Garlic is an important ingredient of kitchens all around the globe, added in a good number of dishes. Not only does it impart a great flavor to your cooking, it has a number of health benefits too.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is a close relative of onion, leek, shallor and chive. It is being used for over 7,000 years, originating in central Asia. Garlic is a staple in Mediterranean region for long, and used as a popular seasoning or condiment in Asia, Europe and Africa. In India too garlic, called as lahsun, is an ingredient of a large number of recipes.
Let’s take a look at all the health benefits Garlic (lahsun) has to offer:
Garlic helps in fighting infections
Consuming fresh garlic is found to be protective against food poisoning like E. coli and Salmonella enteritidis due to its bactericidal action3.
Garlic is effective against Skin infections
The anti-viral and antibacterial properties of garlic also plays an important role in treating skin infections.
Apart from Allicin, another compound known as ajoene is found effective against fungal infections4 like athelete’s foot or ringworm. In case of a skin infection, one can apply the juice prepared from crushed garlic pieces at the affected areas. Rinse off the juice with clean water. Garlic juice application can be repeated twice a day.
Garlic keeps heart healthy
Garlic helps the arteries in maintaining their elasticity which tends to degrade with time.
Garlic also has anti-oxidant properties that protects heart from damage by free radicals5.
Garlic has Sulphur-containing compounds which prevents the blood vessels from getting blocked with time and slow the progress of atherosclerosis6.
Ajoene, present in garlic, also has anti-clotting properties that prevents the platelets from forming blood clots. Thus, garlic inhibits development of clots inside blood vessels.
Garlic keeps blood pressure in control
Garlic is also found to be effective in hypertension. In fact, a study has shown that 600-1500 mg of garlic extract are as effective as atenolol in reducing blood pressure7.
Allicin present in garlic inhibits angiotensin II, which increases blood pressure, hence helps in reducing blood pressure.
Also, garlic contains polysulphides which are converted to hydrogen sulphide by the RBCs. Hydrogen sulphide has a dilatation effect on the blood vessels, in turn, reducing blood pressure.
For best results one can add garlic to their meals. Also, eating a single piece of garlic empty stomach would help a great deal in keeping the hypertension under check.
Garlic fights arthritis
The presence of compounds names thiacremonone and diallyl sulphide in garlic makes it a potent anti-arthritic agent8.
Garlic in allergy
Garlic contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds that inhibits the action of enzymes needed for generating prostaglandins and thromboxanes. This actions makes garlic effective in allergic reactions. Garlic is also seen to improve allergic rhinitis.
You can also apply garlic juice to bug bites or rashes to stop itching.
Garlic reduces bad cholesterol levels
Allicin in garlic aids in moderately reducing the levels of triglycerides and total cholesterol in blood9 . It also helps in reducing arterial plaque formation.
Garlic is effective against cold and sore throat
Daily supplementation of garlic has shown to lessen the frequency of common cold10 by 63%. Garlic can also offer some symptomatic relief like reducing throat irritation and diminish the extent of URTI (upper respiratory tract infection).
Garlic is also helpful in chronic bronchitis by promoting expectoration.
Garlic keeps the blood sugar under control
Garlic enhances insulin release and, thus, regulates blood sugar levels with associated surge in liver glycogen. This action is attributed to the presence of sulphur compounds present in garlic11 . However, once garlic is cooked its effect on blood sugar is lost, thus it’s beneficial to consume raw garlic pieces for best results.
Garlic has anti-cancer properties
Studies have shown that garlic is also effective in cancer. The action is attributed to the allyl sulphides present in garlic. Diallyl sulphide prohibits the transformation og PhIP which is associated with development of breast cancer. Other possible mechanism for anti-cancer action are: antibacterial action, blocking production or activation of cancer-causing compounds, promotes DNA repair, decrease cell proliferation or promote cell death12.
Garlic is aphrodisiac
Although there is no scientific evidence present to the aphrodisiac action, it has been consumed for the purpose since immemorial times. Garlic tends to increase the blood circulation and thus an orgasm is intensified. The action is because of the compound allicin in garlic.
Garlic is effective in toothache
Garlic can alleviate toothache because of its analgesic and antibacterial action. However, care must be taken as garlic can also irritate the gum. One can put some crushed garlic pieces on the aching tooth.
Garlic aids in weight loss
A recent research13 has shown that garlic is effective in weight loss. Garlic might aid in preventing the formation of adipocytes (fat cells) from pre-adipocytes in the body.