Wikipedia says garlic is an Apotropaic—items able to ward off revenants—common in vampire folklore. Garlic is a common example.
Now, I personally do not believe this. Although, being born in New Orleans, and Cajun and Creole food being food filled with garlic, I have never seen a Vampire which would make sense.
The ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, often considered the father of Western medicine, once said: “Let food be their medicine, and medicine be their food.” As it turns out, Hippocrates often treated a variety of medical conditions by prescribing garlic. In the last few centuries, modern science has confirmed what Hippocrates already knew—garlic has multiple health benefits.
Obviously this was just a mild attempt at humor. Let us get to the real meat of the information about garlic.
Potent Medicinal Properties
Garlic is in the allium family, which is also the classification for onions. As such, it is closely related in genetics to onions, leeks, and shallots. A garlic bulb is standardly divided into sections, known as cloves. Each garlic bulb has approximately 10-20 cloves, give or take. Garlic is proliferate, and as such, grows in many parts of the world. It is a popular addition to many food dishes, due to its delicious taste and strong smell.
However, cooking notwithstanding, garlic plays a primary role in its properties related to health and medicine through history. Modern science has discovered that the health benefits the garlic offers come primarily from the sulfur compounds that develop when a clove is chopped, crushed, or in some cases, chewed.
Two other compounds that play a significant role in the health benefits offered by garlic are diallyl disulfide and s-allyl cysteine. When ingested, the sulfur compounds enter into the digestive tract, which serves to transport it all over the body. It is then able to put its potent effects to work.
Calorie for calorie, garlic is highly nutritious. One standard sized clove of raw garlic contains manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, Selenium, and Fiber. All of these compounds contain only 4.5 calories, with the added benefit of 0.2 grams of protein and only the 1 gram of carbohydrates. In fact, garlic contains a trace amount of just about every nutrient that our body needs.
Can Take On The Common Cold
In recent years, garlic has made the news for its ability to boost the function of the immune system. In a 12 week study, data showed that when taking a garlic supplement once a day, compared to a placebo, the number of colds in the study group was reduced by 63%. Cold symptoms, on average, were seen to be reduced by 70% as well. Then, in another study, when given a high dose of garlic extract, participants show a reduction in the overall number of days they were sick with the cold, or the flu, by 61%. There are still those that feel that there is still insufficient evidence and that more research is needed.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Two of the world’s biggest killers are those of heart attack and stroke—both of which are byproducts of cardiovascular disease. However, one of the biggest drivers of cardiovascular disease is hypertension or high blood pressure. Studies of human trials show that garlic supplements do, in fact, have a significant impact when taken by those individuals who have high blood pressure. The data obtained from one study showed that 600-1500 mg regimen of aged garlic extract was as effective is not more effective as the blood pressure reducing drug Atenolol over a 24 week trial period. The study also showed that the dose required to get the desired effect equaled to four cloves of garlic daily.
Studies have shown that garlic is also effective in lowering both total and LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. For those individuals who have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, supplementing their diet with garlic has shown to reduce their total or LDL cholesterol by as much as 10-15%. Although it has proved to work on LDL, garlic does not appear to have any reliable effect on HDL—the “good” cholesterol. Finally, high triglycerides, which have been shown to play a factor in the risk of heart disease, seem unaffected by garlic.
Oxidant damage, caused by free radicals, is thought to contribute to the body’s aging process. Antioxidants present in garlic have shown to help in supporting the body’s mechanisms that protect against the damage due to oxidants. High dose supplementing of garlic has shown to increase human antioxidant enzymes while at the same time significantly reducing the overall oxidative stress that occurs in those with high blood pressure. The combined reduction in these effects, along with the antioxidant properties, is thought to aid in reducing the risk in such brain diseases as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Although it is virtually impossible to prove in humans, it is thought that the supplementing of garlic may play a part in overall longevity. However, given the effect that garlic has on such risk factors as blood pressure, it only follows to logic that garlic could also play a part in helping you live longer. With the ability to fight off infectious diseases, which present as common causes of death, especially in the elderly and immune-compromised, points toward its aid in lengthening our lives.
Many individuals are unaware of the fact that garlic was one of the earliest forms of “performance-enhancing” substances. In ancient cultures, garlic was put to use as a means to reduce fatigue and to enhance the abilities of workers. Olympic athletes, in ancient Greece, made use of garlic in competition. In studies, individuals who took a six week regimen of garlic oil show a 12% reduction in their peak heart rate and experience an improvement in exercise capacity.
Although there have been no studies on the effects of garlic on overall bone health, studies in rodents have shown that garlic increases estrogen in females, which in turn minimizes and reduces bone loss. A study that supplemented menopausal women with 2 grams of raw garlic daily showed a significant decrease in estrogen deficiency.
For centuries, garlic has been thought to not only liven up many dishes, but to have inherent medicinal benefits as well. Modern medicine has finally caught up with this field of thought and confirmed that the benefits are, in fact, real.