Garlic is an herb that is grown around the world. It is related to onion, leeks, and chives. Garlic (Allium sativum) is a strong smelling, pungent tasting herb that is noted with many health benefits. It is mainly due to the powerful ingredient it contains, allicin. Health benefits include combating the common cold, helping to lower blood pressure and, fighting heart ailments and possibly neurodegenerative disorders.
Garlic is an herb very low in calories, saturated fats, and sodium. It contains a number of useful minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium, and iron, as well as trace minerals like iodine, sulfur, and chlorine. It is also a rich source of B-vitamins (folate, thiamine, niacin, and B-6), and vitamins C, A, and K. Garlic is one of the rare dietary sources of organic compounds, allicin, allisatin 1, and allisatin 2.
Currently, garlic is widely used for several conditions linked to the blood system and heart, including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), high cholesterol, heart attack, coronary heart disease, and hypertension. Garlic is also used today by some people for the prevention of lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, rectal cancer, and colon cancer.
Garlic supplements are known to boost the function of the immune system. One large, 12-week study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63% compared to a placebo group. The average length of cold symptoms was also reduced by 70%, from 5 days in the placebo group to just 1.5 days in the garlic group. Another study found that a high dose of aged garlic extract (2.56 grams per day) reduced the number of days sick with cold or flu by 61%
Cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes are the world’s biggest killers. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most important drivers of these diseases. Human studies have found garlic supplements to have a significant impact on reducing blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. High doses of garlic appear to improve blood pressure for those with known high blood pressure (hypertension). In some instances, supplements may be as effective as regular medications.
Garlic can lower total and LDL cholesterol. For those with high cholesterol, garlic supplements appear to reduce total and/or LDL cholesterol by about 10–15%. Looking at LDL (the “bad”) and HDL (the “good”) cholesterol specifically, garlic appears to lower LDL but has no reliable effect on HDL. Garlic supplements seem to reduce total and LDL cholesterol, particularly in those who have high cholesterol. HDL cholesterol and triglycerides do not seem to be affected.
Oxidative damage from free radicals contributes to the aging process. Garlic contains antioxidants that support the body’s protective mechanisms against oxidative damage. The combined effects on reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as the antioxidant properties, may reduce the risk of common brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Athletic Performance Might Be Improved With Garlic Supplements. Garlic was one of the earliest “performance enhancing” substances. It was traditionally used in ancient cultures to reduce fatigue and enhance the work capacity of laborers. Most notably, it was given to Olympic athletes in ancient Greece. People with heart disease who took garlic oil for 6 weeks had a 12% reduction in peak heart rate and better exercise capacity. At high doses, the sulfur compounds in garlic have been shown to protect against organ damage from heavy metal toxicity.
Other interesting facts about garlic are: people who ate raw garlic at least twice a week during the 7 year study period had a 44 percent lower risk of developing lung cancer. Organo-sulfur compounds found in garlic have been identified as effective in destroying the cells in glioblastomas, a type of deadly brain tumor.
Eating raw garlic cloves significantly reduced blood sugar levels in one animal study. Thus, it may prove to be a boon to those suffering from diabetes or at a higher risk of developing diabetes.
It is rich in nutrients like selenium, quercetin, and vitamin C, all of which contribute to eye health and help with eye infections and inflammation.
Garlic, along with other ingredients like honey, cream, and turmeric, can be used as a home remedy for acne scars and even preventing the onset of acne. This herb is an effective skin cleanser and an antibiotic substance that helps resolve a number of skin conditions, including skin rashes, psoriasis, cold sores, and blisters. Additionally, it also helps in cell synthesis, protecting against UV rays, and in delaying aging.
The herb has certain aphrodisiac and libido-inducing properties, so it can be utilized as an effective rejuvenator for sex. People who tend to overindulge in sexual activities should consume garlic to protect themselves from fatigue.
For years, garlic has been thought to aid in weight loss and reducing obesity. In animal studies, it reduces the expression of genes that are involved in adipogenesis, which leads to the formation of fat cells. The herb increases thermogenesis, which helps burn fat and reduce LDL cholesterol levels. This research has positive implications for reducing obesity in humans.