Glorious, gastronomical, and health-giving
The modest garlic clove is revered for both its culinary credentials and its health benefits. For centuries, garlic has been used as powerful medicine and a pungent flavour enhancer in many culinary traditions.
Garlic has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to treat ailments and enhance vigour. Modern science has confirmed its medicinal qualities are largely due to its organosulphur compounds that enhance the production of internal antioxidants and destroy disease-causing free radicals. Many studies on the benefits of garlic have used aged garlic extract, a natural form of organic garlic, whose major organosulphur compound, S-allyl cysteine, is water-soluble and has a 98 percent bioavailability (absorption into the body’s circulation). Other garlic preparations, including raw garlic, also show health benefits. The beneficial aspects of garlic do not depend upon its odour; aged garlic extract is odourless. Rich in antioxidants and stable organosulphur compounds, garlic is effective in preventing disease and degenerative age-related conditions.
Our hearts keep us alive, and we want to treat them well. The heart’s major enemies are high LDL (bad) cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, low HDL (good) cholesterol, and high blood pressure, as well as poor circulation and platelet clumping. These are all major risk factors for atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke. The efficacy of garlic in protecting the heart was shown in a breakthrough placebo-controlled clinical trial at the University of California. The study found that after one year, cardiac patients consuming 200 mg per day of aged garlic extract cut their heart attack risk by over 65 percent, compared to placebo.
Garlic has been shown to prevent plaque formation in coronary arteries, reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, increase HDL cholesterol, decrease blood pressure and homocysteine, and reduce platelet clumping. Other clinical studies have found that garlic and garlic extract can boost blood flow; another study found that the intake of raw garlic over four weeks lowered cholesterol by 11 to14 percent and triglycerides by 38 percent.
A strong immune system battles infection and helps fight cancer. Subjects receiving 3,500 mg per day of raw garlic, equivalent to 10 cloves, showed a 139.9 percent increase in natural killer cells; those receiving 1,800 mg per day of aged garlic extract had a 155.5 percent increase in killer cells. An enhancement of these immune cells was also seen in AIDS and cancer patients who were treated with aged garlic extract. In other studies, subjects given garlic powder showed an increased capacity of the immune cells to engulf invading E. coli bacteria.
Studies in China and Italy have shown that high garlic consumption cuts the rate of stomach cancer by as much as 50 percent. In the US, a study of 41,837 women showed that adding garlic to the diet once a week or more lowered colon cancer risk by 35 percent. A study in Japan found that aged garlic extract stopped pre-cancerous growth in the colon, preventing further development to colon cancer. The anticancer effects of garlic and aged garlic extract are due to antioxidant actions as well as an ability to trigger cancer-cell suicide, while leaving normal cells intact.
Garlic may prevent the adverse effects of cardiotoxicity and liver toxicity, caused by some carcinogens and chemotherapy drugs. It also assists with kidney toxicity caused by the antibiotic gentamicin, as seen in studies with aged garlic extract. Garlic extract has also been found to potentially prevent liver failure in people who overdose on acetaminophen. Patients taking aged garlic extract before and after ingesting acetaminophen received benefit, as the garlic prevented liver toxicity by increasing acetaminophen metabolism and detoxification.
Recently, researchers at Washington State University discovered that garlic is 100 times more effective than two common antibiotics at treating food-borne illness due to Campylobacter bacterium. According to news sources, this bacteria strain is responsible for 2.4 million cases of food-borne illness in the US and causes cramping, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain.
If you were stranded on a desert island and had to choose just one supplement to keep you healthy, what would you choose? Charlie Fox, the guru of garlic and co-author of The Garlic Cure, chooses garlic for its awesome ability to stimulate and support immune function, trigger gastric juices for better digestion, encourage the growth of friendly bacteria, and prevent infections. Research has suggested that garlic may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. But garlic also improves blood sugar regulation and promotes detoxification. Just one garlic clove each day can boost general health. If you don’t like raw or cooked garlic, consider a garlic supplement such as powder, oils, or aged garlic extract.
Today, as you peruse the produce aisles of your local grocery store or visit your local farmers’ market, you’ll see plenty of fresh garlic in two basic forms. Hardneck garlic is a hale and hearty bulb with four or more big cloves containing plenty of big flavour and oodles of heady spice. When exceptionally fresh, it has a sharp bite that leaves a lingering heat on the palate. Softneck garlic is the most common bulb in grocery stores. These varieties tend to be milder and mellower than the hardneck varieties and have a longer shelf life, perfect for commercial retailers. One potential downside: peeling them can be a bit pesky when the bulbs are exceptionally fresh.
Garlic is touted to be a miracle healer on many levels, with plenty of evidence-based research. Regardless of how it can improve your health, garlic quite simply adds punch and depth to almost any dish. It’s even known to enhance chocolate (really)! Dig in and fall in love with our collection of lip-smacking recipes for garlic fans.