Top 10 Health Benefits of Garlic

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November 10, 2012, last updated May 4, 2013

By Alison Turner, Featured Columnist

Some of us have already experienced some of garlic's
powers: perhaps we have used the herb to ward off
vampires (or against unsuccessful dates), or to make
simple food taste more interesting.  Whatever you use
garlic for, you're not alone: the USDA reports that per
capita consumption of garlic was at an estimated 2.6
pounds in the year of 2004, a remarkable quantity that
garlic specialists at the Agricultural Issues Center with the
University of California attribute to garlic's flavor as well as
its health benefits.   

Garlic can come in the form of oil, powder, supplemental
pills, and the cloves we use in our cooking.  In most cases,
a substance called allicin is the important ingredient in
garlic, and can be thanked for that distinct smell we all
know and (some of us) love, as well as its health benefits.  
Depending on the way that we cook garlic and prepare
garlic (see below) the health benefits within become more
or less affective.  

Garlic has been a favorite medicine in old wive's tales,
ancient healing practices, and the world of fantasy (think
vampires), having been used to treat ailments as varied as
warts, cancer, high blood pressure, shortness of breath,  
the prevention of food poisoning, and as a
stress reducer.   
However, some of garlic's fame has yet to be supported in
the laboratory, for better or for worse.  

Read on to see which health benefits from garlic can be
found not only in myths but also in scientific journals from
all over the world.   

First Thing's First: How to Cook Garlic to Get the Most
Health Benefits
.  For those of us who have never thought
long and hard about the chemistry involved with a clove of
garlic, we may be interested to know that when it comes to
getting the most out of this special herb, garlic isn't garlic.  

There are ways of preparing this food that will be more
beneficial than others.  In 2007, a team of scientists from
The Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at the National
University of Cuyo in Mendoza, Argentina, as well as from
the Department of Horticulture at the University of
Wisconsin  did some experimental cooking with garlic.  
They noted that the raw form of garlic is "widely
recognized" for its antiplatelet agents, which are thought to
help prevent cardiovascular disease.  (Read more about an
ideal breakfast to prevent heart disease.)

But let's be honest: how many of us are likely to eat raw
garlic, even if we know it's good for the heart?    So, if
we're going to cook garlic, the first step is to crush the
cloves, rather than leaving them whole.   

Next, the culinary team found that oven-heating crushed
garlic at 200 degrees Celsius or  immersing the herb in
boiling water for three minutes or less, "did not affect the
ability of garlic to inhibit platelet aggregation." However,
heating crushed garlic for six minutes reduced antiplatelet
activity.  Even longer incubation, for more than ten
minutes, "completely suppressed" the antiplatelet benefits.  

After all of their tests, the team reached a few overall
conclusions, including that "crushing garlic before
moderate cooking can reduce the loss of activity" (that is,
can reduce the loss of benefits), and that any partial loss of
benefits that comes from cooking garlic instead of eating it
raw, "may be compensated by increasing the amount

So crush up some cloves and heat ‘em up – but for no
more than six minutes – and read on to find out some of
the good things that could happen to you if you dig in.  

Get Ready for Flu Season: Stock Up On Garlic!  We all
have our own home remedies to prepare for
flu season:
some of us eat extra oranges for Vitamin C, and some of us
wear at least four layers at all times.  

Earlier this year, researchers found an exciting, new
method that may prevent flu --- garlic.  

In June of this year, 2012, Susan Percival with the Food
Science and Human Nutrition Department at the University
of Florida, along with other researchers,  analyzed the
effect that garlic – aged garlic extract, to be precise – has
on NK cells.  (NK cells are also known as Natural Killer cells,
and are a type of white blood cell in our immune system
that plays a role in rejecting tumors and other infections in
cells).   The team recruited 120 healthy subjects to see how
2.56 grams each day of capsulated aged garlic extract
supplementation affected immune cell proliferation, and
thus cold and flu symptoms.  

They found that after 45 days NK cells “were shown to
proliferate better.”  After 90 days of supplementation,
“illness diaries” of participants showed that those
consuming garlic “appeared to have reduced severity” of
cold and flu symptoms.  

The team concluded that “supplementation of the diet with
aged garlic extract may enhance immune cell function and
that this may be responsible, in part, for reduced severity
of colds and flu.”  If Grandma never told you to eat your
garlic or you’ll catch your death, maybe you can pass it on
to your grandkids.  (Read more about
natural remedies for
the flu.)

Have You Ever Had a Candidiasis fungal infection?  Next
Time, Try Garlic
.  Candidiasis is a type of fungus infection
that is caused by over 20 different kinds of yeasts.  While
these yeasts normally live on the skin without causing
infection, their overgrowth can cause symptoms such as
thrush,” or infection in the mouth or throat, or “yeast
infection,” affecting the vagina.   (Read more about natural
remedies for thrush and for yeast infection.)

In 2009, Maryam Soltani, a researcher in Tehran, Iran,
along with other Iranian exerts , published a study in the
Journal of Medicinal Plants that looked at how garlic could
help alleviate yeast infection symptoms.  

Garlic allicin, the compound in garlic that is thought to have
antibiotic properties, was prepared into an extract and
“made to react” with macrophages (the immune
mechanism against the fungus) that were exposed to the
Candidiasis yeast fungus in mice.  Results showed that
“allicin activated the immune system against the fungus,”
so that “allicin extracted from garlic can have a great effect
on the activity of macrophages” against the candidiasis

Before preparing your own garlic extract at home, it might
be a good idea to check with your doctor -- especially if
applying your concoction to more...sensitive...areas of
fungal infection.  

Garlic May Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer. Of all the
benefits of eating garlic, this may be the most surprising.  
Garlic can help to combat
breast cancer. (Read more about
Top 10
prevention tips for breast cancer.)

In February of this year, 2012, Dr. Suhasini Modem with
the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the
Wayne State University in Michigan, along with other
researchers from the same university,  responded to the
scary statistic that 1 out of 8 women in the U.S. will
develop breast cancer in her lifetime, and that “dietary
manipulation could have a major impact on the incidence of
breast cancer.”  

The team found that fresh garlic extracts (not boiled!)
“arrested the growth and altered the morphology” of
certain breast cancer cells.  They believe that their work
provides “potential options to treat breast cancer.”

If you're wary of eating raw garlic, see the first item in this
article for tips on ways to cook garlic that help to preserve
the health benefits the herb provides.  

Garlic Could Be the Cure for that Pesky Otomycosis.  
Otomycosis is a fungal infection of the external ear that is
most common in warm, moist climates.  Symptoms of
otomycosis include itching, pain, and stinging in the outer

Otomycosis can be treated with antibiotics and/or ear
drops  or, according to research done in New Mexico, by

In 2008, S.T. Pai and M.W. Platt with the Department of
Microbiology at the University of New Mexico in
Albuquerque  “studied the efficacy of garlic extracts”
against the fungus causing otomycosis, analyzing aqueous
garlic extract, concentrated garlic oil, and garlic

They found that the first two forms of garlic displayed
“antifungal activity” that was even more “inhibitory” than
pharmaceutical preparations for outer ear fungus.  

If anyone in your household gives you the eye about
applying garlic solutions to your ear fungus, remind them
that science supports what you're doing.  (Read more
ear infection remedies.)

Garlic: An Insect Repellent?  How many people do you
think know what a Phlebotomous papatasi is?  Perhaps we’
ll have more luck with a sandfly?

A Phlebotomous papatasi is a type of sandfly that plays a
key role in transferring viral infections and parasitic
diseases to humans.  The females bite mammals and feed
on their blood, so that now there are an estimated 1.5
million new cases of disease from this sandfly every year.   
But before this turns into the most recent end-of-the-world
horror story in your head, know that there may be an easy
way to protect yourself and your loved ones: a repellent
made from something as basic as garlic.  

In 2005, L. Valerio and M. Maroli with the Department of
Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health in
Rome,  evaluated the “anti-feeding effect” (that is,
repellent) of garlic oil against bites from Phlebotomous
papatasi females, the beloved sandflies described above.  
Topical garlic oil was applied to five human volunteers, and,
in a second experiment, sandflies fed on an “artificial
membrane” treated with the same garlic compound.  
Results showed that garlic oil as a topical application
showed “significant protection” on the skin of volunteers,
providing 97% protection at a 1% dilution.  

As for garlic oil applied to an artificial membrane, results
were even more assuring, providing 100% protection at
1% concentration.     Next time you wander into
Phlebotomous papatasi-infested regions, be sure to pack
the garlic.  (Read more about
natural flea and insect

Garlic Helps to Fight Skin Cancer.  

Continue reading page 1
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