Garlic: What Are Its Health Benefits?

Garlic Health Is In The Smell

Garlic contains several substances that when mixed together correctly form a powerful healing compound call allicin. Not only does allicin have therapeutic value, it is also the substance in garlic that is responsible for the smell and flavor – it’s made out of sulfur. Very freshly sliced garlic has no odor because the allicin has not yet been formed. Only when it’s two precursors, the amino acid “allin” and the enzyme “allinase”, combine through contact after crushing or chewing does allicin appear. The reason that very old or well-cooked garlic has no flavor, and hence no allicin, is because the compound is also very volatile – heat and oxygen destroy it. Thus, proper processing is critical in the production of a garlic supplement.

Ally against Infections

Garlic BenefitsThe most ancient use of garlic is as an antibiotic, and certain components of garlic have been synthesized and used in China against bacteria and fungus infections since 1981. While there has been surprisingly little research into whether taking garlic protects against infection, ample evidence shows that garlic destroys pathogen of all kinds. In the laboratory, garlic destroys Heliobacter pylori, the bacteria indicted in stomach ulcers and stomach cancer, a dangerous new form of e.coli 0157:H7, Shigella (species of bacteria that cause digestive upset ranging from mild to severe diarrhea), and staphylococcus (1, 2, 3). Fungus infections such as candida, and the Giardia protozoa, also succumb to garlic (4). The potent bulb may also be effective against viruses ranging from the common cold to herpes (5, 6). In an age when current pharmaceutical antibiotics are losing their effectiveness or inducing resistance, garlic holds great promise. In certain cases, it is more effective than traditional antibiotics such as tetracycline.

Antioxidant for Anti-Aging

Garlic is a powerful protector against damage from free-radicals – the highly unstable oxygen molecules that damage (or oxidize) body tissue and blood fats and may be responsible for many effects of aging (11). Japanese research on a strain of animals which age prematurely shows that garlic extracts actually improved learning, cured memory problems, and prevented the brain atrophy expected in the animals. (12)

Cancer Fighter

Garlic by itself can neither prevent nor cure cancer. However, studies have shown that certain sulfur compounds found in garlic can help to prevent specialized tissues and cells from undergoing initial undifferentiation (13, 14). Other studies have shown that garlic can also help cells, which have recently lost their identity and become cancerous, to regain their original form and function. The types of cancer where garlic hold the greatest promise include those of the stomach, breast, prostate, colon and skin (14, 15, 16, 17, 18 19).

Clotting Reducer

Garlic is a potent inhibitor of blood clotting. Among those who suffer from clogged arteries, blood clots can pose a particular threat, since they can shut off blood to the heart, causing a heart attack, or to the brain, resulting in a stroke (22, 23, 24, 25).

Cholesterol Leveler

Garlic and garlic supplements also have been proven to lower cholesterol levels as much as 14%, which by itself is associated with a lowered risk of heart and vascular system diseases (20). Garlic has also been shown to inhibit LDL cholesterol oxidation, a key step in the process of cholesterol deposition into the artery wall. Thus, it keeps the arterial walls free of plaque and reduces the risk of constricted blood flow and medical conditions, including peripheral arterial disease and heart attacks (21). Garlic also lowers elevated levels of other blood fats, known as triglycerides, associated with heart disease.

Protection Against Toxins

Garlic also helps protect the body against a wide variety of toxins. It makes liver cells more effective at disarming poisons ranging from arsenic (7) to Tylenol (acetaminophen) overdose (8). Experiments have found that adding fried garlic to animals’ feed protect them from mutagens (9) and even from radiation (10).

Promise for Diabetics

Some evidence shows that garlic may be of benefit to diabetics. In animal studies, garlic supplementation helped control diabetes almost as much as insulin or oral diabetes drugs, and it stimulated the release of insulin (26).


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  3. Shashikanth, K.N. et al. A comparative Study of Raw Garlic Extract and Tetracycline on Caecal Microflora and Serum Protein of albino Rats. Folia Microbiol (Phaha) 1984, 29(4):348-52
  4. Yoshida, S. et al. antifungal Activity of Ajoene Derived From Garlic Apt. Envir. Microbiol. 1987, Mar 53(3):615-7
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  8. Hu J.J. Protective Effects of Diallyl Sulfide on Acetaminophen Induced Toxicities. Food Chem Toxicol 1996, Oct 34(10):963-9
  9. Olasa K., et al. Reduction of Urinary Mutagen Excretion in Rats Fed Garlic. Cancer Lett 1997 Mar 19, 114(1-2); 195-6
  10. Jaiswal, S.K. and a Bordia. Radioprotective Effect of Garlic Allium Sativum Linn. In albino Rats. Ind J Med Sci 1996, Jul 59(7):231-3
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  17. Pinto, J.T. et al. Effects of Garlic Thioallyl Derivatives on Growth, glutathione concentration, and Polyamine Formation of Human Prostate Carcinoma Cells in Culture. Am j Clin Nut 1997, Aug 66(7):398-405
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  21. Adler, A.J. and B.J. Holub. Effect of Garlic and Fish Oil supplementation on Serum Lipid and Lipoprotein Concentrations in Hypercholesterolemic Men. Am J Clin Nut 1997. Feb 65(2):445-50
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration

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