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Garlic Is Your Must-Have Ingredient for Winter Wellness

Let garlic be your go-to supplement for a range of health needs, including seasonal infections and heart disease.

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Garlic may or may not appeal to your taste buds, but you can always harness its healing powers in dietary supplements. And if the plant’s pungent odor is not to your liking, no worries, odorless versions are available.

For more than 4,000 years, garlic has been used as medicine for many types of ailments. These include digestive and respiratory problems, fatigue, bacterial infections, toothache, arthritis, and heart disease, according to a review of research in Nutrition Journal. Since the 1950s, more than 2,700 articles about garlic have been published in scientific journals.

Keeping the Heart in Shape

Heart health is one of the key areas of garlic research. Matthew Budoff, MD, a cardiologist and associate professor at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, Calif., is one of the scientists who have investigated garlic’s effects on the heart. In his research, Budoff has tested a specific type of supplement, known as aged garlic extract (AGE). In one study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, 23 patients took either 1,200 mg daily of AGE or a placebo, and plaque formation was measured for a year. These patients, says Budoff, all suffered from high cholesterol and were taking statin medications and aspirin. During the study, among those taking a placebo, risk for heart attack increased 13-fold, despite use of medications. However, those taking AGE in addition to medications had only 1.5 times the risk of healthy people.

In another study, presented recently at a conference of heart specialists in Europe, Budoff tested AGE on 65 people with a small amount of calcium deposits in coronary arteries, an early marker of heart disease. Half took 1,200 mg daily of AGE while the other half took a placebo. Among those taking AGE, plaque levels did not increase, while among those taking a placebo, plaque increased by an average of 16 percent per year.

If you have any risk for heart disease, says Budoff, AGE offers a definite benefit. “It works on multiple levels,” he explains. “It has a slight beneficial effect on blood pressure, cholesterol, and homocysteine, and when you start adding small benefits together, you start seeing a larger overall clinical benefit.”

Other Ways Garlic Helps

Garlic has also been shown to protect against cancer. A 2020 research review published in the journal Medicine, found that multiple studies have found that garlic intake is associated with less incidence of colorectal cancer.

Strep throat, inflamed gums, ear infections, and staph skin infections can also improve with the use of garlic. Bugs don’t develop resistance to garlic as they do to antibiotics, according to Decker Weiss, NMD, a naturopathic cardiologist in Carefree, Ariz., who says he often gets better results with botanicals than antibiotics for non-life-threatening infections. For more serious infections, including strep throat, consult your doctor about taking garlic along with antibiotics.

Pungent Tahini Miso Spread (Photo: Pornchai Mittongtare)

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Pungent Tahini Miso Spread