Why Garlic is Good For You
To many people, there is no better addition to a meal than garlic. However, its flavour-enhancing ability isn’t the only thing that makes garlic great: it also has a number of beneficial medicinal attributes, including immune support, and positively impacting infection and cardiovascular disease.
Once referred to as “Russian penicillin” for its widespread use as a topical and systemic antimicrobial agent, garlic has a long and prestigious history, lauded for its healing abilities, including (but certainly not limited to!) the folklore legend of warding off vampires! In fact, its usage predates written history, and has been found in Sanskrit records that are 5000 years old!
Garlic’s healing properties, long hailed for their ability to battle bacteria, fungus, and parasites, are mainly due to the broad-spectrum antimicrobial compound allicin, a volatile oil manufactured by enzymes present in garlic. It has been shown to be effective against various bacteria, including H. pylori, E. coli, and various forms of Staphylococcus.
In both in vitro (outside a living organism) and in vivo (within a living organism) studies, garlic has also been shown to contain strong antifungal qualities. One of the most significant clinical indications is its ability to inhibit Candida albicans with both animal and in vitro studies showing it to be more potent than nystatin, gentian violet, and other antifungal agents. Further, studies have found that both Entamoeba histolytica and Giardia lamblia (human intestinal parasites), are very sensitive to garlic’s allicin.
Allicin has also been recognized as having strong antiviral properties against such viruses as herpes simplex types 1 and 2, as well as some influenza viruses. It is important to note that the antiviral efficacy of garlic-containing supplements is dependent on the preparation process and the amount of allicin that is present. This is true of many of the above noted antimicrobial effects of garlic.
Savoury Immune Support
There is a growing amount of research looking at the immune-potentiating properties of garlic aiming to better understand how garlic works by activating the body’s immune and pathogen fighting cells, such as T-cells, macrophages, and neutrophils. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial over three months showed that when the participants consumed 180 mg/day of a powdered garlic preparation, the number of colds, and the duration of illness, was reduced by approximately one third.
We Love Garlic
Likely the most significant of garlic’s amazing powers is its ability to lower cholesterol levels. Garlic has been shown to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, and to increase HDL (good cholesterol). The combination of lowering LDL and raising HDL has numerous cardiovascular benefits, including prevention of heart disease. Garlic has also been shown to be an effective and safe treatment for hypertension (high blood pressure) via the vasodilation effects of allicin. In order to help lower cholesterol, it has been suggested to not only consume a garlic supplement, but it is also worthwhile to increase dietary intake of garlic.
For the majority of individuals, garlic is non-toxic. For some, it may cause irritation to the digestive system. If you have diabetes or are taking blood thinners or protease inhibitors, consult with your healthcare provider first.