GARLIC (MEDICINAL USE)
WHAT IS GARLIC?
Garlic, Latin name Allium sativum, belongs to the onion family Alliaceae including shallots, and leek. Garlic has been used throughout recorded history for both medicinal and culinary purposes. The garlic bulb is divided into sections called cloves.
Elephant garlic or Russian garlic is a variant of the species leek and not considered true garlic. It has a tall, solid, flowering stalk and broad, flat leaves much like those of the leek, but forms a bulb consisting of very large, garlic like cloves.
Garlic is arranged in a head, called a “bulb,” which averages about 2 inches in height and diameter and consists of numerous small separate cloves. Both the cloves and the entire bulb are encased in paper-like sheathes that can be white, off-white, or have a pink/purple hue. Although garlic cloves have a firm texture, they can be easily cut or crushed. The taste of garlic is like no other—it hits the palate with a hot pungency that is shadowed by very subtle background sweetness. While elephant garlic has larger cloves, it is more closely related to the leek and therefore does not offer the full health benefits of regular garlic.
Fresh, dried and powdered garlic are available in markets throughout the year, however, fresh varieties from California are in season from June through December.
Native to central Asia, garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world and has been grown for over 5000 years. Ancient Egyptians seem to have been the first to cultivate this plant that played an important role in their culture.
Garlic was not only bestowed with sacred qualities and placed in the tomb of Pharaohs, but it was given to the slaves that built the Pyramids to enhance their endurance and strength. This strength-enhancing quality was also honored by the ancient Greeks and Romans, civilizations whose athletes ate garlic before sporting events and whose soldiers consumed it before going off to war.
Garlic was introduced into various regions throughout the globe by migrating cultural tribes and explorers. By the 6th century BC, garlic was known in both China and India, the latter country using it for therapeutic purposes.
Throughout the millennia, garlic has been a beloved plant in many cultures for both its culinary and medicinal properties. Over the last few years, it has gained unprecedented popularity since researchers have been scientifically validating its numerous health benefits.
Currently, China, South Korea, India, Spain and the United States are among the top commercial producers of garlic.
The sulfur compounds in garlic are perhaps its most unique nutrients. There are literally dozens of well-studied sulfur molecules in garlic, and virtually all of them have been shown to function as antioxidants. In addition, many provide us with anti-inflammatory benefits. The very presence of sulfur in some many different garlic compounds may also play an important role in our nourishment.
Additionally, garlic is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin B6. It is also a very good source of vitamin C and copper. In addition, garlic is a good source of selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B1, and calcium.
GARLIC IS USED FOR:
High cholesterol levels, for blood clots, and to lower blood pressure. It has also been promoted for colds, bronchitis, and other uses. Check with your pharmacist for more details regarding the particular brand you use.
Garlic is an herbal product. It is unknown exactly how it works.
BEFORE USING GARLIC:
Some medical conditions may interact with garlic. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have any medical conditions, especially if any of the following apply to you:
- if you are planning to become pregnant or are breast-feeding
- if you are taking any prescription or nonprescription medicine, herbal preparation, or dietary supplement
- if you have allergies to medicines, foods, or other substances
- if you have diabetes, stomach or bowel problems, or a blood disease
Some MEDICINES MAY INTERACT with garlic. Tell your health care provider if you are taking any other medicines, especially any of the following:
- HIV PROTEASE INHIBITORS (EG, SAQUINAVIR) BECAUSE EFFECTIVENESS MAY BE DECREASED BY GARLIC
This may not be a complete list of all interactions that may occur. Ask your health care provider if garlic may interact with other medicines that you take. Check with your health care provider before you start, stop, or change the dose of any medicine.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION:
- This product has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as safe and effective for any medical condition. The long-term safety of herbal products is not known. Before using any alternative medicine, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
- If you are taking warfarin and your doctor has approved the use of a garlic product, notify your doctor if you experience any signs of bleeding.
- Diabetes patients – If you have diabetes, garlic may lower your blood sugar. Check blood sugar levels closely and ask your doctor before adjusting the dose of your diabetes medicine.
- PREGNANCY and BREAST-FEEDING: Do not use garlic supplements if you are pregnant. If you plan on becoming pregnant, discuss with your doctor the benefits and risks of using garlic supplements during pregnancy. Do not breast-feed while taking this product.
GARLIC USES & EFFECTIVENESS
- Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). As people age, their arteries tend to lose their ability to stretch and flex. Garlic seems to reduce this effect.
- Colon cancer, rectal cancer. Research suggests that eating garlic can reduce the risk of developing colon or rectal cancer. Research suggests that taking high doses of aged garlic extract daily for 12 months reduces the risk of developing new tumors. However, other garlic supplements do not seem to offer the same benefit.
- Stomach cancer. Some evidence suggests that eating more garlic can decrease the risk of developing stomach cancer. However, taking a specific aged garlic extract (Kyolic, Wakunaga Pharmaceutical Co.) for about 7 years does not seem to reduce the risk.
- High blood pressure. Some research shows that garlic can reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure by as much as 7% or 8%. It also seems to lower blood pressure in people with normal blood pressure. Most studies have used a specific garlic powder product (Kwai, from Lichtwer Pharma).
- Tick bites. People who consume high amounts of garlic over about a 5-month period seem to have a reduced the number of tick bites.
- Ringworm. Applying a gel containing 0.6% ajoene, a chemical in garlic, seems to be as effective as antifungal medication for treating ringworm.
- Jock itch. Applying a gel containing 0.6% ajoene, a chemical in garlic, seems to be as effective as antifungal medication for treating jock itch.
- Athlete’s foot. Applying a gel containing 1% ajoene, a chemical in garlic, seems to be effective for treating athlete’s foot. A garlic gel with 1% ajoene seems to be about as effective for athlete’s foot as the medicine Lamisil.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Garlic produces a chemical called allicin. This is what seems to make garlic work for certain conditions. Allicin also makes garlic smell. Some products are made “odorless” by aging the garlic, but this process can also make the garlic less effective. It’s a good idea to look for supplements that are coated (enteric coating) so they will dissolve in the intestine and not in the stomach.
There’s research evidence for including at least one serving of an allium vegetable—such as garlic—in your meal plan every day. If you’re choosing garlic as your allium family vegetable, try to include at least 1/2 clove in your individual food portion. If you’re preparing a recipe, we recommend at least 1-2 cloves.
Garlic is a wonderful seasoning to add aroma, taste, and added nutrition to your dishes. We often recommend using raw chopped or pressed garlic in many of our dishes to take advantage of the benefits derived from garlic. However, if you cannot tolerate raw garlic, you can add chopped garlic to foods while they are cooking. It is best to add it towards the end of the cooking process to retain the maximum amount of flavor and nutrition
DO NOT USE GARLIC IF:
- you are allergic to any ingredient in garlic
- you are pregnant
Contact your doctor or health care provider right away if any of these apply to you.