Garlic has been used for thousands of years for health, wellness and longevity by people around the world, including the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Japanese, and Native Americans. There are references to using garlic as early as 6th century BC in Avesta holy writings, and documentation of the early Olympiads in 776 BC using garlic to increase their stamina.
Garlic, an edible bulb in the lily family, was used as protection from infectious illnesses long before microbes were discovered. It comes in many forms and has many uses: Fresh garlic, garlic powder, dried garlic, aged garlic abstract, and garlic oil are all used to flavor foods. Garlic dietary supplements are sold as tablets or capsules. Garlic oil may be rubbed into the skin. It has even been used for insect repellent and thought to cure vampirism!
- Garlic is used as a dietary supplement for many purposes such as: High cholesterol, High blood pressure and to build the immune system to fight infections like colds. 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.
- The wealth of scientific literature supports the proposal that garlic consumption has significant effects on lowering blood pressure, prevention of atherosclerosis, reduction of serum cholesterol and triglyceride, inhibition of platelet aggregation, and increasing fibrinolytic activity (Chan et al., 2013). Both experimental and clinical studies on different garlic preparations demonstrate these favorable cardiovascular effects.
- In the scientific journal Trends in Food & Technology, October 2020, the article “Antiviral potential of garlic (Allium sativum) and its organosulfur compounds: A systemic update of pre-clinical and clinical data” found that garlic has anti-viral and immune boosting properties, and dietary intake of garlic and garlic products contribute in prevention of viral infections through immune-boosting properties.
- Some of the protective effects from garlic may arise from its antibacterial properties or from its ability to block the formation of cancer-causing substances. Garlic halts the activation of cancer-causing substances, enhances DNA repair, reduces cell proliferation and induces cell death.
- There are very few contraindications or side effects from taking garlic as a supplement or eating it on a daily basis. The most common complaint from study participants is bad breath. Of course, that is balanced out by the positive side effect of enjoying well flavored foods!
- While garlic has many health benefits and has antimicrobial properties the World Health Organization has tweeted that garlic has not been shown to prevent the infection of Covid-19.
So go ahead, flavor your pasta and spice up your life! Don’t worry that you may smell a little funny. Your health is worth it (and it tastes so good!)
Bayan L, Koulivand PH, Gorji A. Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4103721/.
Bhasale AL, Lissiman E. Garlic for the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2006. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd006206. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25386977/
Garlic. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/garlic/ataglance.htm. Published November 30, 2016. Accessed April 19, 2019.
Ried K, Fakler P. Potential of garlic (Allium sativum) in lowering high blood pressure: mechanisms of action and clinical relevance. Integrated Blood Pressure Control. 2014:71. doi:10.2147/ibpc.s51434. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25525386/
Rouf R, Uddin SJ, Sarker DK, Islam MT, Ali ES, Shilpi JA, Nahar L, Tiralongo E, Sarker SD. Antiviral potential of garlic (Allium sativum) and its organosulfur compounds: A systematic update of pre-clinical and clinical data. Trends Food Sci Technol. 2020 Oct;104:219-234. doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2020.08.006. Epub 2020 Aug 19. PMID: 32836826; PMCID: PMC7434784.