Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Food Pharmacy: Garlic

Garlic is the "anti-" vegetable: anti-stress, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory!

I often suggest ways to boost the immune system because that is the first thing to break down when you experience chronic stress. A compromised immune system makes you vulnerable to every germ, virus, and fungus that comes along. Fortunately, garlic is a food that not only reduces stress, it is great at fighting bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

Following are excerpts from several health and nutrition websites with all the details and evidence supporting the claims for this amazing vegetable. All emphasis in the form of bold type has been added by me.


Chicago Conscious Choice, November 1996

Garlic is perhaps one of the most ancient medicinal plants. The Egyptians fed garlic to pyramid construction crews for strength. The Romans gave garlic to both workers and soldiers, intending to affect both strength and courage. Mentioned in Hindu writings, in works attributed to Hippocrates, and in a medieval disquisition, garlic is enjoying a revival in popularity, which seems less surprising than the fact that its virtues were ever forgotten. During London’s plague, garlic is credited with protecting households from the Black Death. Similarly, stories are told of garlic-eating French priests who were able to visit and minister to the sick during a later epidemic in London, while the English clergy, whose diets were not fortified by garlic, were unable to expose themselves without falling victim to the disease.

Through modern scientific study, garlic has been found to possess antiseptic, antibiotic, and antiviral qualities. Some of its effect on the immune system, however, may also be linked to its ability to lower stress. In Dr. John Heinerman’s book, The Healing Benefits of Garlic, he discusses evidence presented at the World Garlic Congress, in the early part of the decade. Based on information set forth by Dr. Richard Kvetnansky of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislavia, Heinerman concludes that virtually all forms of raw garlic would "exhibit anti-stress activity to varying extents.” A French researcher claims specifically that garlic elicits a calming effect, as it triggers release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and in his book, Garlic for Health, Benjamin Jau, M.D., Ph.D., cites significant results in a study done on stress-beleaguered rats. The rats in the study that had been fed garlic performed nearly two times better than the control group in a test for physical endurance. Perhaps the answer to mystery of how the pyramids were built lies not in the heavens, but under our feet, where the garlic bulb grows.

Garlic can be consumed in non-odor producing capsules, but don’t overlook its potential in the kitchen. Much of the current inquiry into the benefits of garlic was undertaken upon realization that the garlic-eating populations of the world experience a level of resistance against disease. Simply put, remember where it all began. Of course, garlic’s strength is also its weakness. As it blazes its trail through the body, evidence of its power remains in the air. Garlic applied to the skin, even on the soles of the feet, will be exhaled in the breath. The effects of eating garlic can be neutralized by chewing coffee beans, parsley, raw apple slices, or baked beet root. Alternatively, finely chopped garlic, swallowed without chewing, greatly reduces breath odor.


Garlic contains allicin, ajoene and thiosulfinates -- three powerful compounds that help the body prevent and fight infections. The compounds are so strong that consuming raw garlic juice is nearly as effective as Neosporin is for disinfecting minor wounds. When applied to the skin, garlic beats topical creams like Tinactin and other antifungal agents in fighting athlete’s foot. Evidence has been documented suggesting that people who consume large quantities of garlic on the onset of a cold will reduce the amount of time it takes them to heal.


California Ripe Olives Organization

What gives garlic and onions their medicinal properties? The answer is related to the group of sulfur-based phytocHemicals they contain. The active component of garlic is a sulfur compound, which is converted to allicin when garlic is crushed or chopped. It is one of the most important compounds in garlic's nutritional makeup. Yet, it is not the only phytochemical contained in garlic. Others include allylic sulfides, mono-terpenes, tri-terpenes, and phbenolic acids.

Cooking with garlic may alter the activity of some of the phytochemicals in garlic. For example, studies have shown that heating in a microwave or oven can minimize garlic's cancer fighting benefits. However, if the garlic is minced or crushed and allowed to stand for at least 10 minutes before heating, there is little or no loss of the phytochemical, allicin. The 10 minute standing time allows for enzymes present in garlic to start producing allicin.


New York Times

Personal Health; Reasons for garlic's benefits are uncovered.


Published: July 27, 1994

Various garlic compounds with antioxidant properties help to lower cholesterol levels in the blood. In people with elevated cholesterol, garlic supplements taken daily for months, including the tablets sold as Kwai that are widely used in Europe, lowered cholesterol levels by an average of from 9 to 14 percent, which should translate into an 18-to-28-percent reduction in heart attack risk. Garlic can also lower levels of potentially harmful blood fats called triglycerides.

Probably more important is the ability of garlic components to reduce the blood's clotting tendency by lessening the stickiness of blood platelets and by promoting anti-clotting activity. Scientists at the Washington meeting said garlic is much more potent than aspirin in this regard.

Following leads like the findings that garlic eaters in Iowa have a reduced risk of colon cancer and those in China have a lower rate of stomach cancer, Dr. Milner and others have identified several compounds in garlic that block the formation of potent carcinogens called nitrosamines as well as the gene-damaging effects of other carcinogens.

In animal studies, those treated with garlic and exposed to cancer-causing agents developed fewer cancers than animals that did not get any garlic. Dr. Milner has also studied five human tumors in laboratory cultures and has shown that one garlic compound, diallyl disulfide, is very effective in inhibiting tumor growth. Other studies suggest that garlic can help prevent metastasis, the spread of cancer from its original site to other parts of the body.

Dr. Pierson said that in healthy people, both the liquid and dried forms of aged garlic extract resulted in a rise of natural killer cells. These immune system cells help to block the spread of cancers.

French researchers at the Washington meeting described experiments in laboratory rats with a brain syndrome resembling Alzheimer's disease. They reported that aged garlic extract's antioxidant properties slowed the deterioration of the brain. Other neurological effects included a normalization of the brain's serotonin system, which can cause depression when it malfunctions.

Garlic as Food Vs. Garlic Pills

Sales of garlic supplements in the United States are estimated at $100 million a year.

Fresh garlic, even at $2 a pound, is much less expensive than supplements, and garlic powder seasoning is even cheaper, selling for about $2 for four grams, as against $10 to $14 for a quarter teaspoon of active ingredients in a garlic powder supplement, says Dr. Herbert Pierson of Preventive Nutrition Consultants Inc.

Dr. John Milner of Pennsylvania State University reminds consumers that "eating is one of the pleasures of life, and people should be encouraged to eat garlic."

Garlic is least irritating to the body when cooked; when used in dressings, whole unpeeled cloves can be parboiled for a few minutes. For those concerned about garlic breath, Dr. Milner said, "a deodorized form is a viable option."

Anyone who has a bleeding disorder or ulcers or who is taking anticoagulants would be wise to avoid garlic supplement products, since they can promote bleeding. Those who take them should do so only with food or at regular meals and should not exceed the manufacturer's recommended dosage.


So there you have it….the excellent stress-reducing and health benefits of garlic!

As always, I believe natural is best and hope you will include fresh garlic rather than a supplement. Whatever form you choose, I do strongly believe that including garlic in your diet will reduce your stress as it delivers holistic health and wellness.

Now, where did I stash that recipe for garlic pizza…..


Geraldine said...

We are BIG TIME lovers of garlic M, use it in so many dishes. A garlic press really helps to bring out all the flavor that this wonderful plant adds to foods. The health benefits are just a great bonus. And i agree, natural is the way to go, whenever possible.
Great post.

caroline brown said...

I keep waiting for the "medical industry" to pull the rug out from under me and tell me that garlic is bad for me. Then I would truly die--I simply cannot function in the kitchen without it.

JLB said...

We eat SO MUCH garlic in the house - I love it! When a recipe calls for one "clove," we usually offer one bulb!

Anonymous said...

I cooked with some Chinese garlic the other night and it just seemed to be missing something in its flavor?

The dish, a simple stir-fry veg delight, it did not have the aroma nor the pungent taste of my usual California garlic that I had always used in my dishes. This Chinese garlic was very bland and it just made my dish taste bad. I had to discard it!

The following day I made the exact dish using a California grown garlic, this dish was just so delightful! full of flavor and aroma. I could not believe the difference between the two garlic's. Has anyone out there had a simalar issue using chinese & california garlic?

I will never use Chinese garlic in any of my dishes AGAIN!

Michelle said...

Hi G and jlb, I love it too, but my husband isn't quite as enamored with it as I am. The first time I tried garlic pizza, though, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven! lol

Caroline, don't listen to them. They keep saying herbal medicines are ineffective, too. Bah! Would you believe, though, that while I was researching this article, I actually found a site that said you shouldn't eat fish?! None--zilch--zero. Bah!

anonymous, I haven't ever tried Chinese garlic, sorry. I guess I will avoid it unless someone more knowledgable comes along and gives us a clue on your bad experience. Perhaps you got a bad clove or bulb?