Garlic (Allium sativum) is one of the earth’s greatest health tonics and does indeed have scientifically-proven medicinal properties. It contains a substance called Allicin, which has anti-bacterial properties that are equivalent to a weak penicillin. It is a natural antibiotic and is useful in treating everything from allergies to tonsillitis. Garlic contains many sulfur compounds which detoxify the body, boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and improve circulation. Garlic has also demonstrated anti-cancer, antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-oxidant effects.
Garlic is also used to help prevent atherosclerosis (plaque build up in the arteries causing blockage and possibly leading to heart attack or stroke), reduce colds, coughs and bronchitis.
Garlic can stimulate the production of glutathione, an amino acid which is known to be a very potent antioxidant and de-toxifier.
High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure
A number of studies have found that garlic reduces elevated total cholesterol levels and lowers blood pressure more effectively than placebo. However, the extent to which garlic is effective is small.
Garlic has been used as a traditional dietary supplement for diabetes in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Preliminary studies in rabbits, rats and limited numbers of people have demonstrated that garlic has some ability to lower blood sugars. More research in this area is needed. (See Notes regarding some concern about using garlic with certain diabetes medications.)
A well-designed study of nearly 150 people supports the value of garlic for preventing and treating the common cold. In this study, people received either garlic supplements or placebo for 12 weeks during “cold season” (between the months of November and February). Those who received the garlic had significantly fewer colds than those who received placebo. Plus, when faced with a cold, the symptoms lasted a much shorter time in those receiving garlic compared to those receiving placebo.
Test tube and animal studies suggest that garlic may have some anti-cancer activity. Observational, population-based studies (which follow groups of people over time) suggest that people who have more raw or cooked garlic in their diet are less likely to have certain types of cancer, particularly colon and stomach cancers. Dietary garlic may also offer some protection against the development of breast, prostate and laryngeal (throat) cancers. However, these types of cancer have not been as extensively studied as colon and stomach cancer.