Garlic: Tracing the historical route
We usually only think about the flavor of garlic while consuming it in some of our favorite foods like garlic bread or the popular aioli dip but our ancestors had discovered the nutritional benefits of this plant a long time ago, the proof of which could be found in ancient literature of civilizations of Egypt, China and India.
There has been a recent boost in interest in harnessing the healing benefits of garlic in the search of an ingredient with broad-spectrum medical benefits which possibly will have very less or no side-effects. Studies and researches conducted across the world agree to our ancient scriptures that garlic can be effective in curing infections, preventing cardiovascular diseases, lowering blood pressure.
However, the most intriguing part is its therapeutic effect on digestive cancer. It is also fascinating that garlic taken in different forms has different effects on our health. Raw garlic cloves have different therapeutic effects than pills with garlic extract or aged garlic extract/oil.
Magic cloves of garlic
Ingestion of raw garlic cloves or in any preserved or extract form can have the following benefits:
Relief from cold and cough
Taking garlic tea with some honey and ginger can bring comfort during a nasty case of cold and flu. Garlic not necessarily attacks the bacteria but it helps in boosting the immune system which in turn helps us in battling with cold. This is not just amateurish generational experience. A research done in Australia and a consecutive paper published by the Dept of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences of University of Western Australia, has substantiated this claim in 2012.
It was an experiment done with 146 people who were self-monitoring themselves for the symptoms and occurrences of cold and flu discovered that the participants who were given garlic extracts in medicinal form had considerably fewer cases of flu. Though it did not have any effect on the longevity of illness, it did prove that garlic can be preventive in cases of cold and flu.
Reduces chances of cardiovascular problems
A paper published in Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine states that both clinical and experimental studies show that garlic has a substantial effect on blood pressure, platelet aggregation, cholesterol, and many other symptoms that cause heart-related problems.
According to this research paper animal experiments displayed an instant relief from blood pressure in hypertensive animals. It also prevents platelets from coagulation which can prevent the blood from thickening too much. A human experiment proves that garlic prevents blood clots from growing not only in healthy individuals but also in heart patients. The chemical present in garlic oil or aged garlic can prevent the accumulation of plaque in our veins and arteries, which narrows down the passage causing disruption in the blood flow.
Reduces glucose levels in diabetics
Animal experiments done in India in the mid-1990s showed that garlic can reduce the blood glucose levels in diabetic patients, however, this was preliminary experiments and the conclusions were not very clear.
Later in 2001, in University of Jos, Nigeria a similar experiment was done which showed similar results. Latest in 2013, in India, researchers from various institutes proved by the way of an experiment that the fasting blood glucose decreased way more when the medicines are accompanied with garlic than just by the ingestion of medicines alone, however, there are a few studies that show ineffectiveness of garlic on blood glucose levels in certain group of people without any specific cause. Experts say that the presence of several compounds of Sulfur in garlic makes it useful in controlling glucose levels in the blood.
Flushes out toxins from the liver
Some industrial toxins and other toxins that the body acquires because of our hectic lifestyles, living habits, and the environment can be reduced with the consumption of aged garlic extract. Carmia Borek of Tuft University School in Boston published a paper in 2001 where she states that a lot of toxins in our blood which ultimately accumulate in the liver can be flushed with the intake of aged garlic extract. The report gives an exhaustive step by step detailing the experiments that were performed to the conclusions.
Garlic as the antibiotic
Louis Pasture is a name most of us are familiar with. Anecdotally it is said that it was Pasture who, for the first time, described the antibiotic qualities of garlic. Some infamous bacteria like E Coli, Salmonella, Micrococcus and Bacillus are affected by allicin which is a sulfur compound and is present in garlic. Numerous studies that coincide in their findings with the ancient knowledge of antibacterial nature of garlic, state that the Sulfur compound in garlic stops the harmful enzymes from entering the intestines and stomach. It changes the structure of the enzymes by preventing any kind of digestion related infection and harming the digestive process.
Other benefits of garlic
Helps asthma patients: The reason for asthma is sudden inflammation in lungs due to which the airways are obstructed. Aged garlic extract has shown tremendous results in controlling the inflammation.
Helps with dermatological problems: Sounds not too important when we are discussing heart and liver-related problems but a lot of people suffer socially because of skin or hair related issues. Acne is a common problem and people often subject their skin to a lot of chemical treatments to get rid of it. Garlic due to its antibiotic nature helps in cleansing the skin and can help reduce acne considerably.
Helps in case of eye and ear infections: Eye and ear infections are particularly difficult to treat due to their sensitive nature. Ears are prone to fungal infection and curing it with any kind of antibacterial ointment or serum is a little risky. Garlic without any side effects helps with such infections due to the sulfur compounds that exist in it.
Potentially can prevent Alzheimer’s: N Chauhan in Research and Development at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center Chicago and another study done in 2017 by researchers from Khon Kaen University in Thailand, have stated that due to the anti-inflammatory qualities of Aged Garlic Extract it may be useful in improving the short term recognition memory and eventually reduce the inflammation in the brain which is the cause of Alzheimer’s in the long run.
Handy Home Remedies
Though Aged Garlic Extracts are available in form of pills, some age-old home remedies can always help with short term sickness or health issues
- Soaking your feet in garlic water can help with athlete’s feet or any fungal infection.
- Garlic oil helps control hair fall because of the sulfur compound allicin. So applying crushed garlic on the scalp can show visible results. It also improves the quality of hair.
- Rubbing garlic clove on any kind of break out on the skin like a pimple has been found to be effective because garlic has antioxidants which kill any bacterial activity.
- Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties because of which it can provide considerable relief to people who suffer due to psoriasis or frequent rashes due to itchy skin. Not only does it relieves the irritation but it improves skin quality preventing chronic skin rashes from appearing again and again. It also helps in curing cold sores due to the same properties.
- As an old practice in a lot of rural areas in India, garlic is used to keep mosquitoes away. Garlic mixed with some petroleum jelly or any kind of lotion can help keep the mosquitoes away.
- A concoction of garlic, honey, and ginger has been proven to help during a tough cold.
- Garlic can also help in keeping a check on weight gain. Garlic clove taken in an empty stomach every morning can avoid gaining extra weight.
Garlic: Some Historical Trivia
Despite numerous studies, researches and some access to ancient knowledge about the nutrient and therapeutic values of garlic the exact reaction of the compounds on the diseases are not known. It is unknown as to how much should be the dosage, as there are disparities in each study on the effect of garlic. But references from the past might be of some help and what more proof do we need than to look at the father of western medical sciences Hippocrates, who prescribed garlic as a medicine for various conditions:
- Ancient Egypt: Just the fact that an herb or a plant that existed in 1500 BC is still a close part of our daily lives is intriguing enough. The ancient medical text from Egypt shows proof of garlic being an accepted ingredient of the healing process in that civilization. There is historical proof that the workers who built the pyramids of Giza were given garlic presumably for its therapeutic powers.
- Biblical Reference: The Jewish slaves who have been mentioned in the bible were fed garlic to provide stamina and strength.
- Ancient India: Garlic was considered as a medicine since the Vedic times in India. A number of conditions like weakness, lack of appetite, cough, and skin disease were treated with the use of garlic.
Even though garlic has become popular in recent times due to the fact that it doesn’t really have a side effect but there could be a few things that need to be kept in mind:
Regular consumption of garlic especially for therapeutic purposes and on a schedule can cause body odor or bad breath. Due to the Sulfur compounds, garlic has a pungent nature and it can cause a social disaster if not kept in mind.
People often grow allergies against food components. Even though garlic in itself is anti-inflammatory it could cause allergies in individuals. It is prudent to get an anti-allergy test before taking garlic extracts as medicines. With the advancements in technology in general and specifically in the medical world it seems far-fetched that a plant that has been around since the ancient times could be so multifaceted and yet its entire potential is yet not extracted, however, nature has provided us with answers for many things that are yet to be accessed.
Hopefully, with the ongoing studies and experiments, garlic could one day be the answer for most the ailments in a more efficient way and it could very well be the answer to notorious diseases like Cancer or AIDS.
- Annual Review of Biomedical Sciences,
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