Garlic is beneficial to good health in one way or another. Get past the odor, and a world of good can be had from a daily regimen of fresh garlic or garlic supplements. Although not all of garlic's health benefits have been proven in the laboratory, centuries of garlic consumption - and its pronounced use in natural medicine - point to an herb with a variety of healing properties and significant nutritive value.
Garlic contains healthy amino acids and high levels of the constituent alliin, an amino acid derivative said to be responsible for the herb's health benefits. Garlic contains trace minerals copper, zinc, germanium, selenium, iron and magnesium, vitamins A and C and several beneficial sulfuric compounds known to bind to heavy metals and toxins in the liver and transport them for elimination.
For thousands of years, garlic has been used in natural medicine to treat a variety of viral, bacterial and fungal infections, and to minister to wounds, tumors and intestinal parasites. It may speed up metabolism and help burn fat and is hailed as a free radical fighting agent, an immune system booster and a heart-healthy food. Legend has it that garlic was reputed as effective in fighting the plague of the Middle Ages.
When ingested, the predominant enzyme in garlic, allinase, reacts with alliin to form allicin, the compound responsible for garlic's pronounced odor and antibacterial qualities. Garlic travels through the bloodstream and lungs making perspiration, breath and skin smell pungent. Shortly after consumption, the odor of garlic may stay with the body for up to 18 hours, even when odorless garlic pills are consumed.
Garlic supplements - odorless garlic
Garlic supplements are said to be as beneficial to good health as eating fresh garlic cloves. They're more likely to be tolerated by garlic-sensitive individuals and more convenient to use than raw garlic. Garlic pills minimize taste and odor and come in a variety of forms, all of which claim to be effective. The most common forms of garlic supplements include:
o Aged garlic extract
o Odorless garlic pills
o Garlic oil capsules
o Allicin-stabilized pills
o Encapsulated powdered garlic
It is a source of ongoing controversy which form of garlic supplement is most effective and best absorbed by the system. It is said that a daily regimen of garlic must be continued for at least one month in order to achieve noticeable results. Odorless garlic supplements are considered inferior by some nutritionists as their allicin count may be diminished.
Garlic and the heart
Up until recently, it was alleged that garlic and garlic supplements helped to lower serum cholesterol levels. Notwithstanding the release of findings in 2007 that clinically dispute this claim, nutritionists and dieticians continue to believe that garlic is heart healthy and can lower homocysteine levels in the blood. Homocysteine is a type of amino acid, too high levels of which have been linked to diminished heart health. Garlic is also credited for reducing harmful plaque buildup on arterial walls.
Blood and garlic
New research indicates that garlic may boost circulation by increasing levels of hydrogen sulphide in the blood, which is essential to healthy cell signaling (the transmission of information among cells). Garlic's other benefits to blood include:
o The sulfur compounds in garlic may reduce fatty substances in the blood, helping to modulate blood pressure and aid in symptoms of hypertension.*
o Sulfur compounds in garlic, particularly ajoene, may help to slow platelet aggregation (clumping of blood vessels) and aid normal blood clotting. Garlic can be used in the same manner as low-dose aspirin to slow or stop platelet aggregation over time.
o Garlic is often used as a blood thinner to improve circulation and reduce clots.
Garlic and the immune system
Garlic stimulates white blood cell activity and may help the immune system fight infection and disease. Garlic, when taken internally, is said to be effective in fighting colds and flu and in the treatment of yeast infections.* Studies indicate that garlic may enhance the liver's production of free-radical-fighting enzymes and may be effective against some forms of penicillin-resistant bacteria.
Insulin and garlic
Studies indicate that garlic may have the ability to increase insulin levels in the blood and stabilize blood sugar.
Antioxidant / antimicrobial / antibacterial garlic
Garlic is said to have powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial qualities. The antioxidants in garlic may protect cells against free radicals and inhibit the growth of a variety of tumors. Studies also show that garlic may block the formation of toxins formed while digesting food. Allicin, the compound responsible for garlic's odor, is the herb's primary antibacterial agent.
Garlic was studied by Louis Pasteur for its antibiotic potential in the 19th Century and used by Albert Schweitzer in Africa in the 1950s to fight cholera, typhus and dysentery. During the First World War, garlic was used to treat battle wounds in the absence of antibiotics.
Cholesterol and garlic
It was once thought that garlic played an essential role in lowering serum cholesterol levels in the blood. Findings which previously confirmed garlic as a cholesterol-lowering agent were reversed by clinical studies conducted in 2007. One study, published in the February 26, 2007 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, concluded that neither garlic supplements nor fresh garlic lowered the LDL cholesterol levels of 192 men and women aged 30 to 65 over a six-month period.
Garlic and sex
Garlic is purported to help maintain healthy testosterone levels in men and boost the libido of both men and women.