Garlic Health Benefits make It a top healing herb choice by experts like James A. Duke, PhD, former chief of the US Agriculture Medicinal Plant Resources Laboratory and Cancer Screening Program, and Andrew Weil, MD, clinical professor of medicine and director of the Program for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.
Garlic (like ginger, ginseng, reishi mushroom, green tea and milk thistle) enjoys a long fascinating history as a medicine. For instance, it has long been used to treat infections including the plague, and even repelling vampires!
Dr. Duke says, when doing research in the jungles of Panama, those who ate the most garlic were less likely to be bitten by vampire bats!
Now, science supports its use for some of our most vexing health problems like heart disease, cancer, and infections. There is rich scientific and other support for garlic health benefits. Here are 7 of the most noted.
Garlic Health Benefits
- Superior Tonic for the Cardiovascular System:
- Slows the development of “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis).
- Acts as a natural treatment for hypertension.
- Lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raises protective HDL.
- Inhibits blood clotting by reducing the tendency of platelets to clump together.
- Powerful Antiseptic and Antibiotic:
- Counteracts the growth of many kinds of bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi.
- May reduce the frequency and number of colds when taken preventively.
- Boosts the Immune system.
- Recommended as a food additive to prevent food poisoning due to evidence that fresh garlic can kill certain bacteria (E. coli, antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus aureus, and salmonella enteritidis).
- May treat helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria that can cause ulcers.
- May reduce the number of tick bites when taken in high doses over about a five-month period.
- Anticancer Agent:
- Stimulates natural-killer (NK) cells (the main defense against cancer).
- Inactivates some carcinogens and protects DNA from damage.
- Eating garlic seems to reduce the risk of colon cancer, rectal cancer, stomach cancer and possibly prostate cancer (supplements don’t seem to offer the same benefit).
- Antioxidant action protects cells from degenerative changes especially in the liver and brain.
- A rich dietary source of many nutrients including the rare trace element, selenium. Selenium is required to produce the potent antioxidant glutathione perioxidase (acts as a potent antioxidant that destroys fungus and yeasts such as candida).
- Prized in the Orients as a potent sexual tonic. So much so the it’s strictly prohibited in monastic kitchens throughout the Far Eat, reports Daniel Reid, in The Complete Book of Chinese Health & Healing.
- Weight Loss: Animal studies suggest that garlic acts as an appetite suppressant as it gives the brain signals of satiety (feeling satisfied) and increases metabolism.
Its best to simply eat fresh garlic in your foods, says Weil. Be sure to crush, chop or nick the clove as this helps release its many healing compounds.
Processed forms of garlic (garlic powder, pills, capsules, and preserved garlic) may not provide all the many useful effects of the fresh whole herb.
Use this healthy food in recipes like hummus and salads. It’s often used in Mediterranean diet recipes. You can use it in thin slices on sandwiches, too. When using garlic in cooked recipes, add it at the end of cooking time since heat destroys some of the herb’s properties.
If you do use garlic in a supplement form, look for products that list standardized allicin. Allicin is the most studied of the many sulfur-containing compounds in garlic. It has many therapeutic effects but also makes garlic smell.
If garlic’s odor is a concern, green tea, parsley, and coriander can help, says Duke. “If you eat garlic regularly—and others have a good attitude—any odor from it should be hardly noticeable,” reports Weil.
If you can’t eat garlic due to allergy or some other concern, try onions instead. They are in the same family as garlic and offer many of the same benefits, reports Duke.
Safety and Special Precautions
Garlic is safe when taken by mouth, although some people have reported gastrointestinal upset. When taken in large quantities garlic may increase the risk of bleeding.
Check with your health care provider before using garlic if you have a bleeding disorder, are on medications, or are scheduled for surgery within two weeks.
Garlic Health Benefits Dosage
The following doses have been used in scientific research, according to experts of the National Institute of Health’s MedlinePlus:
- High Blood Pressure Treatment:
- Garlic extract 600-1200 mg divided and given three times daily.
- Fresh garlic 4 grams (approximately one clove) once daily (fresh garlic typically contains 1% alliin).
- Cancer Prevention (colon, rectal, and stomach cancer):
- Fresh or cooked garlic 3.5-29 grams weekly.
- Men in China who eat about a clove of garlic daily seem to have a 50% lower risk of developing prostate cancer (whether this benefit applies to men in Western countries is not known).
- Fungal Skin Infections (Ringworm, Jock Itch, Athlete’s Foot) Treatment: Garlic ingredient ajoene as a 0.4% cream, 0.6% gel, and 1% gel applied to the skin of affected areas twice daily for one week.
Garlic health benefits make it a top natural healing herb choice of many nutritional experts. It’s most noted for strengthening the cardiovascular system, preventing and fighting infections, and cancer prevention. It has a whole host of other benefits, too.
It works best when eaten whole (crushed, chopped, or nicked). Eat about a garlic clove most days to fully enjoy garlic health benefits!
Sources and Resources
Elkayam A., et.al, “The effects of allicin on weight in fructose-induced hyperinsulinemic, hyperlipidemic, hypertensive rats,” American Journal of Hypertension, 16, no. 12 (2003):1053-6.
MedlinePlus, “Garlic” at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/300.html.
Duke, James, The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods: Proven Natural Remedies to Treat and Prevent More Than 80 Common Health Concerns (Rodalestore.com: Rodale, 2008).
Reid, Daniel, The Complete Book of Chinese Health & Healing (Boston: Shambhala, 1995).
USDA Nutrient Date Laboratory at http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/index.html.
Weil, Andrew, 8 Weeks to Optimal Health (New York: Ballantine Books, 2007).