Its one of the worlds oldest known medicinal herbs, considered by some to be a panacea or cure-alland by yet others a terrific Dracula repellent.
It’s one of the world’s oldest known medicinal herbs, considered by some to be a panacea or cure-all–and by yet others a terrific Dracula repellent.
Garlic is packed with antioxidants to help fend off cancer, heart disease, and the effects of aging. Garlic’s healing benefits, as well as its pungent odour, are attributed to a set of sulphur compounds.
Garlic has strong free radical-fighting ability and cholesterol-lowering capability. It reduces blood pressure and prevents blood clots. The free radical-fighting ability of garlic is measured by its ORAC, or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. This is a value given to foods based on their antioxidant content. Garlic has a particularly high ORAC value.
In 2004, the British Medical Journal published a study which showed that by eating what scientists dubbed a “Polymeal?wine, fish, dark chocolate, fruits (especially berries), vegetables (especially kale and spinach), almonds, and garlic, cardiovascular disease could be reduced by 76 percent. Men who followed the Polymeal diet daily increased their total life expectancy by 6.6 years. The corresponding increase for women was 4.8 years. The Polymeal is an effective, safe, cheap, and tasty nonpharmacological alternative to reduce cardiovascular morbidity and to increase life expectancy in the general population. The effectiveness of the Polymeal is due to the high ORAC values of the foods it contains.
Pills, Extracts, and Oils
Garlic pills are made of garlic powder. Some manufacturers describe their ingredients in terms of the amount of fresh garlic their products contain while others state the amount of powder they contain (also called “dried garlic”). It is important to note the difference, since garlic powder should be at least three times more concentrated than fresh garlic to have therapeutic value.
Extracts, therapeutic capsules, or oils should be about nine to 13 times as concentrated as fresh garlic to have therapeutic value, but this can vary. However, if a product is labelled “extract” or “concentrate” but does not state the equivalent amount of fresh garlic or the amount of allicin it contains, it may be only as concentrated as garlic powder and therefore likely not offer the cardio support or flu-buster you’re looking for.
Some odourless garlic preparations may not contain active allicin compounds at all. If you’re turned off by the stinky breath that garlic produces, aged garlic capsules shouldn’t give you the characteristic odour of regular garlic because aged garlic does not produce allicin. Because allicin-free aged garlic products have as good a research track record as allicin-containing products, allicin itself may not be the active therapeutic component but a precursor to other active compounds, such as S-allyl-L-cysteine (SAC). Aged garlic contains these allicin-related compounds and still retains the desired health effects. Aged garlic should contain not less than 0.05 percent SAC compound.
Unfortunately, you may not be able to avoid bad breath. Allicin is what causes garlic odour. If odourless products contain allicin that is not satisfactorily refined, bad breath can still be a problem.
When using garlic that is not aged or fresh, the amount of dried garlic powder needed to be effective will depend on the allicin yield of the ingredient. For a powder with a very high allicin content (10,000 to 12,000 mcg of allicin per g), 600 mg twice daily is a sufficient dose for therapeutic ranges. Some products list their amount or concentration of alliin. Alliin is the component that helps make allicin. However, the capacity to turn alliin into allicin can vary considerably, depending on your individual digestive system and on the amount of naturally derived enzymes present in the product.
If you don’t mind bad breath, you may use fresh garlic therapeutically. One small clove (not the entire bulb) provides approximately 4 g (1 tsp) of fresh garlic, which yields approximately 4,000 to 12,000 mcg of allicin. Quick tip: one clove of garlic yields more of its active constituents when pushed through a garlic press rather than minced with a sharp knife.
In any form, garlic might enhance or contradict the effects of certain medications you are prescribed. A blood thinner such as warfarin is one example. Theoretically, garlic may also enhance the positive effects and/or adverse effects of other anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs, including Aspirin, clopidogrel, enoxaparin, and others. Always consult a qualified practitioner before starting a daily regimen that includes garlic.
Besides keeping your ticker healthy and keeping Dracula away, garlic’s efficacy in treating yeast infections is also well documented. For further information on all things garlic, I highly recommend The Garlic Cure by James F. Scheer, Charlie Fox, and Lynn Allison,
published by McCleery and Sons Publishing (2002), which includes 139 gourmet garlic recipes. You won’t be let down. Well, perhaps only if you’re silly enough to implement this advice before your next blind date!