Garlic has also been referred to as the food that one avoids before meeting someone! You can make anyone run miles away from you if you have garlic breath. It is unpleasant yes, but the substance which gives this peculiar odour to garlic, also is responsible for various benefits of garlic. It has been used as an herb for many generations, as well as for its medicinal value.
Garlic plant belongs to the same family as Onions and Leek. It has been in use for over 7000 years and is a native plant of Central Asia. It has been in use for culinary and medicinal purposes. It has a strong and pungent flavour. A single bulb of the Garlic plant is made up of several segments known as cloves. One bulb can contain anywhere between 10-20 cloves, except for Pearl Garlic, which has single clove. Garlic leaves and flowers are also used in culinary preparations and they impart a mild flavour than the cloves.
Why Garlic is considered medicinal?
The medicinal properties of Garlic can be attributed to an active compound called as “Allicin” which is a sulphur compound. It is produced when Garlic is crushed, cut or chewed and is present in the form of an oily liquid with a pungent smell. Garlic also contains various flavonoids which are responsible for some of the benefits of garlic. It is considered to be a medicinal herb because it has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral properties, along with having anti-oxidant properties.
Benefits of Garlic:
1. Reduces Cholesterol & Improves Heart Health:
High cholesterol levels increase the risk of developing heart disease. Having a garlic odour is a small price to pay if it is going to help you in getting your cholesterol levels down, although you can always take supplements. It has long been known as an herb which is good for heart health.
Various studies have been carried out on the effectiveness of garlic in this context, and there is ongoing research as well. It has been found that the total cholesterol as well as LDL or bad cholesterol levels reduce by almost 10-15% by garlic supplementation. There hasn’t been a significant impact on the HDL cholesterol levels, they do not increase or decrease. The cholesterol lowering benefit is attributed to the organosulfur compounds present in Garlic, one of which is Allicin.
Eat Garlic because: It reduces cholesterol levels, thereby improving your heart health.
2. Reduces Blood Pressure
Increased blood pressure or Hypertension is referred to as a Silent Killer, because it does not have major symptoms initially, but can result in various life threatening situations. According to WHO, 7.5 million deaths have been caused due to increased blood pressure!
If you ensure you have garlic added to your diet on a daily basis, you can significantly decrease your blood pressure and with that all the corresponding conditions like heart attack and stroke.
In a study of 50 patients on treatment for uncontrolled hypertension, aged garlic extract reduced the systolic blood pressure as effectively as the medication.
For hypertension also, the compound which is beneficial is Allicin. However, the amount of Allicin required to have this effect, is equivalent to 4 cloves of garlic.
Eat Garlic because: Reduces Hypertension, thereby reducing risk of heart attack and stroke.
3. Reduces Risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Conditions of the mind are very difficult to deal with, especially since there are no obvious physical symptoms. Alzheimer’s and Dementia is hard for the person suffering from it as well as the family and care givers.
Ageing is fastened due to oxidative stress, which increases when there are high number of free radicals in the body. Garlic is known to have antioxidants, which protect the body from the damage caused by these free radicals. It is also seen that the intake of garlic causes the anti-oxidative enzymes to increase. This is quite important and beneficial in preventing brain diseases.
This works well in the elderly population because of its combined effect of anti-oxidant activity, reducing cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Eat Garlic because: Slows down ageing process, increases longevity and prevents conditions like Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
4. Bone Health in Women
Menopausal women have long been known to suffer from osteoporosis, osteoarthritis or other bone disorders and it is mainly attributed to the low estrogen levels in the body. Garlic can help women in dealing with bone health, by elevating the estrogen.
Animal studies performed on female rodents have shown that the garlic increased the estrogen levels and thus there was a decrease in bone loss. Besides this, the other mode of action could also be by the increase in transfer of calcium in the intestine.
In a human study, menopausal women showed benefit by having garlic, where the marker for estrogen deficiency also reduced significantly.
Eat Garlic because: Improves Estrogen levels and thus improves various associated health conditions, mainly bone health.
We add a lot of toxins into our body on a daily basis, which get accumulated and can cause problems. One such example is of heavy metals, like lead, which can cause toxicity in the body.
In a study, garlic supplementation was compared with another medicine, on 117 workers of a car battery factory, who had been exposed to lead. It was found that garlic was much more effective and safe, without much side effects as well. For mild and moderate lead poisoning, garlic supplementation can be recommended.
Garlic is effective because the heavy metal from the body, bind with the sulphur compounds present in garlic and are eliminated from the system.
Eat Garlic because: It helps in detoxification of heavy metals from the body.
6. Hair fall and other related conditions
Garlic can be used as an effective agent against hair fall and dandruff, lets read on to know how. Allicin again comes to the rescue and can be helpful for hair loss problems. You can rub garlic directly on the scalp or you can use oil which has been infused with garlic.
Dandruff: The flaky dry skin is a common but embarrassing condition. It sometimes leads to itching as well, and worsens in certain weathers. Garlic is an excellent herbal remedy for dandruff due to its anti-fungal properties. Crushed garlic has high concentration of Allicin, which helps in dealing with dandruff. You can use garlic both orally and topically as treatment against dandruff. Keeping the crushed garlic for 10-15 minutes, before eating or applying, helps in increasing its allicin content.
Eat Garlic because: Helps reduce the hair loss and get rid of the unsightly dandruff problem.
7. Skin ailments
Garlic can be used for cosmetic purposes like getting rid of acne. Those zits that appear on your cheeks out of nowhere can be taken care of by a clove of garlic. For topical application you can cut a clove of garlic and rub it against the pimple or blemish. The bacteria will be killed by the anti-oxidants present in garlic
Psoriasis: It can be very difficult to deal with. Garlic can be helpful even for this condition. All you need to do is take garlic oil and apply on the affected portion of the skin. The anti-inflammatory action of garlic will help in reducing the rash and giving a smooth skin. It also inhibits the activity of an enzyme called lipoxygenase, which is responsible for causing the inflammation in patients with psoriasis.
Cold sores: They can also be treated by applying crushed garlic or garlic oil on the sore. The healing process speeds up, as well as the anti-inflammatory action helps. Another skin condition – Athlete’s foot – can benefit by using garlic. The itchiness reduces, because of the anti-fungal properties of Garlic.
Wrinkles: Cosmetic companies charge a bomb for anti-ageing, anti-wrinkles creams. Men is forever in search of finding the elixir of life. Well garlic will help in taking care of the wrinkles and pre-mature fine lines appearing on the face. Include raw garlic in the diet for it to work. The effect is attributed to the anti-oxidant activity of allicin, and the presence of nutrients like zinc, selenium and vitamin C. Due to these same reasons, it is beneficial against UV radiation as well.
Eat Garlic because: It has a host of benefits for the skin. Topical application can help in dealing with various different types of skin ailments.
8. Common Cold
Common cold & Flu is a condition which is seen very frequently and can be caused when the immune system is down. Immune system gets a boost by consumption of garlic, by the anti-oxidants, and it would make sense to add ensure that your diet also has a healthy supply of garlic in it. You can also opt for garlic tea, to help you deal with the cold.
In a 12 week study of 146 volunteers, it was seen that the group taking garlic supplements had very few occurrences of cold as compared to the placebo group. The duration of cold also was reduced to 1.5 days for garlic group to 5 days of placebo group.
Another study of 120 subjects concluded that consumption of aged garlic helps in reduces severity of cold and flu.
Eat Garlic because: Garlic helps in fighting cold and flu because of its anti-microbial and anti-viral properties.
9. Reduces risk of Cancer
Cancer is a dreaded disease which affects different parts of the body and claims many lives. Besides the usual anti-cancer treatment and medication, various foods have been attributed with anti-cancer properties; garlic is one of them.
The allicin in garlic plays an important role in anti-cancer activities, by activating certain cell molecules. These molecules prevent the formation of cancerous cells. When garlic is consumed on a daily basis, which is considered as high intake, it helps in lowering the risk of almost all types of cancers, with the exception of breast cancer and prostate cancer. For weekly or moderate intake of garlic, risk of renal and colorectal cancer is reduced.
In a case control study with 102 gastric cancer subjects, it was found that allium vegetables like garlic, onion and leek, helped in reducing risk of gastric cancer.
Eat Garlic because: Eating it on a daily basis has the potential to reduce the risk of many types of cancers.
10. Weight loss
Most of the people these days want to lose weight which they have gained mainly due to a sedentary lifestyle. Lack of exercise along with junk food consumption is one of the key contributing factors of weight gain. Wouldn’t it be amazing if incorporating garlic in your meals or supplementing with it can help you lose weight!
In a recent study, mice were fed with a high fat diet for 8 weeks to make them obese. After this they were fed with the same diet with garlic supplementation of 2-5% for further 7 weeks. It was found that the body weight and fat deposits reduced in the mice. This is because garlic increases thermogenesis and thus helps in weight loss.
The mode of action is also said to be because the synthesis of lipids in the liver gets inhibited and there is a rise in the level of serum glucose. Both these factors lower serum glucose and increase the level of glycogen in the liver.
Eat Garlic because: This is a promising study and will definitely show positive results in humans as well for weight loss.
11. Enhances Physical Performance
Athletes use variety of substances to improve their performance on field. They try to stick to substances which are not banned, but yet are helpful in improving the results. Garlic has been known to be helpful since ancient cultures as a performance enhancer.
One of the most examined benefits of garlic in this context is that it helps in reducing fatigue. Although the mode of action is not very clear, it has been seen in various studies that administration of garlic as an anti-fatigue agent is quite beneficial. It can be physical or systemic fatigue.