With a history of several thousand years of human consumption and use, garlic is native to Central Asia and north eastern Iran, and has long been a common seasoning worldwide. It was known to Ancient Egyptians, and has been used both as a food flavouring and as a traditional medicine.
Garlic grows all around the world and been widely used, because of its strong smell and delicious taste, in cooking. However ancient history tells us that it was primarily used for its diverse health benefits and medicinal properties and modern science has confirmed many of these health benefits.
Garlic was often prescribed for medicinal purposes for many ailments by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates whose famous quote “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” says it all.
Garlic is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and Chinese onion. It is high in a sulphur compound called Allicin, which is believed to bring most of the health benefits. Allicin enters the body from the digestive tract and travels all over the body, where it exerts its potent biological effects. This compound is formed when the clove is crushed, chewed or chopped and is responsible for the potent garlic smell.
Garlic is low in calories and very rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Manganese as well as trace amounts of various other nutrients.
Colds and the Immune System
Garlic supplementation is known to boost the function of the immune system and helps to prevent and reduce the severity of common illnesses like the flu and common cold.
High blood pressure (Hypertension) is one of the most important drivers of heart attacks and strokes. High doses of garlic appear to significantly improve blood pressure levels of those with known hypertension. In some instances, supplementation can be as effective as regular medications. Supplement doses must be fairly high to have these desired effects. The amount of allicin needed is equivalent to about four cloves of garlic per day.
Although garlic does not does not appear to affect HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, garlic supplementation does reduce total and LDL cholesterol, particularly in those with high cholesterol.
Aging and Brain Disease
Garlic contains antioxidants that support the body’s protective mechanisms against oxidative damage. Oxidative damage from free radicals aids in the aging process. The protection against cell damage and aging, combined with reduced cholesterol and blood pressure and antioxidant properties may help prevent common brain diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Longevity of Life
It’s a fact that as well as the points above, garlic can also fight infectious disease, thus improving and extending life especially for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
Garlic was one of the earliest ‘performance enhancing’ substances most notably administered to Olympic athletes in Greece. Studies suggest that exercise induced fatigue may be reduced, especially in people with high blood pressure with the use of garlic.
Detoxifying Heavy Metals
Garlic has been shown to significantly reduce lead toxicity and related symptoms such as headaches and blood pressure as high doses of the sulphur compounds in garlic protect organs from heavy metal toxicity.
It has been shown that a daily dose of dry garlic extract (the equivalent to 2 grams of raw garlic) significantly decreased a marker of estrogen deficiency as well as having beneficial effects on osteoarthritis.
The active compound allicin only forms when garlic is crushed or cleaved when it is raw. If you cook it before crushing it, then it won’t have the same health effects.
Therefore, the best way to consume garlic is raw, or to crush and cut it and leave it out for a while before you add it to your recipes.
The minimum effective dose for therapeutic effects is one clove eaten with meals, two or three times a day. A handy and effective way to achieve this is to mix freshly crushed garlic with some extra virgin olive oil and some salt for a great salad dressing or on bread with tomato.