The medicinal properties of garlic have been valued for thousands of years.
Known for its versatility in treating a range of maladies and health problems, garlic was prescribed by Hippocrates in ancient Greece and used by Chinese, Egyptian and Roman doctors, as well as many other respected cultures through the years. (1)
Besides the flavorful addition it makes in a variety of food dishes, garlic can boost the immune system, reduce high blood pressure, protect against neurological disorders, and maybe even help you live longer.
Garlic is like a jack of all trades when it comes to your health, working its magic on one level while yielding benefits you might not expect in a whole different arena.
A member of the allium family along with onions, leeks and shallots, garlic is both nutritious and delicious; cashing in on the goods is as simple as shucking off the papery outer layer and crushing a clove to release the powerful sulfur compounds.
Garlic’s nutritional profile is impressive because it contains at least a little of many substances we need for good health, including vitamins C and B6, selenium, manganese, potassium, calcium and copper. It’s low in calories at 42 per ounce, and provides a little shot of protein, a few carbs, and some fiber. (2)
The allicin in garlic is responsible for the distinctive smell, and it also imparts the most potent biological effects of the active compounds, traveling from the digestive system to all parts of the body.
If you toss a whole clove of garlic into a stew or sauce, the allicin stays locked up; release it by cutting or crushing the clove. It’s best to let it sit for a few minutes before adding it to a recipe.
Some people chew garlic cloves for medicinal purposes, but because it’s so strong, most prefer using it to enhance flavor in savory dishes.
Check out these benefits you can enjoy from adding a little spice to your life in the form of garlic.
- Improve Heart Health
With cardiovascular disease the leading cause of death worldwide, incorporating a natural substance proven to enhance circulatory health is a smart move.
In a 24-week study, the effects of garlic on lowering blood pressure was compared to the prescription drug Atenolol. Doses of aged garlic extract between 600 and 1500 mg daily proved as effective as Atenolol in bringing participants’ blood pressure into normal ranges. (5)
It would take about four cloves of garlic a day to provide the same amount in the extract used for the study.
- Immune System Booster
If you like the idea of suffering less often from catching or cold or coming down with the flu, eating your garlic is a good bet.
One study with a large number of participants found that the incidence of colds was reduced by 63% in the group taking a garlic supplement as compared to the group taking a placebo. Of those in the garlic group who caught a cold, the length of time they had symptoms was 70% less than the others, at a day and a half rather than 5 days. (10)
A work-related study showed that employees who took garlic extract dropped their total sick days by more than 60%. The amount used in the study was about 2.5 grams daily. (11)
- Protects Brain Function
Antioxidants work in our bodies to eliminate free radicals, minimizing oxidative damage that contributes to aging and disease. Garlic is loaded with antioxidants (12) and also stimulates the body’s production of antioxidant enzymes. (13)
When the positive effects of garlic on blood pressure and cholesterol levels are taken into consideration with these increased antioxidants, the potential for preventing neurological degradation grows, making it less likely garlic-eaters will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. (14)
- Supports Bone Health
Garlic may be useful in correcting hormonal imbalances contributing to osteoporosis, a common problem for women as they age.
In a clinical trial with postmenopausal women, daily doses comparable to 2 grams of fresh garlic bolstered estrogen levels, correcting a deficiency associated with bone loss. (15) Animal studies confirmed this effect. (16)
Along with onions, garlic has also been shown to have positive effects on patients suffering from osteoarthritis. (17)
- Acts as a Detoxifier
Organ damage is one of the devastating results of exposure to heavy metals, and garlic helps the body flush toxic substances in its natural cleansing process.
Workers in a battery manufacturing facility exposed to high levels of lead dropped blood levels of the metal by 19% in a single month by taking massive doses of garlic. Frequency and intensity of headaches also decreased, and garlic did a better job of clearing clinical symptoms than D-penicillimine, the prescription drug given to the control group. (18)
- Run Faster and Further
Known as an enhancer of athletic performance, garlic was given to competitors in the original Greek Olympic games; it was also administered to manual laborers to combat fatigue. (19)
Rats run faster for longer periods when they eat garlic, and human studies show garlic can help lower fatigue levels resulting from strenuous exercise. (20)
Heart disease patients taking garlic oil during a 6-week study dropped peak heart rates by 12% and improved their capacity for tolerating exercise. (21)
The benefits of adding garlic to your diet stretch across the board.
Be cautious with medicinal doses (one raw clove with each of three meals daily) if you’re taking blood thinners.
Don’t forget to crush, chop or chew garlic to release the active compounds, and keep in mind you’ll get the most allicin from fresh, raw cloves. It’s available by the bulb as well as in pastes, oils, powders or supplements.
If you’re using it medicinally or eating a lot of fresh garlic, you may want to find a good mouthwash.
Summary: While no hard evidence exists that garlic can extend lifespan, its ability to improve circulation, fight sickness, and flush toxins increase the likelihood you’ll live longer, stay stronger, and still remember who you are and where you live.