Garlic (Allium sativum) has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes in many cultures for thousands of years and to prevent and treat a wide range of problems and diseases. There have been many claims about the use of garlic as a cure for many conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, heart attack, atherosclerosis and various types of cancer. Most of the health benefits of garlic come from the sulfur-containing compounds it contains – the most notable is allicin.
Some of these uses are supported by science, but even science itself sometimes has conflicting results or mixed evidence. Some studies are better than others, or larger and more comprehensive than others, and some studies have been conducted on animals but not on humans.
Even when researching the medicinal benefits of garlic, I have come across many medical sites whose claims regarding the medicinal properties of garlic are not exactly the same. Some of them have used the words “may be effective” or “more evidence is needed”, but there are still medical areas in which garlic shows promising potential:
How to use garlic as medicine
Daily intake of garlic has been shown to reduce the risk of many types of cancer. Some people use garlic to prevent colon cancer, rectal cancer, stomach cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer and lung cancer. Some findings require further studies.
Fungal infections of the skin
Several studies report that a garlic gel applied to the skin, can treat ringworm, jock itch and athlete’s foot. To make your own topical garlic application, prick a clove of garlic and mix it with aloe vera, coconut oil or olive oil and apply to the affected area . Do not apply pure garlic (undiluted) as it may burn the skin.
Garlic is best known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties that help control bacterial, viral, fungal, yeast and worm infections. There is evidence that fresh garlic is believed to play a role in the prevention of food poisoning by killing bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella enteritidis, etc. It is also used for the construction of the immune system.
According to a study published in “Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy”, a garlic compound called diallyl sulfide was 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics in fighting one of the most common intestinal infections bacteria, showing that this compound has the potential to reduce disease caused by bacteria in the environment and in our diet. In the studies, garlic proved to be almost as effective as penicillin.
There is mixed evidence of garlic to prevent heart disease and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), but some studies suggest that garlic can help prevent heart disease, can slow atherosclerosis and slightly raise blood pressure. Garlic also appears to be a blood thinner, and can therefore help prevent heart attacks and strokes by helping to prevent blood clots from forming in the body. With regard to the lowering of cholesterol and triglycerides, most recent high quality studies have found no evidence that garlic can significantly lower cholesterol or triglycerides.
There is some preliminary evidence that garlic consumption may decrease the frequency of colds in adults. Those who took garlic had fewer colds than those who took the placebo, and when they got a cold, their symptoms went faster than those who took the placebo.
How to consume garlic and how much to take
The University of Maryland mentions that the amount of 2-4 grams per day of clove chopped fresh garlic (a clove of garlic can weigh up to 5 grams, but of course it all depends on the size). Garlic should be cut or chopped to release allicin which is the active component of garlic.
It is better to consume raw garlic, as obviously cooking fresh garlic can destroy some of the healthy sulfur compounds. But if eating raw garlic is not your cup of tea – all is not lost. During the cooking process, other sulfur-containing compounds are formed that still have health benefits. But do not put the garlic in the microwave – the microwave will completely kill allicin and its therapeutic effects.
Here is some great advice for cooking garlic to preserve its maximum healing benefits: crush garlic and wait 10 minutes before cooking to maximize health benefits. Leaving crushed garlic for 10 minutes before cooking further increases allicin formation, ensures maximum synthesis of allicin and makes it more stable and resistant to cooking heat. Then cook over low heat or medium heat for a short period of time (up to 15 minutes).
If you consume garlic supplements, there is a lot of variation among garlic products sold for medicinal purposes. The amount of allicin depends on the method of preparation, and not all garlic supplements contain the same amount of active ingredients, so it is important to read the label carefully.