Health benefits of garlic“Garlic is to health what fragrance is to a rose” —Proverb from Auvergne region, France

Garlic has been used by many cultures throughout history, both as a culinary herb and as a medicine. Throughout India’s history, garlic was a common ingredient for medicinal treatments. The first written record of garlic’s medicinal use in Ancient India is found in a medical text called Charaka-Samhita, which has been dated from approximately 2000 years ago. In this text, garlic is recommended to improve heart function, and was later used in fighting off infections and worms, as well as treating fatigue and digestive ailments.

Cholesterol: Garlic also acts as an antioxidant, which can help to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels by preventing the build-up of cholesterol in the arteries. A reduction in cholesterol build-up can then, in turn, reduce one’s risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Defending Against Cancer: With its relatively high levels of vitamin C, selenium, and manganese, garlic is packed full of antioxidants, which are used to defend against cancer-causing free radicals. Garlic has been shown to lower the risk of a number of common cancers, including breast and colon cancer. Try pairing it with onions, which also contain many of the same free radical fighting properties. Or you can add garlic to any dish with meat, thereby lowering the meat’s carcinogenic effects.

Garlic as an Antibiotic: Allicin is a powerful antifungal and antibiotic compound found in crushed or finely chopped garlic. Allicin does not occur naturally in garlic, but is produced by a reaction between the amino acid alliin and the enzyme allinase that occurs during chopping or crushing. Try eating extra garlic to ward off a cold, or even the flu. In addition to this, it can help reduce damage caused by peptic ulcers. Garlic can also act as an anti-inflammatory, making it perfect for those suffering from arthritis.

Garlic and Heart Health: Garlic has a number of ways to help improve cardiovascular health.

High Blood Pressure: The sulfides in garlic help to lower blood pressure and, unlike allicin, the healing properties of these sulfides are not lessened through cooking, so even cooked garlic can be effective. Keep in mind, however, that garlic needs to be crushed in order for the sulfides to be effective.

Because allicin breaks down fairly quickly, the health benefits of this compound decrease over time, a process that is quickened by the cooking process. You should avoid cooking crushed or chopped garlic in the microwave as this is thought to completely eliminate the medicinal properties of allicin. When cooking on the stovetop or in the oven, add the garlic towards the end of the cooking time to better harness its health benefits. During Medieval Times, garlic was primarily grown and administered by monks in relieving constipation and preventing exhaustion for laborers when working outdoors.