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Posted on Mar 06, 2018, 7 p.m.

Throughout history the main use of garlic was for health benefits due to its medicinal properties, its use has been well documented in major civilizations such as Chinese, Greeks, Babylonians, Roman, and Egyptians.


Garlic is a plant from the Onion/Allium family making it closely related to leeks, onion, and shallots, grown worldwide as popular culinary item due to the strong fragrant smell and delicious taste. The whole head is called the garlic bulb, each segment of the head called a clove, there can be from 5 to 20 cloves in a single bulb.


Throughout history the main use of garlic was for health benefits due to its medicinal properties, its use has been well documented in major civilizations such as Chinese, Greeks, Babylonians, Roman, and Egyptians.


It is well known that most of the health effects are from one of the sulfur compounds formed when the cloves are chewed, chopped, or crushed called allicin, it also gives garlic it’s smell. Allicin enters the body via the digestive tract where it will exert its potent biological effects.


Garlic is very nutritious with few calories, only 42 calories, with 9 grams of carbs, and 1.8 grams of protein per one ounce of garlic containing 23% of the RDA for manganese, 17% of RDA for vitamin B6, 15% of RDA for vitamin C, 6% of RDA for selenium, and 0.6 grams of fibre, also containing decent amounts of copper, iron, vitamin B1, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. Facts are it contains a little but of almost everything the body needs as it contains trace amounts of various other nutrients as well.


Garlic supplementation is well known to be a fantastic boost for the immune system. On a large scale 12 week study it was found that daily use decreased the number of colds by 63% compared to the placebo control at 4%. Length of cold symptoms on average was decreased by 70% from 5 days in the placebo control group to 1.5 days. Another study showed that high doses of garlic decreased the number of sick days with flu or cold by 61%. Adding garlic to the diet can be helpful if you often get colds, want to reduce symptoms, or just wish to avoid them.


Cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and heart attacks are among the top killers worldwide with high blood pressure being one of the key factors to drive these diseases. The active compounds garlic contains can reduce blood pressure which has been shown in various human studies. One of such used aged garlic extract doses to show it was just as effective as Atenolol at decreasing blood pressure over a 24 week time frame. However supplement doses must be at high levels to attain the desired effects, the amount of allicin needed would be the equivalent to around approximately 4 cloves of garlic per day.


The risks of heart disease also benefit from properties in garlic that lower total and LDL cholesterol levels. For those with high cholesterol supplementation has been shown to decrease LDL and total cholesterol by 10-15%. However it does not appear to decrease HDL reliably or lower triglyceride levels.


Antioxidants contained within garlic help support the body’s protective mechanisms to prevent oxidative damage from free radicals that contribute to the aging process, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. High dose garlic supplements have been shown to increase antioxidant enzymes in humans that significantly decrease oxidative stress in high blood pressure. Combined effects of decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol with the antioxidant properties can help prevent risks of common brain diseases.


It is near impossible to prove longevity effects in humans, but given the beneficial effects on other important risk factors, it stands to reason that garlic may contribute to longevity. The fact that it fights infectious diseases is also important as they are common causes of death, namely in those with dysfunctional immune systems and the elderly.


Garlic was one of the earliest forms of performance enhancing substances that athletes used, traditionally used in ancient cultures to decrease fatigue and enhance work capacity of labourers, most notably ancient Greece administered it to the Olympic athletes. Garlic has been shown to help with exercise programs, one 6 weeks study had subject take garlic oil and it showed a reduction in peak heart rate of 12% and improved exercise capacity. Other studies show exercise induced fatigue was decreased. Studies are still ongoing.


Sulfur compounds within garlic at high doses have been shown to protect organs from damage due to heavy metal toxicity. A 4 week study of humans exposed to excessive lead found that garlic decreased lead levels by 19% while also reducing signs of toxicity including blood pressure and headaches. 3 doses of garlic per day outperformed D-penicillamine in symptom reduction.


Currently there are no human trails to measure the effects of garlic on bone loss. Rodent studies have shown it minimises bone loss by increasing estrogen in females. One study has found that daily garlic extract of raw garlic decreased significantly markers of estrogen deficiency in menopausal women, suggesting garlic may have beneficial effects on bone health for women. Foods such as onions and garlic have been shown to have beneficial effects on osteoarthritis.


Garlic is very easy and delicious item to include in the diet, complementing many savory dishes, sauces, and soups, lending a punch of flavour to otherwise bland recipes. Garlic is readily available in several forms from powders and oils, to smooth pastes and whole cloves, and supplements. Minimum effective therapeutic dose effects can be obtained with as little as one clove eaten with meals 2-3 times daily. Active compounds in allicin only forms when garlic is raw when it is cleaved/crushed, if cooked before doing this it will not have the same effects.


There are some negatives to garlic consumption as some may be allergic to it, and it can cause bad breath, if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinners it is suggested to consult a doctor before increasing garlic consumption.


Literally for thousands of years garlic was thought to have medicinal properties without technically being able to prove it, now we have the science to confirm and it has backed it all up. Yeah Science, well done!


“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” ~ Hippocrates, Greek father of medicine who commonly prescribed garlic to treat a wide variety of conditions.


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