Allium Sativum, better known to us all as garlic, has been celebrated for centuries for both its unique taste and life-enhancing qualities. And whilst many of us are content to consume garlic for its delicious flavour alone, it's gratifying to know that this mighty bulb is also doing us good in the process!
Nearly two thousand years ago, Greek physician Galen praised the garlic bulb as a "cure-all", and it's still being touted as a health-boosting superfood today. Its star ingredient is allicin, found at its highest potency in fresh, raw cloves of garlic. As a powerful antioxidant, allicin mops up free radicals, protects against thrombosis, and is believed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, which all contributes to better cardiovascular health.
Garlic also contains the B vitamins, thiamine and pyridoxine, which have been found to alleviate fatigue (and may explain why the ancient Greeks gave garlic to Olympian athletes to increase their stamina). Thiamine is associated with optimum eye health, helping to prevent cataracts and possibly even reversing optical nerve damage. And as a natural source of vitamin C, garlic gives our immune systems a boost too.
In addition, garlic possesses a wealth of anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, earning it a reputation for fighting disease as an entirely natural but potent'antibiotic', effective even against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Anecdotal evidence suggests it also has antiviral properties, perhaps thanks to the presence of the mineral selenium, which has been shown to inhibit the spread of viral infections.
With its multi-faceted medicinal properties, it's easy to see why ancient civilisations considered garlic their one-stop first-aid kit! And whilst many people traditionally enjoy their garlic cooked, its nutritional benefits are at their highest when you eat garlic raw, before the valuable enzymes, vitamins and minerals are denatured from the heat of cooking. So next time you turn to garlic for a health boost, try slicing some raw cloves into a salad, or spread some crushed garlic straight onto olive oil slicked toast. Not only will you enjoy the unique taste of unadulterated fresh garlic, but you'll be topping up your immune system with one of nature's most powerful medicines.