Health Benefits of Garlic
Whereas we'd love you to believe in garlic's super powers as faithfully as we do, please also consult your doctor or dietician for specific health advice
Antiseptic Properties of Garlic
As an antiseptic, garlic acts in two ways, killing both bacteria and fungi.
This means that it is useful in treating mild intestinal infections such as diarrhoea as well as lung infections such as bronchitis and seems to act as a protective agent against these infections if taken regularly. Applying a topical solution of raw garlic and water may stop wounds from getting infected. (Simply crush one clove of garlic and mix it one-third of a cup of clean water. Use the solution within three hours because it will lose its potency over time.) A garlic solution used as a foot-bath several times a day is traditionally believed to improve athlete's foot.
A study conducted at Bastyr University, a natural heath sciences school and research center near Seattle, showed that a garlic oil extract cured all warts it was applied to within two weeks. In the same study, the garlic oil extract also proved useful in dissolving corns.
Recent data shows that water based extracts where the allicin has been stabilized are also very effective at killing bacteria, fungi and viral infections. CAUTION: Always use a diluted garlic solution when applying garlic directly to the skin. Pure cut garlic is so powerful that prolonged exposure to the skin may result in a burn!
Garlic as an Antioxidant
Garlic is a powerful antioxidant helping to protect against free radicals in the body, which are known to cause damage to cells and encourage cancers.
Garlic 'fights food poisoning bacteria' From the Telegraph 3rd May 2012 "Scientists have found a compound in garlic that is 100 times more effective at fighting a common type of bacteria that causes food poisoning, called Campylobacter, than two types of antibiotic. Campylobacter is commonly found both on the surface of poultry and inside the flesh.
Researchers at Washington State University in the US have found that a compound derived from garlic, called diallyl sulphide, is particularly effective at penetrating the slimy film that protects colonies of Campylobacter. They found that, in a laboratory setting, it was 100 times more effective than the antibiotics erythromycin and ciprofloxacin, and would often work in "a fraction of the time".
Barbara Rasco, associate professor of food science, said: "Diallyl sulphide could make many foods safer to eat. It can be used to clean food preparation surfaces and as a preservative in packaged foods like potato and pasta salads, coleslaw and deli meats."
Garlic for Heart Health
Garlic has long been associated with cardiovascular health benefits including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Garlic contains many health-giving ingredients including vitamins C and B6 but it is the specific chemical called allicin which is created when an enzyme alliin and allinase combine when raw garlic is crushed or chewed that is thought to have the most positive effects.
It is most likely for this reason that the World Health Organisation recommends a daily intake of a clove of garlic a day. There are many extracts of garlic available to purchase including garlic oils, allicin pills and extractions. However, since allicin is a very unstable compound which can not be kept artificially constant, it is likely that raw garlic will give the best possible health benefits.
Another huge benefit of using garlic in your cooking is that garlic can add flavour to meals without adding salt. Reducing salt intake is highly recommended for a healthy heart.
As with all questions of health, it's always best to consider our whole diet and lifestyle when trying to improve heart health but garlic can definitely be part of the answer.
Garlic for Gum Health
Garlic may even help your gums stay healthy. In a study published in July 2005 issue of Archives of Oral Biology, researchers concluded that garlic extract inhibits disease-causing bacteria in the mouth and may be valuable in fighting periodontitis, a serious gum disease. (Untreated gingivitis often leads to periodontitis, a condition in which the ligaments and bones supporting the teeth infected and inflamed, ultimately resulting in tooth loss.)
Folklore & Garlic in History
In Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, garlic has been used for many centuries as a popular remedy for ailments from scurvy to anaemia to general health recovery. In this region garlic was a common folk medicine against early forms of tuberculosis and bronchitis and used to help cure pneumonia and lung problems. Central Asia is home to many varieties of garlic and is often considered to be centre of origin of the majority of alliums.
Egyptians were so attached to its powers that they were entombed with garlic. Romans were also very fond of garlic and also made sure their soldiers carried bulbs in their packs when heading off to war. Likewise, during the first world war, soldiers were encouraged to eat garlic to ward off the many diseases and infections they faced in the trenches.
Garlic has often been said to have aphrodisiacal qualities. It definitely stimulates the body and we know that it can improve blood flow... perhaps to all parts of the body. Warding off vampires, as popularised by Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' is one of garlic's many folkloric attributes...
As far as we are concerned, these are all the many reasons to eat lots more of our favourite ingredient!