What is Garlic?
Garlic, Latin name Allium sativum, belongs to the onion family Alliaceae including shallots, and leek. Garlic has been used throughout recorded history for both medicinal and culinary purposes. The garlic bulb is divided into sections called cloves.
Elephant garlic or Russian garlic is a variant of the species leek and not considered a true garlic. It has a tall, solid, flowering stalk and broad, flat leaves much like those of the leek, but forms a bulb consisting of very large, garlic like cloves.
Is Garlic Good for You?
Garlic is one of the most valuable and versatile foods on the planet. Garlic belongs to the Allium family of vegetables which also includes onions, chives, shallots and leeks.
Today garlic is a widely recognized health enhancing supplement. Garlic promotes the well-being of the heart and immune systems with antioxidant properties and helps maintain healthy blood circulation. One of garlic's most potent health benefits includes the ability to enhance the body's immune cell activity.
The active component in garlic is the sulfur compound called allicin. Allicin is the chemical produced when garlic is chopped, chewed, or bruised. Allicin is quite powerful as an antibiotic and a potent agent that helps the body to inhibit the ability of germs to grow and reproduce. In fact, it's said that 1 milligram of allicin has a potency of 15 standard units of penicillin.
There are now over 12 studies published around the world that confirm that garlic can reduce cholesterol.
Recently researchers in Oxford and America have published some summaries of all the good data on garlic. Garlic is known to stimulate T-lymphocyte and macrophage action, promote interleukin-1 levels, and support natural killer cells. Strong activity of these key cells promotes healthy immune system function, and strengthens the body's defenses.
History of Garlic
Garlic was rare in traditional English cuisine (though it is said to have been grown in England before 1548), and has been a much more common ingredient in Mediterranean Europe.
Builders of the ancient pyramids were said to eat garlic daily for enhanced endurance and strength.
Garlic was placed by the ancient Greeks on the piles of stones at cross-roads, as a supper for Hecate.
Roman emperors couldn't eat enough of it, as it was considered an antidote to poisons which were very popular in certain political circles of the time.
The Spanish have long used garlic as a preservative which helps to add creadence to it's anti-bacterial properties and whole books have been devoted to the health benefits of garlic.
The inhabitants of Pelusium in lower Egypt, who worshipped the onion, are said to have had an aversion to both onions and garlic as food.
European beliefs once considered garlic a powerful ward against demons, werewolves, and vampires. To ward off vampires, garlic could be worn, hung in windows or rubbed on chimneys and keyholes.
Garlic has germanium in it. Germanium is an anti-cancer agent, and garlic has more of it than any other herb. In lab tests, mice fed garlic showed no cancer development, whereas mice that weren't fed garlic showed at least some. In fact, garlic has been shown to retard tumor growth in human subjects in some parts of the world.
Another benefit of garlic is it helps regulate the body's blood pressure. So whether you have problems with low or high blood pressure, garlic can help equalize it.
Garlic helps strengthen your body's defenses against allergies; helps loosen plaque from the artery walls; helps regulate your blood sugar levels; and is the best choice for killing and expelling parasites such as pin worms from the human body.
In addition to all these health benefits, garlic is packed with vitamins and nutrients. Some of these include protein, potassium, Vitamins A, B, B2 and C, Calcium, Zinc and many others.
In a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, allicin powder was found to reduce the incidence of the common cold by over 50%.
Garlic and onions are toxic to cats and dogs.
Garlic can thin the blood similar to the effect of aspirin.
Drinking lemon juice or eating a few slices of lemon will stop bad garlic breath.
It is traditional to plant garlic on the shortest day of the year. Whether this is for symbolic or practical reasons is unclear.
Garlic for Health
Today, we know garlic is an excellent herb for creating and maintaining overall health, but it also has many lesser known, but powerful qualities. For example, many people don't know that it's a naturally powerful antibiotic. This natural antibiotic is effective against toxic bacteria, viruses, and fungus. Available in pills, capsules, liquid and actual raw cloves, garlic is one of the most popular healthy herbs around today.
Garlic helps platelet stickiness or aggregation to help reduce blood coagulation, and promote heart health.
The antioxidant properties of garlic help scavenge harmful free radicals, which can damage LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood stream.
Garlic also promotes increased bile production to help reduce levels of fat in the liver. Garlic pills also help ward off coughs and colds.
Garlic and Your Heart.
The positive effect of garlic on your circulatory system is extremely well documented and it has been proved to:
lower blood pressure
decrease platelet aggregation
lower serum triglycerides and LDL-cholesterol ( the bad type) levels
increase serum HDL-cholesterol (the good type) and fibrinolysis (the process through which the body breaks up blood clots.)
Plus it stimulates the production of nitric oxide in the lining of blood vessel walls, a substance that helps them to relax.
Two or three cloves a day have cut the risk of subsequent heart attacks in half in heart patients.
One reason for these beneficial effects may be garlic's ability to reduce the amount of free radicals in the bloodstream. According to a study published in Life Sciences, a daily dose of 1 ml/kg body weight of garlic extract for a period of 6 months resulted in a significant reduction in oxidant (free radical) stress in the blood of arteriosclerosis patients. It's positive effect on the circulatory system improves blood flow throughout the body so has even been hailed as a cure for impotence!
Garlic and Cancer
Current research has shown that a number of readily available foods such as garlic and onions that make up a healthy diet, actually have a major impact on cancer prevention. The protective effect of garlic seems to be greater than that of onions, even though onion consumption has been shown to reduce the risk of stomach cancer. These cancer fighting foods seem to have the ability to interfere with the development of cancerous tumors.
The October 2000 issue of the American Journal of Nutrition had a summary of a number epidemiologic studies which showed that people who consumed cooked or raw garlic on a regular basis compared to those that ate little or none had about half the risk of stomach cancer and one-third less risk of colorectal cancer.
This remarkable little bulb now tops the American National Cancer Institute's list of potential cancer-preventative foods. It contains multiple anticancer compounds and antioxidants, more than 30 at the last count, which such powerful compounds as quercetin, diallyl sulphide,allin and ajoene. These have the ability to block cancer causing agents such as nitrosamine and aflatoxin which have been specifically linked to stomach, lung and liver cancer. Garlic's ajoene and allicin have also been shown to retard cancer cells as a type of natural chemotherapy.
The Iowa Women's Health Study discovered that women who included garlic in their daily diet had lower risks for colon cancer.
Meat cooked at high temperatures (well done to burnt) can produce carcinogenic (cancer producing) chemicals and research has recently discovered that when meat is cooked with garlic this effect is limited.
The ten best groups of anti-cancer foods include: berries and citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, garlic and onions, green tea, omega 3 essential fatty acids, olive oil, tomatoes, soy products, red wine and dark chocolate.
Garlic- and the Immune System.
Not surprisingly the presence of all these antioxidants in garlic have a very positive effect on the immune system in general and can therefore protect the body against all types of bacterial and viral attacks. Research has recently even shown it to have an inhibiting effect on MSRA which is currently reeking such havoc in U.K. hospitals.
Garlic also acts as a good cold medication, decongestant and expectorant. It is a surprisingly good source of vitamins C, B6 and the minerals selenium and manganese all of which have long been associated with immune system boosting as well as other benefits.
Garlic-Promotes Weight Control.
Allicin is the most potent substance found in garlic and this has been shown to not only lower blood pressure, insulin and triglyceride levels in laboratory animals fed a sugar rich diet, but also to prevent weight gain.
A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension reported that animals who developed high insulin levels, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides were given either allicin or served as a control.
Although all of the animals consumed the same amount of food, weight rose only in the control group whereas the animals who were being supplemented with allicin maintained stable weight or a slight decrease was actually noticed.
The researchers concluded that allicin may be of practical value for weight control.
Garlic Home Remedies
Garlic is an invaluable medicine for asthma, hoarseness, coughs, difficulty of breathing, and most other disorders of the lungs, being of particular virtue in chronic bronchitis, on account of its powers of promoting expectoration.
An older remedy for asthma, that was most popular, is a syrup of Garlic, made by boiling the garlic bulbs till soft and adding an equal quantity of vinegar to the water in which they have been boiled, and then sugared and boiled down to a syrup. The syrup is then poured over the boiled garlic bulbs, which have been allowed to dry meanwhile, and kept in a jar. Each morning a bulb or two should be taken, with a spoonful of the syrup.
For ear infections: Wrap a small piece of garlic in some tissue, and insert it into the ear. Leave it there overnight if possible. Pain is almost immediately removed and the infection tends to start clearing up overnight. See our full article Garlic can Fight and Cure Ear Infections
For scratchy throats: Put a small slice of garlic in your mouth and suck on it for 10-15 minutes. You can put it between your teeth and cheek, then scratch it with your teeth a little to help stimulate juice from the garlic slice. This juice slides down your throat and removes the pain.
Garlic can heal the pain caused by insect bites like those of scorpions and centipedes. The juice of fresh garlic mixed with salt can be applied to bruises, sprains and ringworms.
At the first sign of a cold, chop up 4 cloves of raw garlic and eat or use it as a garnish in soups etc.
Cut raw garlic and rub the cut edge on the tooth and gums a couple of times a day to stop toothache.
Take fresh garlic cloves and crush them, apply to warts until they disappear.
Crush a clove or two onto a dessert spoon then add olive oil and down the hatch. you get the benefits of raw garlic with none of the breath issues.
Garlic to clear sinuses. Melt some butter and add minced garlic cloves, spread on toast and eat.
Garlic for herpes. Take a garlic clove and cut in half. Eat one half and take the other half and rub into the affected areas. (may sting a little)
Use raw garlic juice on rashes and bug bites, it stops the itching immediately.
8 to 10 of garlic juice mixed with 2 TBLS of honey four times a day cures a persistent cough.
Garlic for tonsillitis. Peel a clove of garlic and cut them in half lengthwise. Boil for a couple of minutes in about 1.5 cup water and add a pinch of salt, teaspoon of butter, a pinch of pepper and sprinkle with nutmeg.
Cut a garlic clove into small pieces. Swallow them all in one go with a little water to cure bloating, stomach cramps and constipation.
10 drops of garlic juice with 2 teaspoon of honey cures asthma.
Garlic in Cooking
Garlic is known for its distinct taste and smell whenever it's cooked and added to various dishes.
Garlic has a long history as a culinary spice and medicinal herb. Its Latin name comes from "al" which means burning, and "sativum" which means harvested. Its most widely used part is the head, which is used in cooking to give its distinct taste. Its head is made of 4 - 20 cloves.
Because of its distinct taste and aroma, it is a commonly used spice that is mixed with other herbs like ginger and onions in preparing various dishes. Depending on the flavor desired, the method of cooking it could either be mellow or intense. In Northern European cuisine for example, garlic is used in little amounts and is cooked for a long time to diminish its taste. Try and cook some roasted garlic for extra health benefits.
Do odorless garlic pills work?
The more popular version of garlic unfortunately tends to be the "odorless" pills and capsules found in health food stores. Odorless garlic as an antibiotic or general health promotion herb is useless if it doesn't have its smell. Garlic oil and powder supplements are produced by distilling fresh garlic, and then diluting it with other substances. This process destroys the majority of allicin in garlic. Therefore, the supplements rely on the human stomach to convert some of the remaining garlic components into allicin. Although a few garlic powder supplements are able to generate some allicin within the stomach, the amount converted, if any is converted at all, is dependant upon optimal stomach conditions.
British scientists have developed a proprietary process through which the naturally occurring allicin in garlic is extracted, stabilized and concentrated. The end result is the extremely potent and effective product: Alli-C. Alli-C garlic pills contain enough allicin to be medicinally effective. Each capsule of Alli-C contains 270 milligrams of allicin powder, plus 60 milligrams of vitamin C, and 40 milligrams of bioflavonoids which is the equivalent to 20 to 30 cloves of fresh, crushed garlic!
Research indicates that just one capsule of Alli-C, taken each day with a little cold liquid during your main meal, will provide enough allicin to support good general health and well-being.
Growing Garlic at Home
Garlic can be grown all year round in mild climates. In cold climates, cloves can be planted in the ground about six weeks before the soil freezes, and harvested in late spring. Garlic plants can be grown close together and even in small pots indoors as long as you leave enough room for the bulbs to mature. Simply prepare a light soil mix and stick a garlic clove (the bigger the clove the better) in the ground for every bulb you want to dig up.
As garlic reaches maturity the leaves will turn brown in color then die away. This is the time to harvest your home grown garlic crop. If you harvest too early the cloves will be very small, too late and the bulb will have split.
Eat Garlic in Moderation
2 to 4 grams of fresh, minced garlic can be eaten each day. However, when eaten excessively, it can leave a distinct odor on the skin and breath, can cause heartburn, upset stomach and allergic reactions.
Garlic can also thin the blood so caution is advised to people with blood disorders, to those who will have surgery, and to those who will deliver a baby, about consuming it either fresh or in supplement form.
Side effects from taking garlic supplements include headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches and dizziness.
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