Overall Health Benefits of Garlic
There are thousands of scientific articles showing that garlic repels unwanted organisms, including harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi; has anti-tumor qualities; reduces risk for heart disease; and may improve levels of blood sugar by reducing insulin resistance. Its use dates back thousands of years, for prevention and treatment of various diseases, in poultices to prevent infection of wounds, and even as a performance enhancer among Olympic athletes in ancient Greece.
Today, the prevention of heart disease is one of the biggest reasons why people take garlic in supplements. But there are other uses for this multipurpose herb. Here are the top reasons to take a garlic supplement:
Aged Garlic Extract and Artery Protection
Researchers at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, CA, found that Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) supplements slowed the progression of arterial plaque by 80 percent. (Aged Garlic Extract is a specific type of odorless garlic.) "We have completed four randomized studies, and they have led us to conclude that AGE can help slow the progression of atherosclerosis and reverse early stages of heart disease," says lead researcher Matthew Budoff, MD.
Related: 9 Supplements for Heart Health
Garlic Supplements Help with Cholesterol & Blood Pressure Control
A review of garlic research, published in the Journal of Nutrition, analyzed studies that followed a total of more than 3,000 people. It found that garlic supplements reduced total and LDL cholesterol by up to 10 percent if taken for at least two months. Systolic blood pressure (the top number) was reduced by an average of 5.1 mm Hg, and diastolic by 2.5 mm Hg. The review also found that garlic enhanced the immune system.
Aged Garlic Extract is an Inflammation Buster
Another review, published in the same journal, found that other markers of atherosclerosis, such as chronic inflammation and calcification of arteries, were also reduced. Although studies showed that different types of garlic supplements were effective, researchers noted: "The most consistent benefits were shown in studies that used aged garlic extract (AGE)."
Stomach & Colon Cancer Prevention from Eating Raw or Cooked Garlic
One study tracked the diets and health of more than 40,000 women and found that regularly eating significant amounts of raw or cooked garlic reduced risk for stomach and colon cancer.
Garlic Supplements Used as Immune Health Remedy
One study found that garlic supplements, taken daily during cold season, help to prevent or shorten the duration of colds. Another trial found that taking 1,200 mg of garlic supplements daily for a few months reduced tick bites.
Topic Garlic for Fighting Fungus
Garlic can also be used topically to treat athlete's foot, jock itch, ringworm, and other skin problems. Crushed cloves can be mixed with water or oil and applied with a cotton ball. Test patch a very small area, as garlic can be irritating.
Related: Garlic's Healing Powers
Raw vs. Cooked Garlic: What's the Difference?
As well as being a flavorful culinary ingredient, garlic is a therapeutic food. When we chew raw garlic, beneficial compounds are released; but cooking can destroy them. Studies have found that even 30 seconds of microwaving whole garlic cloves can negate active compounds. However, chopping or crushing raw garlic begins to release beneficial compounds, and these develop further if it is allowed to sit for about 10 minutes at room temperature. When cooking whole cloves, simply cutting off the tops and letting them sit for 10 minutes before cooking preserves some active ingredients.
As a general rule, the cooking method makes less of a difference than the time, as the longer raw garlic is exposed to heat, the more active compounds are destroyed. But one study, published in the Journal of Functional Foods, found that stir-frying was most effective.
Practical Tips for Garlic Lovers
- To eliminate garlic breath, try munching on an apple, lettuce, or mint leaves; drinking mint tea; chewing parsley; or sucking on a lemon wedge.
- When cooking, a garlic press can be a handy tool, or cloves can be mashed with a fork. To get garlic odor off your hands, try washing them with lemon and salt, or coffee grounds.
If you take anticoagulant medications such as Warfarin or Heparin, talk with your doctor before taking garlic, as it can increase the effect of some anticoagulants.