Garlic (Allium sativum) is a bulbous plant known for its culinary and medicinal uses. It contains sulfur compounds such as Allicin, which give it its distinctive flavor and health benefits. Widely used in cooking, garlic adds flavor to various dishes. Garlic supplements are also available for concentrated doses.

Health Benefits of Garlic

Garlic is valued for its versatility in the kitchen and potential health benefits. Medicinally, it’s believed to boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, improve heart health and possess antimicrobial properties.

Garlic is one of the Earth’s greatest health tonics and has scientifically-proven medicinal properties. Garlic contains many sulfur compounds which detoxify the body, boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and improve circulation.

One of the main sulfur compounds is a substance called Allicin which has anti-bacterial properties that are equivalent to a weak penicillin. It is useful in treating everything from allergies to tonsillitis.

Garlic has also demonstrated anti-cancer, antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-oxidant effects.

Garlic can stimulate the production of glutathione, an amino acid which is known to be a very potent antioxidant and de-toxifier. See also our article on NAC for more gluathione info. Antioxidants help scavenge free radicals.

What are Free Radicals?

Free radicals are particles that can damage cell membranes, interact with genetic material and possibly contribute to the aging process as well as the development of a number of conditions including heart disease and cancer.

Free radicals occur naturally in the body but environmental toxins (including ultraviolet light, radiation, cigarette smoking and air pollution) can also increase the number of these damaging particles. Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause over time.

Garlic Can Help Prevent Atherosclerosis

The smooth muscle relaxant Adenosine is found in garlic and this seems to help lower blood pressure. Garlic is also used to help prevent atherosclerosis, which is when plaque builds up in the arteries causing blockage and possibly leading to heart attack or stroke.

Studies suggest that fresh garlic and garlic supplements may prevent blood clots and destroy plaque. Blood clots and plaque block blood flow and contribute to the development of atherosclerosis. Blockage of blood flow to the heart, brain and legs, can lead to heart attack, stroke or peripheral vascular disease (PVD). People with PVD experience pain in the legs when they walk and move.

If garlic does reduce the build up of plaque then strokes, heart attacks and PVD may be less likely to occur in people who eat garlic or take garlic supplements.

Garlic Reduces 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.

Cholesterol Reduction: Some studies suggest that garlic may help lower total cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), while increasing HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol). The sulfur compounds in garlic, particularly allicin, are believed to inhibit cholesterol synthesis in the liver and enhance the excretion of cholesterol from the body.

Blood Pressure Reduction: Garlic has been shown to have mild hypotensive (blood pressure-lowering) effects in some individuals. The sulfur compounds in garlic are thought to promote vasodilation, or the widening of blood vessels, which can help reduce blood pressure. Garlic may also inhibit the activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), a key regulator of blood pressure.

While some studies support the cholesterol-lowering and blood pressure-reducing effects of garlic, others have found inconclusive results. The effectiveness of garlic may vary depending on factors such as the dosage, form (raw garlic, garlic supplements, or aged garlic extract), and individual response.

Overall, while garlic may offer some benefits for cholesterol and blood pressure management, it should not be considered a sole treatment for high cholesterol or hypertension. It’s essential to incorporate garlic as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle, along with other dietary and lifestyle modifications.

Diabetes – Garlic can help Lower Blood Sugar

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.

However, when used with a class of medications for diabetes called sulfonylureas, garlic may lower blood sugar considerably. Medications from this class include chlorpropamide, glimepiride and glyburide. When using garlic with these medications, blood sugars must be followed closely.

Garlic for the Common Cold

Garlic can reduce colds, coughs and bronchitis. 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 in the Northern Hemisphere, and May to August in the Southern Hemisphere).

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 a placebo.

Anti-Cancer Activity of Garlic

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.

Garlic Can Inhibit Bacteria, including Tuberculosis

Numerous test tube studies have demonstrated that garlic extract inhibits the growth of different species of bacteria, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the organism responsible for tuberculosis. Very high concentrations of garlic extract were needed to slow down the growth of M. tuberculosis in these studies, so some experts are concerned that these levels may be toxic to people.

While further research in people is needed, one animal study found that garlic oil also inhibited M. tuberculosis and reduced lesions in the lungs of these animals.

Garlic Can Remove Intestinal Parasites

Garlic is believed to have antiparasitic properties due to its active compounds, particularly sulfur-containing compounds like allicin. These compounds exhibit broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity, disrupting parasitic cell membranes and inhibiting their growth and replication.

Additionally, garlic may modulate the immune system and support detoxification processes, aiding in the elimination of parasitic invaders. Laboratory studies suggest that large quantities of fresh, raw garlic may have anti-parasitic properties against the roundworm, Ascaris lumbricoides, which is the most common type of intestinal parasite.

While garlic shows promise for treating parasitic infections, more research is needed to understand its effectiveness and optimal dosages.

Garlic for Heavy Metal Detox

As mentioned, Garlic contains sulfur compounds such as Allicin, which may help remove heavy metals from the body through chelation. Chelation is a chemical process where a chelating agent forms a complex with a metal ion by surrounding it and trapping it within a ring-like structure. So these sulfur compounds bind to heavy metals, forming stable complexes that can be excreted.

Additionally, garlic’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, and support for detoxification processes may further aid in heavy metal removal. While promising, more research is needed to determine garlic’s effectiveness and proper dosages for heavy metal detoxification.

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Garlic Herb Notes / Side Effects

Caution with Garlic for Babies and Young Children

Garlic can irritate the digestive tracts of very young children, and some sources don’t recommend garlic for breastfeeding mothers.

Garlic Allergy

Some people are allergic to garlic. Allergic reactions to garlic may manifest as skin reactions (such as hives or dermatitis), respiratory symptoms (such as asthma or rhinitis), gastrointestinal symptoms (such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea), or even anaphylaxis in severe cases.

Garlic allergies are typically triggered by proteins found in garlic, such as Alliinase and other enzymes. These proteins can cause the immune system to react in sensitive individuals, leading to allergic symptoms.

If someone suspects they have a garlic allergy or experiences symptoms after consuming garlic, they should seek medical advice. An allergist can perform tests to confirm the allergy and provide guidance on managing and avoiding garlic-containing products.

Excessive Garlic can Destroy Red Blood Cells

Excessive consumption of garlic, particularly in large quantities or concentrated forms, may potentially cause hemolysis, which is the destruction of red blood cells. This is due to the oxidizing properties of allicin, the active compound in garlic. However, such cases are rare and typically occur with extremely high doses or in individuals sensitive to its effects. Moderate consumption of garlic as part of a balanced diet is generally safe for most people.

Anti-platelet Medications

Garlic may exaggerate the activity of medications that inhibit the action of platelets in the body. Examples of such medications include indomethacin, dipyridamole and aspirin.

Blood-thinning Medications

There have been reports of a possible interaction between garlic and warfarin that could increase the risk of bleeding in people taking this blood thinning medication. Therefore, when taking medications that may thin the blood, such as aspirin and warfarin, you should refrain from consuming large quantities of garlic, either fresh or commercially prepared.

Diabetes Medications

As mentioned above, when used with a class of medications for diabetes called sulfonylureas, garlic may lower blood sugar considerably. Medications from this class include chlorpropamide, glimepiride and glyburide. When using garlic with these medications, blood sugars must be followed closely.

Protease Inhibitors

Garlic may reduce blood levels of protease inhibitors, a medication used to treat people with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), including indinavir, ritinavir and saquinavir.

Cholesterol Medications (Statins)

It is thought that garlic may behave similarly to a class of cholesterol lowering medications called statins (such as atorvastatin, pravastatin and lovastatin) and to a class of blood pressure lowering medications called ACE inhibitors (including enalapril, captopril and lisinopril). It is not known, therefore, whether it is safe to take this supplement in large quantities with these medications or not. This possible interaction has never been tested in scientific studies.

Latin Name

Allium sativum

Common Names

Allium, Garlic, Rustic Treacle, Stinking Rose

Properties of Garlic

Antibiotic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-viral, expectorant, fungicide, antihistamine, anti-cancer, anti-oxidant.

Garlic Uses

Lowers blood pressure and LDL Cholesterol. Prevents atherosclerotic buildup. Lowers or helps to regulate blood sugar. Helps to prevent blood clots from forming, thus reducing the possibility of strokes and thromboses. Removes heavy metals such as lead and mercury from the body. Relief from rheumatism. Protects against heart disease and strokes. Helps with; wounds, ulcers, skin infections, flu, athlete’s foot, some viruses, strep, worms, respiratory ailments, blood thinning, cancer of the stomach, colic, colds, kidney problems, bladder problems and worms. Helps to prevent cancer, especially of the digestive system, prevents certain tumors from growing larger and may reduce the size of certain tumors in some cases. Dramatically reduces yeast infections due to Candida species.

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