Garlic, as it is commonly known, is an edible bulbous plant of the lily family that is native to Asia and a few European regions like Italy, Greece, and France. The latin/scientific name of the plant is Allium Sativum and has been used for centuries by Asians, Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Sumerians and various other civilizations in cooking and medicine, either in internal or external applications--from flavoring food, to healing wounds or even enhancing the power of soldiers in battle.
Garlic cloves have a pale yellow/beige appearance and a very strong fragrance. The main nutrients contained in garlic are vitamin C, Vitamin B6, manganese and various special sulphur acidic compounds like Accilin and S-allyl cysteine which bear unique antioxidant properties.
How is a garlic supplement different from conventional garlic?
Garlic today is available in many forms: fresh, power, oil/extract, and pill form being the most common ones. Although experts agree that it's best to consume garlic fresh as it contains more amounts of Accillin, which is its main key antioxidant ingredient that gives garlic its benefits, the strong and peculiar scent and taste of fresh garlic makes it extra hard to consume by most people on a regular basis--in more simple words, it can make you smell weird and the smell may stay on for hours, even after brushing your teeth. On the contrary, garlic supplements especially from high-quality resources like ours, are designed to keep this issue of smell at a minimum. This is the main benefit in general of garlic supplements over freshly cut and consumed garlic.
Some high quality supplement formulas though, do contain sufficient amounts of accillin so no worries about getting something deprived of nutritional value. It takes on average 4 garlic cloves taken every day to yield any health benefits when you can consume in its place a 500mg+ capsule which will give you the same benefits, minus the unpleasant smell and odor.
In supplements, the most usual concentrations of garlic powder or extract are 1000, 2000 and up to 10000mg per tablet. The higher the concentration is, of course, the higher its potency/power is. But, as people react to different dosages differently, it would be wise to go for a smaller dose first to see if your system can tolerate it and then go for a higher concentration.
What are the health benefits of garlic?
Medicinally, garlic has antiviral, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-tumorous, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties which make it especially useful for various health problems, for example:
In a study carried out by the University of Alabama that was also published on BBC in 2007, Garlic and specifically its sulphur compound Allicin was found to increase the blood flow by dilating the blood cells and allowing more oxygen to circulate the system by up to 72%, preventing that way the clogging of arteries which may be fatal in extreme occasions. The cardiovascular benefits of allicin have also been backed-up in several other studies. In a 2006 study involving in-vitro (lab) trials, garlic allicin was found to inhibit damaging enzymes, and reduce LDL cholesterol (also known as bad cholesterol) while raising the HDL (good) cholesterol.
A more recent study conducted in 2013, has found that allicin is able to penetrate the cell membranes without damaging its layers and protect the cell walls for various heart/cardiovascular matters like heart hypertrophy, angiogenesis, excessive levels of lipids, and hyperglycemia.
Several studies have also examined the effects of garlic compounds like Accillin, in the prevention and treatment of cancer and in most cases, results have shown some positive effect. Garlic has been found to inhibit the development of tumors through its antioxidant, and DNA-protective effects.
Some studies have also found that garlic compounds can be useful in the treatment of certain cancers, like for example breast cancer in females.
The antimicrobial effects of garlic have been speculated for thousands of years and in the 19th century, it is believed that the famous French microbiologist Louis Pasteur was the first to officially examine the effects of garlic against bacteria, even though no reference is currently available . A recent 2013 study has found that garlic extract in different concentrations can be used for fighting dental plaque bacteria.
Liver protection effects from toxic chemicals. Many studies have shown that garlic compounds can also protect the liver cell walls from possible toxic effects of medicines and other chemical substances, like for example the known drug Acetaminophen, which is used in many countries for reducing fever and flu symptoms. In a study conducted on rat subjects with garlic powder supplementation against the liver-toxic effects of Gentamycin, the rats who took garlic powder showed a better antioxidant status and response to oxidative stress caused by such substances as opposed to rats that didn’t take garlic.
Parasitic and Fungal Infections. Besides the above, garlic has also been found to possess antifungal and antiparasitic properties. It has specifically found that the well-known Candida Albicans fungus that bothers millions of people worldwide, is very sensitive to some garlic compounds (allyl sulfides). Ιn other words, Candida can't spread when such compounds are found in our bloodstream in high concentrations.
Regarding parasite infections, a study examining the anti-parasitic effects of garlic in mice, has found that mice that took garlic extract have lowered parasitic infections as opposed to the mice that didn’t take garlic extract but where infested with parasites.
Did You Know?
- Garlic has been used by ancient cultures e.g Chinese in fighting infections, tooth decay, leprosy, and digestion problems.
- China is the largest producer of garlic, followed by India and South Korea.
- Garlic in the occult and witchcraft has been used traditionally to ward off evil spirits and vampires.