Garlic is one of the earth's greatest health tonics and does indeed have scientifically-proven medicinal properties. It contains a substance called Allicin, which has anti-bacterial properties that are equivalent to a weak penicillin. It is a natural antibiotic and is useful in treating everything from allergies to tonsillitis. Garlic contains many sulfur compounds which detoxify the body, boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and improve circulation. Garlic has also demonstrated anti-cancer, antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-oxidant effects.
Garlic can stimulate the production of glutathione, an amino acid which is known to be a very potent antioxidant and de-toxifier and the smooth muscle relaxant adenosine, also found in the herb, will lower blood pressure.
Today people use garlic to help prevent atherosclerosis (plaque build up in the arteries causing blockage and possibly leading to heart attack or stroke), reduce colds, coughs and bronchitis.
Latin Name: Allium sativum
Common Names: Allium, Garlic, Rustic Treacle, Stinking Rose
antibiotic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-viral, expectorant, fungicide, antihistamine
Lowers blood pressure and LDL Cholesterol. Prevents atherosclerotic buildup. Lowers or helps to regulate blood sugar. Helps to prevent blood clots from forming, thus reducing the possibility of strokes and thromboses. Removes heavy metals such as lead and mercury from the body. Reduces yeast infections. Relief from rheumatism. Protects against heart disease and strokes. Wounds, ulcers, skin infections, flu, athlete's foot, some viruses, strep, worms, respiratory ailments, blood thinning, cancer of the stomach, colic, colds, kidney problems, bladder problems and worms. Helps to prevent cancer, especially of the digestive system, prevents certain tumors from growing larger and may reduce the size of certain tumors in some cases. Dramatically reduces yeast infections due to Candida species.
Garlic also has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help scavenge free radicals; particles that can damage cell membranes, interact with genetic material and possibly contribute to the aging process as well as the development of a number of conditions including heart disease and cancer.
Free radicals occur naturally in the body but environmental toxins (including ultraviolet light, radiation, cigarette smoking and air pollution) can also increase the number of these damaging particles. Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause over time.
Atherosclerosis: Studies suggest that fresh garlic and garlic supplements may prevent blood clots and destroy plaque. Blood clots and plaque block blood flow and contribute to the development of atherosclerosis. Blockage of blood flow to the heart, brain and legs, can lead to heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease (PVD). People with PVD experience pain in the legs when they walk and move. If garlic does reduce the build up of plaque then strokes, heart attacks and PVD may be less likely to occur in people who eat garlic or take garlic supplements.
High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure: A number of studies have found that garlic reduces elevated total cholesterol levels and lowers blood pressure more effectively than placebo. However, the extent to which garlic is effective is small.
Diabetes: Garlic has been used as a traditional dietary supplement for diabetes in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Preliminary studies in rabbits, rats and limited numbers of people have demonstrated that garlic has some ability to lower blood sugars. More research in this area is needed. (See Notes regarding some concern about using garlic with certain diabetes medications.)
Common Cold: A well-designed study of nearly 150 people supports the value of garlic for preventing and treating the common cold. In this study, people received either garlic supplements or placebo for 12 weeks during "cold season" (between the months of November and February). Those who received the garlic had significantly fewer colds than those who received placebo. Plus, when faced with a cold, the symptoms lasted a much shorter time in those receiving garlic compared to those receiving placebo.
Cancer: Test tube and animal studies suggest that garlic may have some anti-cancer activity. Observational, population-based studies (which follow groups of people over time) suggest that people who have more raw or cooked garlic in their diet are less likely to have certain types of cancer, particularly colon and stomach cancers. Dietary garlic may also offer some protection against the development of breast, prostate and laryngeal (throat) cancers. However, these types of cancer have not been as extensively studied as colon and stomach cancer.
Tuberculosis: Numerous test tube studies have demonstrated that garlic extract inhibits the growth of different species of bacteria, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the organism responsible for tuberculosis. Very high concentrations of garlic extract were needed to slow down the growth of M. tuberculosis in these studies, so some experts are concerned that these levels may be toxic to people. While further research in people is needed, one animal study found that garlic oil also inhibited M. tuberculosis and reduced lesions in the lungs of these animals.
Intestinal Parasites: Laboratory studies suggest that large quantities of fresh, raw garlic may have antiparasitic properties against the roundworm, Ascaris lumbricoides, which is the most common type of intestinal parasite. Garlic for this purpose, however, has not yet been tested in people.
Garlic can irritate the digestive tracts of very young children and some sources don't recommend garlic for breastfeeding mothers. In addition, some individuals are allergic to garlic
Garlic may exaggerate the activity of medications that inhibit the action of platelets in the body. Examples of such medications include indomethacin, dipyridamole and aspirin.
There have been reports of a possible interaction between garlic and warfarin that could increase the risk of bleeding in people taking this blood thinning medication. Therefore, when taking medications that may thin the blood, such as aspirin and warfarin, you should refrain from consuming large quantities of garlic, either fresh or commercially prepared.
When used with a class of medications for diabetes called sulfonylureas, garlic may lower blood sugar considerably. Medications from this class include chlorpropamide, glimepiride and glyburide. When using garlic with these medications, blood sugars must be followed closely.
Garlic may reduce blood levels of protease inhibitors, a medication used to treat people with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), including indinavir, ritinavir and saquinavir.
It is thought that garlic may behave similarly to a class of cholesterol lowering medications called statins (such as atorvastatin, pravastatin and lovastatin) and to a class of blood pressure lowering medications called ACE inhibitors (including enalapril, captopril and lisinopril). It is not known, therefore, whether it is safe to take this supplement in large quantities with these medications or not. This possible interaction has never been tested in scientific studies.