip by working as an estrogen booster.
Garlic May Improve Bone Health
Studies related to the effect of garlic on our bone health is not yet done on humans. But it has been done on ovariectomized rats. In a study in 2004, it was seen that garlic could suppress bone loss and improve the overall bone health of both men and women.
The mechanism behind was an increase in the estrogen level by garlic. The study also showed that a daily dose of garlic lowered the estrogen deficiency and conditions related to it like bone health.
Garlic consumption also has been associated with a reduction in the cases of osteoarthritis and breakdown of the joint cartilage.
Summary: Garlic improves bone health by increasing the estrogen level in the female.
Garlic Has An Antibiotic And Antiparasitic Effect
In World War ll, garlic was used as an antibacterial agent for the prevention of gas gangrene. The antibacterial effect of garlic on gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria had been known for a long time.
The antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties of garlic help to kill the microbes that are present in the body.
Summary: Garlic is a plant of the onion family that contains compounds that are believed to bring health benefits.
Garlic May Lower Alcohol-induced Liver Injury
Alcohol-induced liver injury or disease is caused by the continuous consumption of alcohol for a prolonged period of time. The disease is often progressive and one of the major reasons for morbidity and mortality.
The ethanol that is present in alcohol is metabolized into acetaldehyde by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase in the liver. This acetaldehyde is cytotoxic in nature. This acetaldehyde is then oxidized to acetate by aldehyde oxidase, another enzyme.
This results in reactive oxygen species that cause liver injury and diseases. Excess intake of alcohol results in the production of oxygen radicals which lowers the body’s immunity leading to altered enzyme activity decreased DNA repair and impaired utilization of oxygen, lipid peroxidation, and protein oxidation.
Some of these changes that are induced by oxidative stress can eventually cause necrosis and subsequently leads to oxygen damage. The organosulfur active compounds that are mainly responsible for protecting from tissue damage and various disorders are studies and confirmed.
Among many supplements, aged garlic extract has a reproducible array of compounds that have been analyzed and studied extensively for their high antioxidant content and health-protective potential.
Summary: Garlic can lower the alcohol-induced liver injury by reducing the oxidative stress with its high antioxidant content.
Garlic May Improve Athletic Performance
Garlic was known as one of the performance-enhancing substances for a long time now. It was used from ancient times to reduce fatigue and enhance the working capacity of the laborers. As mentioned earlier, it was given to Olympic athletes in ancient Greece.
Several studies in rats confirm that garlic helps in exercise performance but studies on humans are very few to confirm it completely. It was seen that people who couldn’t perform properly because of heart condition when they took garlic oil for 6 weeks or more saw a reduction in their peak heart rate and improved in exercise capacity.
However, one study on 9 cyclists didn’t show any result. Other studies showed exercise-induced fatigue could be reduced by regular consumption of garlic.
Summary: Garlic enhances performance by reducing exercise-induced fatigue.
Garlic Is Very Useful For Skin And Hair
The exhilarating properties of garlic act as a protection of the skin from the harmful effects of free radicals and slows down the collagen depletion that essentially leads to loss of elasticity in the aging skin.
Garlic, if applied topically, does wonders to the skin that is infected with fungus and provides relief from ailments of the skin like eczema. It also is a great remedy for athlete’s foot and ringworm because of its antifungal effect.
Rubbing garlic that is crushed on your scalp or massaging your scalp with garlic-infused oil has been proved to prevent also reverse hair loss.
Summary: Garlic acts as a protection of the skin and hair by reducing the effects of free radicals that slows down collagen depletion.
Garlic Helps Reduce UTI And Kidney Infections
Urinary tract infection is the second most common infection that we encounter, mostly women. In the whole world, around 150 million people are diagnosed with it each year.
Garlic has been traditionally used as a treatment for this disease from ancient times. Allicin and other sulfur compounds which are antimicrobial in nature and are present in garlic are the main cause.
In a study, the scientists found that 56 percent of 166 bacteria strains that were isolated from the urine of people with UTI showed a high degree of resistance to antibiotics. But, when dealt with garlic, the antibacterial property of garlic was able to resist around 82 percent of these resistant bacteria. It was concluded that garlic has tremendous potential in treating UTI.
Summary: The antimicrobial properties of allicin and other sulfur compounds found in garlic seem to help in treating urinary tract infections.
Garlic Helps In Weight Loss
Garlic has been known to boost energy levels in the body. It specifically helps to burn calories and maintain healthy body weight. Garlic works as an appetite suppressant. It keeps you fuller for a longer period of time and stops you from overeating.
Various studies have noted that garlic has the potential to stimulate the fat-burning process. It is also an excellent detoxifying agent and which keeps your digestive system in control.
Summary: Garlic works as an appetite suppressant and helps prevent overeating. Garlic may help boost energy levels and it also stimulates fat-burning in the body.
Other Benefits Of Garlic
- Increases Libido: The high concentration of allicin in garlic may help stimulate circulation and blood flow to the sexual organs in both men and women working as an aphrodisiac. However, garlic pills are better options than actual garlic which leads to bad breath.
- Relieves Earaches: Garlic has always known to be a natural remedy for earache for a thousand years. It has been popular since ages that eating raw garlic helps to reduce ear pain. However, garlic may interfere with antibiotics, so it is very important to consult a doctor.
- Prevents Peptic Ulcer: Eating two cloves of garlic in its raw form every day helps control levels of H.pylori bacteria in your intestine.its antibacterial power works on them and helps by killing this harmful bacteria which is one of the most important factors of peptic ulcer.
- Splinters: Splinters can be very painful when embedded in the skin and it can be extremely painful to dislodge it. It is revealed that garlic cloves can work as a remedy to remove splinters. You will need to cut the clove of garlic and place it on the skin.
The Final Note
Throughout history, different cultures have recognized the potential role of garlic in treating diseases. Recent studies have firmly supported them and have explained in detail the mechanism in which garlic achieves it. These studies have revived the therapeutic values of garlic which have been sung for ages.
Perceiving plant foods as a beneficial diet is advised by the folktales of different countries and cultures. Garlic has played an important dietary and medicinal role throughout history in every culture.
The organosulfur compound, allicin along with other polyphenols that are present in garlic have a plethora of properties that are antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic and antipyretic in nature. Currently, garlic is used for numerous conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, lung cancer, prostate cancer, coronary heart disease, and many other cancers. This article has reviewed the importance of garlic and the active constituents present in it that works like a magic potion in combating several ailments.