Our ancestors swore by garlic's many health benefits and now modern science is proving that garlic does indeed offer effective remedies for quite a few ailments. Here are 12 good reasons to make this medicinal herb a part of your daily diet.
Most Indian households are used to the pungent smell and distinct flavour of garlic in their food. However, not many are aware of its incredible health benefits. Did you know that during World War 1 garlic was used as an antiseptic to clean wounds? Hippocrates, the Greek physician recognised as ‘the father of western medicine’, is believed to have prescribed the herb for treating a wide range of conditions, such as indigestion, respiratory distress and chronic fatigue. Today, scientific research finds that garlic can actually improve blood circulation, help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, among a host of other health advantages.
Garlic packs quite a powerful punch. In 100 grams of this medicinal herb, you will find about 150 calories, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 6.36 grams protein, 2.1 grams fibre and 0.5 grams fat. That’s not all, there’s also a dash of Vitamins (C, B1, B2, B3, B6), folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and zinc. As you would expect, this little wonder is great for your health. Let’s look at 12 benefits of munching on garlic:
1. Matters of the heart
Allicin, the sulphur-containing compound of garlic, prevents our blood vessels from getting blocked and thereby helps reduce the hardening of the arteries. As we age, the arteries tend to lose their ability to stretch and flex. Garlic is shown to help the arteries maintain their elasticity.
In China, garlic has been used as blood pressure (BP) medication for ages. In fact, research shows that garlic consumption can reduce BP by seven to eight per cent in hypertension (high BP) patients.
The activity of angiotensin II, the protein responsible for causing hypertension, is known to be blocked by allicin in garlic. Also, the polysulphides in garlic are converted into hydrogen sulphide by the red blood cells, thereby dilating the blood vessels and keeping the BP in check. Eating one pod of raw garlic on an empty stomach every day is believed to work wonders for one’s BP.
3. Cholesterol check
For those struggling to keep their cholesterol levels in control, garlic offers immense relief. Studies have shown how garlic supplementation can reduce cholesterol – total and LDL (“bad cholesterol”) – especially in those who have a history of high cholesterol. This is mainly due to the anti-oxidant properties of allicin, which also helps regulate blood sugar levels.
4. Cancer shield
Quite a few studies have shown a strong correlation between daily consumption of garlic and reduced risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the stomach, colon, oesophagus, pancreas, prostate and breast. This is chiefly because of diallyl sulphide found in garlic, said to strengthen the body’s immunity against cancer.
Another interesting research shows that organosulphur compounds found in garlic are effective in combating glioblastomas, a type of deadly brain tumour.
5. Cold & cough cure
Modern medicine may not have found a cure for common cold yet, but our ancestors knew that boiling cloves of garlic and sipping it like tea makes the cold disappear in no time. Research has now proved that garlic can actually help prevent as well as reduce the severity of not just common cold, but also flu, throat irritations, upper respiratory tract infections and chronic bronchitis.
The next time you feel a bit under the weather, try adding some fresh garlic to that hot soup for instant relief. Regular intake of this white herb is believed to boost immunity against common infections.
6. Skin deep
Blessed with antibacterial and antiviral properties, garlic is extremely effective in treating skin infections, too. Ajoene, another organosulphur compound in garlic, is known to remedy fungal infections like ringworm and athlete’s foot. All you need to do is apply the juice of crushed garlic cloves on the affected area and wash it off with some clean water; repeat the process for a couple of days.
There’s enough evidence to suggest that garlic provides relief from skin ailments like eczema as well. It can also help your skin look flawless and young by slowing down the depletion of collagen.
7. Allergy issues
For people who are prone to allergies, garlic is a brilliant addition to the daily diet. Studies have established that garlic is effective in improving conditions like allergic rhinitis (allergic airway inflammation). Similarly, skin rashes are also known to be cured in a jiffy with the application of some raw garlic juice on the affected area.
8. Tooth troubles
Don’t fancy visiting a dentist to have that troublesome tooth looked at? You could simply crush some garlic and apply it on the hurting tooth. The allicin in garlic is known to help slow down bacterial activity and provide relief from toothaches. Given its anti-bacterial and analgesic properties, garlic extract actually makes for a great mouthwash. Don’t worry about breath issues, just have some fennel seeds.
9. Weight & watch
If the weighing scale is a recurring part of your nightmares, it is time to have two garlic cloves with some lukewarm lemon juice every morning. Research shows that garlic can help regulate the formation of fat cells in our body by preventing the conversion of pre-adipocytes to adipocytes.
10. Detox mantra
Once you inculcate the habit of starting the day by eating two cloves of garlic with some lukewarm lemon juice, one of the first side-effects you’ll notice is no acne! This is because the sulphur-containing compounds in garlic are known to activate the liver enzymes responsible for expelling toxins from the body. Also, allicin and selenium are important nutrients present in garlic that protect the liver from damage. Its antioxidants destroy free radicals, which are notorious for damaging DNA and cell membranes.
11. Age no bar
Given that the antioxidants in garlic protect against cell damage and ageing, researchers speculate that it may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Studies are still underway in this regard. As of today, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and dementia; the current medications only treat the symptoms.
12. Small mercies
Sometimes, it is the small, niggling issues that cause more stress. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a magic cure at hand? Well, garlic is as good as it gets. Did you know that rubbing crushed garlic extract on your scalp can prevent and even reverse hair loss?
Also, to treat splinters, just place a piece of cut garlic over the crack and cover with a bandage. Given that it is a natural antibiotic, garlic has the ability to eliminate harmful bacteria. What’s more, unlike chemical antibiotics, it does not kill healthy bacteria.
Using it the right way
There’s no doubt about the innumerable health benefits of this wonder herb. However, you may not reap any of it, despite the best of efforts, if you don’t consume garlic the right way. Many households make the mistake of cooking garlic without crushing it, or using it immediately after it is crushed. Some even store garlic in the refrigerator. Here are seven guidelines to ensure that you get the maximum health benefits from garlic:
Always buy garlic that is firm to touch. If it is soft, it has, in all likelihood, started to sprout.
It is best to store garlic at room temperature in an open container, away from exposure to heat and sunlight. This way, it’ll stay fresh for a couple of weeks, provided you don’t break up the garlic bulb. In that case, you need to use up the cloves in a few days.
Never cook garlic without crushing it. Once crushed, allow it to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. This allows time for the enzyme reactions that boost the allicin content in garlic.
Avoid cooking garlic at high heat. It is best consumed raw or lightly cooked.
Allicin, the magic compound that makes garlic healthy, is also the cause for its strong smell. So, beware of ‘odourless’ garlic powders or extracts as they may be less effective. Also, if you prefer to take it as supplements, opt for those with enteric coating; they will dissolve in the intestine and not in the stomach.
Fresh garlic is the best. Store-bought pastes and powders may be convenient, but they are not that effective in terms of their remedial powers.
There are no side-effects to garlic. That said, some people may be allergic to it. Also, if you are on blood-thinning medication or suffer from a bleeding disorder, do consult your doctor before increasing your garlic consumption.