You may know it as something you mince for stews and sauces or something you spread on bread with butter or olive oil. Maybe you associate it with lingering bad breath or even with folklore – spurred by Bram Stoker’s Dracula — about repelling vampires.
For centuries and even millennia, however, nutritionists and healers have touted garlic as one of nature’s most potent wonder drugs. Evidence of garlic has been found inside Egyptian pyramids and Ancient Greek temples. Garlic also is referenced in the Bible and in medical books from Ancient Rome, China and India.
Historians have discovered that ancient Egyptians fed their slaves diets rich in garlic to help them stay strong and to work harder. Ancient healers also prescribed garlic for a variety of ailments, ranging from the common cold to cardiovascular problems.
There is evidence that garlic may have been one of the first “performance-enhancing” drugs, since it was fed to athletes during the Ancient Olympics in Greece. Hippocrates, known as the Father of Modern Medicine, prescribed garlic for many uterine and pulmonary complaints and as a cleansing agent for the body.
Garlic was used prominently during World War II by the Russians when Red Army doctors ran out of antibiotics. It was dubbed “Russian penicillin.”
Today, modern research has confirmed these healing powers of garlic. In fact, garlic contains about 400 different chemical components and compounds that help the body fight off disease and to maintain good health.
Most of garlic’s benefits come from eating it in its most natural form – raw — because cooking can destroy some of its natural properties. Garlic is rich in vitamin B6 and is a good source of manganese, selenium, and vitamin C. It also provides potassium, iron, phosphorous and calcium.
There are multiple healing benefits for garlic:
1. It reduces blood pressure. The Mayo Clinic reports that by dilating blood vessels and relaxing smooth muscles, garlic may help lower your blood pressure by 7 to 8 percent.
Research suggests that when study participants consumed 200 to 400 milligrams of garlic extract three times a day for a month, they experienced lower blood pressure. Consuming raw garlic also may reduce the hardening of the arteries that is a common part of the aging process.
2. It fights bacteria. A Washington State University study demonstrated that garlic may be just as or more effective than prescription antibiotics in fighting the common bacteria known as campylobacter bacterium. This bacteria infects about 2.4 million Americans with stomach-related illnesses each year.
3. It may reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer. Eating garlic enhances the body’s production of hydrogen sulfide, which may be effective in preventing the development of prostate, pancreas, rectal and colon cancer.
A study by the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that letting chopped or crushed garlic to sit for 10 minutes before heating helps it retain more of the sulfur compounds that help fight cancer than if it were cooked right away.
According to the National Cancer Institute, data from seven population studies showed that the higher the amount of raw and cooked garlic study participants consumed, the lower their risk of stomach and colorectal cancer.
Garlic has antibacterial properties and an ability to block the formation of cancer-causing substances, to enhance DNA repair and to reduce cell proliferation, according to the data.
4. It can reduce fatigue. Research suggests that consuming garlic promotes the body’s production of hydrogen sulphide and nitric oxide, which relax the arteries and increase blood flow to muscles. This process boosts muscle growth and post-exercise recovery.
5. It can eliminate toxins from the body. Garlic’s multiple sulfur-containing compounds stimulate the liver enzymes that are responsible for removing toxins from the body.
A diet rich in garlic can help fight urinary tract infections, too. If you suffer from athletes’ foot, try soaking your feet in a footbath of garlic cloves and water to combat the problem. In this case, garlic works as an antifungal.
6. It relieves earaches. A recent pediatric study showed that 14 strains of bacteria taken from the noses and throats of children diagnosed with ear infections were killed when the children consumed raw garlic.
The fungus that causes swimmer’s ear has been treated successfully with a mixture of garlic and water.
7. It reduces pain and inflammation from arthritis. Try preparing a paste made from garlic cloves and rub it on the painful area. Garlic’s anti-inflammatory properties action reduces pain in swollen and sore joints.
8. It prevents blood from clotting. Garlic contains diallyl disulfide, a compound that keeps blood from clotting. Therefore, consuming fresh garlic can help prevent arteriosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.
9. It can help prevent hair loss. Now you may not want your hair to smell like garlic, but the results might be worth it if you are experiencing hair loss.
Try rubbing your scalp with this garlic-based solution:
1 tsp garlic juice
8 oz. rosemary tea
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. lemon Juice
Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl or cup. Then rub the mixture into your scalp nightly. Let it stay on your scalp for 20 minutes before rinsing with clean water.
How can you add more garlic to your diet? Here is a simple recipe.
In a juicer, blend four cloves of garlic with the juice of two tomatoes and one lemon to make a delicious, nutritious drink. Keep refrigerated.
You also can make a tomato garlic soup in your blender with the same ingredients. Add some sea salt and pepper to taste.
Easy to grow and easy to add to recipes, garlic can and should be a staple of your family’s healthy diet.
How do you use garlic for your health? Share your tips in the section below: