By Karen Appold
Although it may give you bad breath, garlic is often used to flavor foods and is also believed to prevent and treat a variety of health conditions and diseases. Garlic belongs to the Allium family of vegetables, which also includes onions, leeks, chives, and shallots.
A sulfur compound called allicin, which garlic produces when it’s chopped or chewed, seems to give garlic its medicinal properties. Allicin also gives garlic its infamous smell. By aging garlic, you can get rid of its odor, but this can also make it less effective.
Garlic has been shown to be a naturally powerful antibiotic. Bacteria in the human body do not seem to develop resistance to garlic–unlike many pharmaceutical antibiotics. This is a major advantage that garlic has over modern drugs.
A healthy heart and more
Garlic can help many conditions related to the heart and circulatory system; some are supported by scientific studies. Conditions include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack, heart disease, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Garlic’s antioxidant properties promote a healthy heart and immune system. It also helps to maintain good blood circulation.
Eating garlic may lower your risk of developing certain cancers, including breast, prostate, lung, colon, stomach, esophagus, pancreas, and rectal cancers. Taking nutritional supplements, however, may not have the same benefits.
Many other uses
People consume garlic for a host of other conditions, such as diabetes, high blood sugar, low blood sugar, sinus congestion, asthma, bronchitis, shortness of breath, high blood pressure in late pregnancy (pre-eclampsia), cold, fever, flu, headache, stomach ache, gout, rheumatism, osteoarthritis, and hemorrhoids.
Because it enhances the body’s immune cell activity, garlic is believed to prevent tick bites. When scientists compared the number of tick bites in people who consumed high doses of garlic compared to people who didn’t, the former group seemed to get fewer bites.
Some people put garlic oil on their skin for warts and corns. Some studies support the topical use of garlic for fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, ringworm, and jock itch.
Garlic is also used to fight stress and fatigue, as well as maintain healthy liver function.
People who want garlic’s health benefits but want to avoid bad breath should consider taking garlic capsules and tablets. The fresh clove, or nutritional supplements made from the clove, contain many essential nutrients including vitamins, enzymes, and amino acids. When buying supplements, choose ones that have an enteric coating so they will dissolve in your intestine–not in your stomach.
In some instances, taking nutritional supplements won’t be as effective in preventing or treating certain health conditions as consuming it raw.
Karen Appold is a medical writer in Lehigh Valley, PA.