Garlic is considered a superfood with antimicrobial properties. If you have never used garlic for anything other than cooking, you’re missing out on the many wonderful healing properties of garlic. Fresh garlic is undeniably indispensable in the kitchen for spaghetti sauce, garlic chicken, garlic bread and a million other recipes, but the natural garlic healing properties make it one of the most useful of all plants. Not only that, but garlic is available everywhere, inexpensive and easy to store. The only potential downside of garlic is garlic breath.
Garlic, 7,000 Years of Use and Counting…
Garlic, allium sativum, is actually a member of the onion family. For at least 7,000 years, people have been eating garlic and using it for traditional medicinal purposes. There are a number of varieties of garlic growing wild in different parts of the world, some of which are the ancestors of the garlic found today in supermarkets. Elephant garlic, incidentally, is not actually a true garlic at all, but a wild leek.
Garlic was well-known in the ancient world to the Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans and was mentioned in the Bible. Soldiers and travelers would carry it and eat it raw both for a snack and the recognized health benefits. Garlic teas and cloves were used to treat many maladies, as is true today.
Cooked is Delicious, but Raw is Healthier
There is both scientific and anecdotal evidence regarding the natural healing properties of garlic and its status as a superfood. The only superfood that has been studied more intensively is turmeric. To gain the maximum health benefits, eat garlic raw. Garlic extracts and pills are available for those who can’t handle raw garlic.
Garlic contains a high level of specific sulfur compounds that give garlic its distinctive pungent smell and taste. These compounds are also believed to be responsible for the very positive effects of garlic on the human body.
The Historical Health Benefits of Garlic
Hippocrates, the revered Greek physician who is considered the father of medicine, had garlic front and center in his medical kit. Garlic was given to the original Olympic athletes to enhance their performance. In many cultures, laborers ate garlic to increase their strength and endurance. An ancient medical text, the Codex Ebers, prescribed garlic as a treatment for “abnormal growths.” It was also recommended for fatigue, circulatory problems and to combat insects and parasites.
The Bible, the Talmud, the writings of Pliny the Elder, Chinese, Japanese and Indian medical scrolls all recommended various ways to use garlic for disease prevention and treatment. One interesting bit of garlic trivia is that the Talmud recommended garlic to married couples to “promote relations.” Overall, it’s interesting that so many different cultures throughout time have arrived at similar conclusions as to the many health benefits of garlic.
Combating Disease with Garlic
The regular consumption of garlic has been linked in many modern studies to assisting with the reduction or even prevention of four of the world’s major killers: heart disease, stroke, cancer and infections. While organizations such as the National Cancer Institute do not recommend any specific dietary supplements for disease prevention, the National Cancer Institute does recognize garlic as having potential anticancer properties.
Heart disease kills more people every year in the U.S. than any other disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Garlic has been recognized as valuable in helping to treat and prevent many of the metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. These include hypertension (high blood pressure), atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries), thrombosis (blood clots), high cholesterol and diabetes. Both human and animal studies found garlic to have a significant effect in protecting the cardiovascular system.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2016 reported that aged garlic extract was effective at reducing plaque in coronary arteries for people who were at risk for heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. In other words, garlic was reversing the early signs of heart disease.
The NIH National Cancer Institute found that studies of several populations revealed an association between consuming more garlic and a decreased risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the colon, stomach and breast.The NIH explained that this protective effect was believed to be caused by garlic’s antibacterial properties or by the ability of garlic to negatively affect cancer cells’ ability to proliferate. Other possibilities for garlic’s beneficial effect were also suggested.
- A French study found that eating more garlic and onion was associated with a statistically significant reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer.
- Pancreatic cancer is particularly deadly. Increased consumption of garlic could lower the risk of getting this deadly disease.
Experiments are showing promise for using garlic to treat cancer. Garlic shows great potential for assisting in the fight against cancer.
High Blood Pressure
One study found that 50 people with uncontrollable blood pressure were able to drop their blood pressure by an average 10 points by taking aged garlic extract for three months. Another 2014 study found that garlic had the potential to lower blood pressure as well as standard medications.
Infections and Colds
Garlic is very effective at killing many of the microorganisms associated with the common cold and some other infection. In a study in which people were given either garlic supplements or a placebo, those consuming garlic had fewer colds and recovered faster. This result was attributed to allicin, found in garlic.
Garlic is one of the best natural detox remedies, removing the “bad stuff” from your body. Garlic supports many of the liver’s natural enzymes. Since garlic is also an effective broad spectrum antimicrobial, it helps to cleanse the body.
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