What is Garlic?
Common Names: garlic
Latin Names: Allium sativum
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, often called the father of Western medicine is famous for his own proverb,
“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” There is a lot of truth in this quote scientifically with the acquisition of the proper knowledge and actually using the knowledge and on the other hand the ignorance of it all.
Hippocrates was a proponent of using garlic in his many treatments for different medical conditions. Hippocrates promoted the use of garlic for treating respiratory problems, parasites, poor digestion, and fatigue.
Garlic is the edible bulb from a plant in the lily family. It was traditionally used for health purposes by people in many parts of the world, including the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Japanese.
Garlic has been used all over the world for thousands of years. Records indicate that garlic was in use when the Giza pyramids were built, about 5,000 years ago. The French, Spanish, and Portuguese introduced garlic to the New World.
Short Term Heating
A study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology warned that short-term heating reduces the anti-inflammatory effects of fresh raw garlic extracts. This may be a problem for some people who do not like or cannot tolerate the taste and/or odor of fresh garlic.
21 Health Benefits of Garlic
Here are examples of some scientific studies published in peer-reviewed academic journals supported by human research about the therapeutic benefits (or not) of garlic.
1. Garlic Contains Compounds With Potent Medicinal Properties
Garlic is a plant in the Allium (onion) family. It is closely related to onions, shallots, and leeks. Each segment of a garlic bulb is called a clove. There are about 10–20 cloves in a single bulb, give or take.
Garlic grows in many parts of the world and is a popular ingredient in cooking due to its strong smell and delicious taste.
However, throughout ancient history, the main use of garlic was for its health and medicinal properties. Its use was well documented by many major civilizations, including the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese.
Scientists now know that most of its health benefits are caused by sulfur compounds formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed, or chewed.
Perhaps the most famous of those is known as allicin. However, allicin is an unstable compound that is only briefly present in fresh garlic after it’s been cut or crushed.
Other compounds that may play a role in garlic’s health benefits include diallyl disulfide and s-allyl cysteine The sulfur compounds from garlic enter the body from the digestive tract and travel all over the body, where it exerts its potent biological effects.
2. Garlic Is Highly Nutritious But Has Very Few Calories
One clove (3 grams) of raw garlic contains
- Manganese: 2% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin B6: 2% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 1% of the DV
- Selenium: 1% of the DV
- Fiber: 0.06 grams
- Decent amounts of calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamin B1
This comes with 4.5 calories, 0.2 grams of protein, and 1 gram of carbs.
3. Garlic and the common cold
A team of researchers from St. Joseph Family Medicine Residency, Indiana, carried out a study titled “Treatment of the Common Cold in Children and Adults,” published in American Family Physician.
They reported that “Prophylactic use of garlic may decrease the frequency of colds in adults, but has no effect on the duration of symptoms.” Prophylactic use means using it regularly to prevent disease.
Though there is some research to suggest that raw garlic has the most benefits, other studies have looked at overall allium intake, both raw and cooked, and have found benefits. Therefore, you can enjoy garlic in a variety of ways to reap its advantages.
4. High cholesterol and high blood pressure
Cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes are the world’s biggest killers. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most important drivers of these diseases.
Researchers at Ankara University investigated the effects of garlic extract supplementation on the blood lipid (fat) profile of patients with high blood cholesterol. Their study was published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
The study involved 23 volunteers, all with high cholesterol; 13 of them also had high blood pressure. They were divided into two groups:
- The high-cholesterol normotensive group (normal blood pressure).
- The high-cholesterol hypertensive group (high blood pressure).
They took garlic extract supplements for 4 months and were regularly checked for blood lipid parameters, as well as kidney and liver function.
4 Months After
At the end of the 4 months, the researchers concluded “…garlic extract supplementation improves blood lipid profile, strengthens blood antioxidant potential, and causes significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressures. It also leads to a decrease in the level of oxidation product (MDA) in the blood samples, which demonstrates reduced oxidation reactions in the body.”
In other words, the garlic extract supplements reduced high cholesterol levels, and also blood pressure in patients with hypertension. The scientists added that theirs was a small study – more work needs to be carried out.
5. Garlic Contains Antioxidants That May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Oxidative damage from free radicals contributes to the aging process. Garlic contains antioxidants that support the body’s protective mechanisms against oxidative damage.
High doses of garlic supplements have been shown to increase antioxidant enzymes in humans, as well as significantly reduce oxidative stress in those with high blood pressure.
The combined effects on reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as the antioxidant properties, may reduce the risk of common brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
6. Garlic May Improve Bone Health
No human studies have measured the effects of garlic on bone loss. However, rodent studies have shown that it can minimize bone loss by increasing estrogen in females.
One study in menopausal women found that a daily dose of dry garlic extract (equal to 2 grams of raw garlic) significantly decreased a marker of estrogen deficiency.
This suggests that this supplement may have beneficial effects on bone health in women. Foods like garlic and onions may also have beneficial effects on osteoarthritis
7. Prostate cancer
Doctors at the Department of Urology, China-Japan Friendship Hospital, Beijing, China, carried out a study evaluating the relationship between Allium vegetable consumption and prostate cancer risk.
They gathered and analyzed published studies up to May 2013 and reported their findings in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention. The study authors concluded, “Allium vegetables, especially garlic intake, are related to a decreased risk of prostate cancer.”
The team also commented that because there are not many relevant studies, further well-designed prospective studies should be carried out to confirm their findings.
Diallyl trisulfide, a component of garlic oil, helps protect the heart during cardiac surgery and after a heart attack, researchers at Emory University School of Medicine found.
They also believe diallyl trisulfide could be used as a treatment for heart failure.
Hydrogen sulfide gas has been shown to protect the heart from damage. However, it is a volatile compound and difficult to deliver as therapy.
Because of this, the scientists decided to focus on diallyl trisulfide, a garlic oil component, as a safer way to deliver the benefits of hydrogen sulfide to the heart.
In experiments using laboratory mice, the team found that, after a heart attack, the mice that had received diallyl sulfide had 61 percent less heart damage in the area at risk, compared with the untreated mice.
In another study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists found that garlic oil may help protect diabetes patients from cardiomyopathy.
Cardiomyopathy is the leading cause of death among diabetes patients. It is a chronic disease of the myocardium (heart muscle), which is abnormally thickened, enlarged, and/or stiffened.
The team fed diabetic laboratory rats either garlic oil or corn oil. Those fed garlic oils experienced significantly more changes associated with protection against heart damage, compared with the animals that were fed corn oil.
The study authors wrote, “In conclusion, garlic oil possesses significant potential for protecting hearts from diabetes-induced cardiomyopathy.”
Human studies will need to be performed to confirm the results of this study.
9. Potentially a powerful antibiotic
Diallyl sulfide, a compound in garlic, was 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics in fighting the Campylobacter bacterium, according to a study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.
The Campylobacter bacterium is one of the most common causes of intestinal infections.
Senior author, Dr. Xiaonan Lu, from Washington State University, said, “This work is very exciting to me because it shows that this compound has the potential to reduce disease-causing bacteria in the environment and in our food supply.”
Women whose diets were rich in allium vegetables had lower levels of osteoarthritis, a team at King’s College London and the University of East Anglia, both in England, reported in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.
Examples of allium vegetables include garlic, leeks, shallots, onions, and rakkyo.
The study authors said their findings not only highlighted the possible impact of diet on osteoarthritis outcomes but also demonstrated the potential for using compounds that exist in garlic to develop treatments for the condition.
The long-term study, involving more than 1,000 healthy female twins, found that those whose dietary habits included plenty of fruit and vegetables, “particularly alliums such as garlic,” had fewer signs of early osteoarthritis in the hip joint.
11. Brain cancer
Scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina reported in the journal Cancer that three pure organo-sulfur compounds from garlic – DAS, DADS, and DATS – “demonstrated efficacy in eradicating brain cancer cells, but DATS proved to be the most effective.”
Co-author, Ray Swapan, Ph.D., said “This research highlights the great promise of plant-originated compounds as a natural medicine for controlling the malignant growth of human brain tumor cells. More studies are needed in animal models of brain tumors before application of this therapeutic strategy to brain tumor patients.”
People who ate raw garlic at least twice a week during the 7-year study period had a 44 percent lower risk of developing lung cancer, according to a study conducted at the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China.
The researchers, who published their study in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, carried out face-to-face interviews with 1,424 lung cancer patients and 4,543 healthy individuals.
They were asked about their diet and lifestyle, including questions on smoking and how often they ate garlic.
The study authors wrote: “Protective association between intake of raw garlic and lung cancer has been observed with a dose-response pattern, suggesting that garlic may potentially serve as a chemopreventive agent for lung cancer.”
13. Alcohol-induced liver injury
Alcohol-induced liver injury is caused by the long-term over-consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Scientists at the Institute of Toxicology, School of Public Health, Shandong University, China, wanted to determine whether diallyl disulfide (DADS), a garlic-derived organosulfur compound, might have protective effects against ethanol-induced oxidative stress.
Their study was published in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta. The researchers concluded that DADS might help protect against ethanol-induced liver injury
14. Preterm (premature) delivery
Microbial infections during pregnancy raise a woman’s risk of preterm delivery. Scientists at the Division of Epidemiology, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, studied what impact foods might have on antimicrobial infections and preterm delivery risk.
The study and its findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition.
Ronny Myhre and colleagues concentrated on the effects of Alliums and dried fruits because a literature search had identified these two foods as showing the greatest promise for reducing preterm delivery risk.
The team investigated the intake of dried fruit and Alliums among 18,888 women in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort, of whom 5 percent (950) underwent spontaneous PTD (preterm delivery).
The study authors concluded, “Intake of food with antimicrobial and prebiotic compounds may be of importance to reduce the risk of spontaneous PTD. In particular, garlic was associated with an overall lower risk of spontaneous PTD.”
15. Garlic May Help You Live Longer
The potential effects of garlic on longevity are basically impossible to prove in humans.
But given the beneficial effects on important risk factors like blood pressure, it makes sense that garlic could help you live longer.
The fact that it can fight infectious disease is also an important factor, because these are common causes of death, especially in the elderly or people with dysfunctional immune systems.
16. Athletic Performance Might Be Improved With Garlic Supplements
Garlic was one of the earliest “performance enhancing” substances. It was traditionally used in ancient cultures to reduce fatigue and enhance the work capacity of laborers. Most notably, it was given to Olympic athletes in ancient Greece
Rodent studies have shown that garlic helps with exercise performance, but very few human studies have been done.
People with heart disease who took garlic oil for 6 weeks had a 12% reduction in peak heart rate and better exercise capacity.
However, a study on nine competitive cyclists found no performance benefits. Other studies suggest that exercise-induced fatigue may be reduced with garlic
17. Eating Garlic May Help Detoxify Heavy Metals in the Body
At high doses, the sulfur compounds in garlic have been shown to protect against organ damage from heavy metal toxicity.
A four-week study in employees of a car battery plant (excessive exposure to lead) found that garlic reduced lead levels in the blood by 19%. It also reduced many clinical signs of toxicity, including headaches and blood pressure.
Three doses of garlic each day even outperformed the drug D-penicillamine in reducing symptoms.
18. Blood Sugar Control in Diabetes
Diabetes is caused by genetics, obesity, high cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood glucose. Insulin resistance occurs when the body no longer responds to insulin, leading to increased blood sugar levels and a high risk of developing diabetes.
According to some researchers, garlic might reduce insulin resistance, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels in patients with diabetes. Some clinical studies suggest that garlic might slightly lower pre-meal blood sugar levels, particularly if taken for at least 3 months in people with diabetes. More research is needed.
Garlic reduced blood sugar levels in rats by decreasing the activity of enzymes (phosphates and aminotransferases) involved in the transportation of glucose in the liver, a sugar that is the body’s main source of energy.
Also, garlic may reduce insulin resistance by inhibiting an enzyme that breaks down drugs (CYP2E1), ultimately disrupting insulin function by increasing oxidative stress.
19. Certain Yeast Infections
Small clinical trials suggest that applying a gel with garlic (containing 0.6% ajoene) twice daily may improve the following yeast infections within a week.
- Ringworm (Tinea corporis)
- Jock itch (Tinea cruris)
- Athlete’s foot (Tinea pedis)
20. Repelling Ticks
Garlic seems to be a promising insect repellent, but just how well it works compared to standard synthetic repellents is still unknown. In one study, people who ate a lot of garlic (1200 mg daily) over 8 weeks seemed to have fewer tick bites, compared to placebo
21. Garlic Is Easy to Include in Your Diet and Tastes Absolutely Delicious
The last one is not a health benefit but is still important. Garlic is very easy (and delicious) to include in your current diet.
It complements most savory dishes, particularly soups and sauces. The strong taste of garlic can also add a punch to otherwise bland recipes.
Garlic comes in several forms, from whole cloves and smooth pastes to powders and supplements like garlic extract and garlic oil.
However, keep in mind that there are some downsides to garlic, such as bad breath. There are also some people who are allergic to it.
If you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood-thinning medications, talk to your doctor before increasing your garlic intake.
Garlic Side Effects & Precautions
Although garlic consumption is safe, ingested garlic can cause bad breath and body odor. Consuming an excessive amount of raw garlic, especially on an empty stomach, may lead to an upset stomach, gas, and changes in intestinal bacteria
Handling garlic during cooking, and topical application of garlic can cause allergic skin rashes, burns, and blisters
Due to its anti-blood-clotting abilities, a high dose of garlic has an interaction with blood thinners like aspirin and warfarin. Garlic supplements should be stopped seven days before surgical procedures to prevent any complications.
Mutations in the transient receptor potential V1 (TRPV1) gene may cause hypersensitivity to allicin in garlic extract in humans. The TRPV1 gene is found throughout the nervous system, bladder, tongue, and skin.
The mutations in the gene might cause structural changes in the TRPA1 protein, making it more sensitive to allicin. The TRPA1 protein is an allicin receptor that triggers inflammation and a pain response when activated.
Aged black garlic is a garlic preparation with a sweet and sour taste and no strong odor.
Aged black garlic is produced by aging garlic at high temperatures for two to three weeks. It contains high levels of organic sulfur compounds like water-soluble S-allyl cysteine and polyphenols.
Aged black garlic has stronger antioxidant effects than raw fresh garlic, but lower anti-inflammatory, anticoagulation, anti-allergy, and immune effects
Garlic Dosage & Supplements
Types of Supplements
- Garlic oil – Water-soluble compounds and allicin are eliminated by this process. It contains a variety of sulfides, including diallyl disulfide
- Garlic oil macerate – Made of encapsulated garlic cloves ground into vegetable oil. Oil macerate contains allicin, which decomposes quickly into other compounds (dithiins, ajoene, and sulfides)
- Garlic powder – Dried and pulverized into powder. The main sulfur compound in garlic powder is alliin. Garlic powder does not contain allicin
- Aged garlic extract – Aged raw garlic has an increased concentration of antioxidant compounds. Allicin decomposes into other compounds, including S-allyl cysteine, which is one of the most active compounds in aged garlic extract
For adults, the recommended amount is 4 grams (1 to 2 cloves) of raw garlic, 300 mg dried garlic powder tablet 2 to 3 times, or 7.2 grams of garlic extract per day.
Alliin, an amino acid containing sulfur, is broken down by the enzyme alliinase and converted to allicin when raw garlic is chopped or crushed. Allicin is an unstable compound that degrades quickly, so be sure to chop your garlic right before use.
Cooked garlic is less potent than raw garlic because the enzymes that form sulfur compounds are deactivated by heat
As with everything else, talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use.
Please let us know in the comments:
- Are you taking or using garlic on a consistent basis?
- Have you taken raw garlic? What did you think?
- What’s one thing you can do to increase the intake of garlic in your diet?
Affiliate Disclosure: I am grateful to be of service and bring you resources, like this. In order to do this, please note that whenever you click the links in my posts and purchase items, in most (not all) cases I will receive a referral commission.
Information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We encourage you to do your own research. Seek the advice of a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet.
Share This Post
AsYouEatSoAreYou.com likes to share. Please feel free to repost articles as long as you always link back to the original and credit the author. Thank you ever so much.