heads and cloves of garlic

Garlic is valued in many parts of the world for its pungent aroma and flavor. It is possible that garlic’s biological activity and popularity in Mediterranean cuisines contribute to the healthful effects of the “Mediterranean diet.”

Most investigations of garlic’s health benefits have considered its medicinal rather than culinary uses, however.

Medicinal use of garlic goes back to Greek and Egyptian antiquity. Hippocrates prescribed it for leprosy, toothache, and chest pain. Galen considered it a cure-all readily accessible to everyone.

One old tradition holds that garlic protected four convicts from the plague in Marseilles. They were released from prison in 1721 to bury the dead with the expectation that they would succumb quickly. Their survival was attributed to their habit of imbibing garlic juice mixed with vinegar and wine.

Garlic was used in the nineteenth century for tuberculosis and into World War II for disinfecting battlefield wounds.

It is frequently used in an attempt to ward off or treat the common cold.

The herb is available in many forms, including fresh bulbs, oil-based extracts, dried powder, and steam-distilled extracts.

To maximize the anti-cancer activity of fresh garlic in cooking, crush or mince it at least ten minutes before heating.

Active Ingredients

Sulfur compounds give garlic its characteristic pungent aroma and probably account for some of the flavor. They also appear to be responsible for most of the medicinal properties of this herb, although the trace minerals germanium and selenium may also play a role.

An inert compound, alliin, is converted to allicin once the clove is cut or crushed.

In Europe, standardized extracts of garlic are supposed to contain at least 0.45 percent allicin, a compound that breaks down into most of the active components, such as ajoene.

Chemical analysis of garlic products shows that concentrations of sulfur compounds vary enormously.

Uses

Garlic is widely used for its cardiovascular benefits, although the results of two American trials on its ability to lower cholesterol were disappointing.

An analysis of twenty-six other studies showed cholesterol reduced, on the average, by approximately 10 percent.

In some studies, dangerous LDL cholesterol dropped by 16 percent, while other research has shown increases in beneficial HDL with long-term use.

Although the cholesterol-lowering power of garlic appears modest, the herb is reported to reduce oxidation of LDL and seems to have other cardioprotective effects.

Several garlic-derived chemicals can help slow blood clotting by keeping blood platelets from clumping together. In addition, garlic helps to break up or prevent blood clots through fibrinolytic action.

Since many heart attacks and strokes are believed to be caused by spontaneous clots in blood vessels, these anticoagulant actions could be very helpful.

Garlic may also lower blood pressure, but it is less effective in this respect than are medicines. It is helpful, however, in keeping blood vessels to the heart flexible in older people.

Research in rats and dogs also indicates that fresh garlic and garlic extracts can correct certain irregular heart rhythms.

Test tube research has established that garlic extracts are active against a range of bacteria, including such nasties as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae. It is only about 1 percent as active as penicillin, however.

Garlic extract can also fight Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that causes stomach ulcers. Perhaps garlic should be added to the combination of drugs used to eradicate this bug and cure ulcers, but we’ll have to await clinical research to confirm this.

Garlic extracts are comparable to antifungal drugs against fungal infections of the skin and the ear.

One of the most intriguing possibilities for garlic is that regular ingestion may help prevent cancer. Studies in China comparing people in one region where garlic is commonly eaten (20 grams, or approximately seven cloves a day, on average) with those in another region where daily consumption is less than half a clove found the garlic eaters were much less likely to suffer stomach cancer.

Other studies have indicated that people who eat garlic more often seem less susceptible to stomach or colon cancer. Animal research confirms that garlic has the potential to improve resistance to tumors, and test tube research shows that garlic can interfere with some cancer-causing chemicals.

Garlic can reduce blood sugar levels and may improve insulin response.

Dose

For cardiovascular conditions: one clove daily, equivalent to 6 to 10 mg of alliin, or 3 to 5 mg of allicin. Treatment is maintained indefinitely.

For common cold prevention/treatment: one clove three times a day, until symptoms resolve.

For a standardized product tested in Germany, look for Kwai. Read product label for proper dosage.

Special Precautions

Because garlic can slow blood clotting, German authorities recommend that patients avoid this herb in the period just prior to and following surgery.

Those with chronic digestive problems should be cautious, because high doses of garlic can irritate the intestinal tract.

Pregnant women should exercise moderation; at high doses, garlic extracts can stimulate uterine contractions in animals.

People with low thyroid function should be aware that concentrated garlic products may keep the thyroid gland from utilizing iodine properly. This could aggravate an underactive thyroid condition.

Adverse Effects

In rats, high doses of garlic led to weight loss and damage to the stomach lining. Humans taking garlic oil at a dose equivalent to twenty cloves daily for three months did not report problems.

Most people appear to tolerate garlic well, but some individuals experience digestive distress.

People who handle garlic products occasionally develop a skin reaction on exposure (contact dermatitis).
Ingesting fresh garlic and most extracts results in a characteristic breath odor. This has been linked to the active sulfur-containing compounds. Parsley is recommended as a home remedy for garlic breath.

Possible Interactions

Although there are no studies of interactions, in theory garlic could increase the risk of bleeding in people taking anticoagulants such as Coumadin, aspirin, Plavix, or Ticlid.

There is also a possibility that this herb could interact with drugs such as DiaBeta or Glucotrol that lower blood sugar. Careful monitoring is suggested for anyone combining garlic products with such prescription drugs. Garlic appears to inhibit an enzyme called CYP 2E1. In most cases, this interference is welcome, since this enzyme can make carcinogens more dangerous. But CYP 2E1 is also involved in the metabolism of acetaminophen (Panadol, Tylenol, etc.) and a muscle relaxant called chlorzoxazone (Parafon Forte). These drugs could possibly linger longer in people who are taking or eating garlic.

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  1. TAURUS
    14217
    Reply

    Hello Everyone!
    I just did the garlic “bomb” again, Saturday, May 14th, by consuming 16 cloves of RAW garlic along with white rice and hot & sour soup. As I stated in my previous posts, you can see that I do this twice a year, around April and October. The funny part for me is that I have been told that I look like I am 50 years old when actually I just turned 68 and did two tours in ‘NAM.

    I am not saying that I am perfect or better than everyone else, but, if by ingesting something that is MORE natural than taking a pill, isn’t that better? I also like to eat onion sandwiches with whole wheat bread, olive oil, parmesan cheese, oregano, salt and pepper on a somewhat regular basis. My wife says that I am fortunate to have something that seems to work and keeps me healthy. Well, maybe it is working, but, don’t you think it is worth trying to eat more naturally than taking a pill? I remember reading an article about garlic as the “Russian penicillin” to cure pneumonia.

    Anyway, today is Tuesday, May 17th, and the odor/smell is gone and everything is back to normal. Give it a try gang and see if there is a difference for you.

  2. TAURUS
    14217
    Reply

    Thank you for your time.
    I have written several times on various subjects.
    I just want you to know that last Friday, I consumed 13 cloves of RAW garlic to fortify myself against the flu and colds. I do this every April and October. I am 67 years old and have been doing this for over 35+ years. I rarely get the flu or colds. In this time I believe I have had only 4 episodes of flu, or a sniffle. My record is 27 cloves of RAW garlic in one sitting. I take a quart of hot and sour soup, a quart of white rice, and one to two bulbs of raw garlic. I put one clove in my mouth and start chewing. It burns like hell from the strong sulfur compounds but is worth it. I take a tablespoon full of rice and dip it in the soup and combine it all together and chew it up, swallow and start all over until I get at least 12 cloves down. Wait for the burn to subside before you proceed. Yes, it is extreme but the benefits of the natural sulfur compounds and enzymes that it gives you is tremendous. It takes three days to leave your body and comes out of your pores when you do it.

    My daughters disagree with me about the subject. One is a pharmacist and the other is a teacher. I ask them, “Why do you get colds and the flu and I don’t” ! All I get is dirty looks. The benefits of NATURAL sulfur and enzymes from garlic and onions is enormous! Do not cook it. Heat destroys the beneficial properties. So what if you stink for a few days?! You are more healthy than most. I have had colonoscopies at 50, 55 and 62 and each time the doctor said to my wife “Tell him to keep doing what he is doing. His colon is pink, healthy and no polyps.” Wouldn’t you want to be HEALTHY? After two tours in “NAM, garlic is the least I am worried about. Listen to holistic Mother Nature and she may surprise you! My regular doctor is Italian and he thinks I am crazy for what I do. Oh, well.

  3. sarah
    lagos
    Reply

    Garlic is very good to the body and it refreshes the body.

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