Every day in this country, all day long, patients and doctors reach for conventional antibiotics when opportunistic infections present themselves. The fact that most infections are self-limiting (the body has an immune system, we often forget), and that antibacterial antibiotics are often administered for viral infections, against which they are useless and even infection-promoting, is rarely if ever acknowledged. There is also the problem that antibiotics themselves drive the growth of antibiotic resistant subpopulations of bacteria, effectively creating “super germs” in the process. This effect can adversely alter the microbial substrate for our health for months, years, and perhaps for our entire lifetime (and our children’s and grandchildren’s lifetimes).
The medicinal use of garlic was well documented by many of the ancient world’s greatest civilizations… including the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and even the Chinese. In fact, the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, often called the father of Western medicine, actually used to prescribe garlic to treat a variety of medical conditions. Modern science has recently confirmed many of these beneficial health effects.
We now know that most of the health effects of garlic are caused by one of the phytonutrients formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed or chewed. This compound is known as allicin, and is also responsible for the distinct garlic smell.
Allicin enters our systems from the digestive tract and travels all over the body, where it exerts its potent biological effects. The catch is that if you do not prepare it correctly you will not get the great benefits that garlic has to offer.
It all starts with getting the correct garlic right from the beginning. For maximum flavor and nutritional benefits, grow your own garlic, it is simple to grow and delicious beyond belief when it is fresh from your own garden! But if you must buy your garlic always purchase it fresh bulb form. Although garlic in flake, powder, pre-minced or in paste form may be more convenient, you will derive less culinary and health benefits from these forms. I know that is far more convenient to purchase it already prepped but is it really worth sacrificing the health benefits for the mere sake of convenience? I wish more people realized that but purchasing their garlic in any form other than in whole cloves, they are not getting the health benefits that the garlic has to offer. I wonder if more would go back to buying their garlic by the whole clove?
Purchase garlic that is plump and has unbroken skin. Gently squeeze the garlic bulb between your fingers to check that it feels firm and is not damp.
Store fresh garlic in either an uncovered or a loosely covered container in a cool, dark place away from exposure to heat and sunlight. This will help maintain its maximum freshness and help prevent sprouting, which reduces its flavor and causes excess waste. It is not necessary to refrigerate garlic.
Peel garlic with a knife or alternatively, separate the skin from the individual cloves by placing a clove with the smooth side down on a cutting board and gently tapping it with the flat side of a wide knife. You can then remove the skin either with your fingers or with a small knife. If there is a green sprout in the clove's center, gently remove it since it is difficult to digest.
Chopping or crushing stimulates the enzymatic process that converts the phytonutrient alliin into allicin, a compound to which many of garlic's health benefits are attributed. In order to allow for maximal allicin production, wait at least 10 minutes before eating or cooking the garlic. Also observe this 10-minute "time out" period before adding any high acidic ingredient to the garlic (for example, lemon juice). Ingredients with a pH below 3.5 can also deactivate the enzymatic process.
Since crushing and chopping are the food preparation steps that activate garlic's enzymes, these steps can help you obtain many of garlic's special benefits. For example, research has shown that microwaving or boiling garlic in uncrushed, whole clove form will deactivate its enzymes, preventing these enzymes from working. For this reason, we recommend that you chop or crush the garlic cloves prior to heating. According to research on garlic preparation methods, it only takes 60 seconds of microwaving whole cloves to lessen some of garlic's health benefits. By contrast, many of garlic's health benefits (including its anti-cancer properties) are preserved if the whole cloves are crushed and allowed to sit for 10 minutes prior to cooking. We call it the 10 minute rule.
Calorie for calorie, garlic is incredibly nutritious, a single 1 ounce serving of garlic contains:
- Manganese: 23% of the RDA.
- Vitamin B6: 17% of the RDA.
- Vitamin C: 15% of the RDA.
- Selenium: 6% of the RDA.
- Fiber: 1 gram.
- Decent amounts of Calcium, Copper, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iron and Vitamin B1
Garlic also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients. In fact, it contains a little bit of almost everything we need. All of this comes with a calorie cost of just 42 calories per ounce. You also get almost 2 grams of protein and 10 grams of carbs.
But this just the beginning! Other benefits of garlic include:
- Garlic supplementation is known to boost the function of the immune system. One large 12-week study, reported in Advances in Therapy Magazine in mid-2001, found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63% compared with placebo. The average length of cold symptoms was also reduced by 70%, from 5 days in placebo to just 1.5 days in the garlic group. A 2011 study by Elsevier Ltd and The European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism found that a high dose of garlic extract (2.56 grams per day) can reduce the number of days sick with cold or flu by 61%
- High doses of garlic appear to improve blood pressure of those with known high blood pressure (hypertension).
- Garlic supplementation seems to reduce total and LDL cholesterol, particularly in those who have high cholesterol. HDL cholesterol and triglycerides do not seem to be affected.
- Garlic contains antioxidants that protect against cell damage and ageing. It may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
- Garlic has known beneficial effects on common causes of chronic disease, so it makes perfect sense that it could help you live longer.
- Garlic can improve physical performance in lab animals and people with heart disease.
- Garlic was shown to significantly reduce lead toxicity and related symptoms in a 2011 study funded by Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology and The Nordic Pharmacological Society.
- Garlic appears to have some benefits for bone health by increasing estrogen levels in women.
The simple fact is that for thousands of years, garlic was believed to have medicinal properties and we now have strong and conclusive scientific research to confirm it.
A relatively recent study adds to the already impressive body of research in this field. Titled “Comparing the Therapeutic Effects of Garlic Tablet and Oral Metronidazole on Bacterial Vaginosis: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial,” medical researchers demonstrated the power of garlic in treating bacterial vaginosis, one of the most common gynecological infections afflicting women of reproductive age today.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) affects 29.2% of women aged 14-49, and 25% of pregnant women in the US, according to CDC statistics. According to the study,
It is believed that BV results from reduced quantities of hydrogen peroxide producing lactobacillus and increased anaerobic organisms such as Gardnerella vaginalis, Mycoplasma hominis, and Prevotella species. Antibiotics are notorious for lacking specificity in inhibiting only those opportunistic strains that can cause harm, which is why it is no wonder that the standard of care treatment of BV with metronidazole has a notoriously poor success rate.
Moreover, antibiotics like metronidazole come with a wide range of side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, dizziness weight loss, and abdominal pain. Even more concerning is the fact that the drug has been identified as a potential carcinogen both by the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer.
The new study tested whether garlic could compete with metronidazole in treating BV. Garlic was a logical choice, since it has been used as an anti-infective agent for millennia, and has seen a tremendous amount of clinical validation in the past ten years. Much of this research also demonstrates the potent anti-cancer properties of this powerfully medicinal food.
The design of the new study involved giving two groups of 60 married women (aged 18 to 44 years) either 500 mg garlic tablets comprised of 85.42% garlic powder, or metradizole. Each dose of garlic powder contained the equivalent of 8.9-mg allein, a potent antimicrobial compound. Both drugs were taken with meals at the dose of two tablets each 12 hours for seven days.
The two different treatments were evaluated using a diagnostic criteria showing active infection known as Amsel’s criteria. Not surprisingly, garlic was found superior to metronidazole at reducing infection at 70% and 48.3%, respectively. Additionally, garlic was found to have nearly no side effects at all.
The researchers concluded:
Before the advent of modern, conventional medicine, the entire world used natural substances – spices, foods, herbs – to prevent and reverse disease. In fact, so important and valued were these that they were sometimes traded for their weight in gold. Now we know that the ancients were not as “primitive, superstitious, or pre-scientific,” as widely believed, we can appreciate science that honors their wisdom.
In fact, it was their use of these substances that enabled them to survive thousands of years without modern medicine, and it is the use of these substances that will now allow us to survive modern medicine itself!
I sure wish doctors would start prescribing natural food cures, like Garlic, rather than pushing tons of pharmaceuticals on us!!
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