Garlic—a Vegetable, a Condiment, and a Medicine

The Allium is on the list of Dr. Perricone's 10 superfoods[4].  Allium is a monocot genus of flowering plants, informally referred to as the onion genus. The generic name Allium is the Latin word for garlic. Members of the genus include onions, shallots, leeks, scallions, garlic, and chives

Health Benefits 

"Garlic is a powerful natural medicine in addition to being a strong-flavored seasoning for food," said Dr. Andew Weil.  On Dr. Oz TV show, he strongly recommends us to consume garlic daily.  Garlic is known to provide the following benefits:

  • A good source of vitamin B6 and also of vitamin C
  • A stew of compounds with potential health benefits, including saponins, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium, polyphenols, and arginine
  • A potent antibiotic
    • Garlic is active against fungal infections, with antibacterial and antiviral effects as well
    • Garlic is effective against strains of pathogens that have become resistant to many drugs
    • Garlic help produce more "natural killer" cells in the blood to fight tumors and infections
  • Good to your heart
    • Garlic has abilities to lower blood pressure[7] and decrease the risk of blood clots (cause of the majority of strokes and heart attacks), as well as decrease triglycerides and LDL cholesterol
    • Garlic is said to raise HDL —"good"—cholesterol
  • An effective home remedy for colds is to eat several cloves of raw garlic at the first onset of symptoms
    • It is believed that garlic has immune-boosting properties that may reduce cancer cell growth and help the body fight off diseases such as colds or the flu.
  • Garlic is currently under study for its ability to reduce cancer risk
    • Garlic is one of the dietary sources of naturally-occurring antiangiogenic substances studied by Dr. William Li[5]
    • Several compounds in garlic may have anticancer properties, but compounds of one type in particular—the allyl sulfur compounds—are thought to play a major role.
      • These compounds reportedly help the body get rid of cancer-causing chemicals and help cause cancer cells to die naturally, a process called apoptosis.
      • Many laboratory studies done in cell cultures and animals suggest garlic may help reduce tumor growth
      • Other studies in cell cultures have found that substances in garlic seem to be able to act as antioxidants
      • Several studies from around the world have found that people who eat more garlic seem to be at lower risk for certain types of cancer.
      • Large studies that looked at diet and cancer have suggested that people who eat more garlic are at lower risk for stomach, prostate, mouth, throat, kidney, and colorectal cancer.
      • A recent review of available evidence suggested that diets high in garlic reduce colorectal cancer risk by as much as 30%.[13]  However, 
        • The effect on risk for breast, bladder, ovarian, and lung cancer is less clear.
        • Garlic supplements do not seem to have the same effect.
  • Helps fight against neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's
  • Enhances detoxification by reducing toxins
  • Our body makes glutathione (the mother of all antioxidants, the master detoxifier, and the maestro of the immune system) from foods that contain sulfur—garlic and onions, cruciferous vegetables, egg yolks, and most forms of protein

How to Consume it?

As with most whole foods, garlic's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities are probably due to the sum of the whole rather than a single agent.  For example, the few human studies that have looked at garlic supplements have not found them to be helpful against cancer.

The most important sulfur-containing compounds in garlic is
allicin.  Allicin is not present in fresh garlic, but it is formed instantly when cloves are crushed, chewed, or cut.  When chopping garlic, let it sit for 15 minutes before using.  This will allow the enzymes to reach full anti-inflammatory power.  Cooking garlic reduces the potency of its active ingredients.  Therefore, it may be best to simply mince garlic and eat it raw or to add it to foods near the end of the cooking time.  Chewing some fresh parsley or green tea leaves after eating garlic can minimize the odor.

Like other fresh staples in the kitchen, garlic may grow mold and rot.  As matter of fact,
Aflatoxins have been found in garlic[6].  So, store fresh garlic away from dampness and sunlight.

Precautions

Consumption of large amounts of garlic may lead to irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, causing stomach pain, gas, and vomiting.  One study suggests that the use of garlic may increase the risk of bleeding because its anti-blood clotting properties.  People who are undergoing surgery should avoid garlic, especially if they have been given blood thinners or if postoperative bleeding is a concern.

Garlic seems to affect enzymes in the liver that help remove certain drugs from the body.  This may result in reduced levels of some drugs in the body, which could be especially important in people undergoing chemotherapy.


References

  1. SuperFoods HealthStyle by Steven G. Pratt, M.D., and Kathy Mattews
  2. Dr. Weil on Garlic
  3. Nutrition for Cancer Survivors by Barbara L. Grant, Abby S. Bloch, Kathryn K. Hamilton, and Cynthia A. Thomson
  4. Dr. Perricone's 10 Superfoods
  5. Naturally-Occurring Antiangiogenic Substances
  6. Toxins Are Everywhere — I'm Not Kidding
  7. Causes and Remedies for High Blood Pressure
  8. National Geograpic Guide to Medicinal Herbs
  9. Top 10 Anti Inflammatory Herbs
  10. Dr. Mercola Talks About Sulfur 
  11. Stop buying garlic. Here’s how to grow an endless supply of garlic right at home
    • Grow your own garlic in 5 simple steps:
        1. Break up the garlic bulb into cloves and bury them a couple inches deep in loose, damp soil.
        2. Make sure you keep the pointed side of the clove facing upwards.
        3. When your garlic sprouts, make sure to give them water when the topsoil feels dry but be sure to not overwater – garlic tends to not need too much water.
        4. Cut off any flowers that bloom to preserve the flavor of your garlic.
        5. Once your garlic plant has 5 or 6 leaves, it’s ready to be pulled up!
    • How to grow garlic (quick tips)
    • Health Benefits of Garlic (University of Maryland Medical Center)
    • Cao HX, Zhu KX, Fan JG, Qiao L. Garlic-derived allyl sulfides in cancer therapy. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2014;14(6):793-9.
    • Dorant E, van den Brandt PA, Goldbohm RA, Hermus RJ, Sturmans F. Garlic and its significance for the prevention of caner in humans: a critical view. Br J Cancer. 1993;67(3):424-429.
    • Durak I, Yilmaz E, Devrim E, et al. Consumption of aqueous garlic extract leads to significant improvement in patients with benign prostate hyperplasia and prostate cancer. Nutr Res. 2003;23:199-204.
    • Fleischauer AT, Arab L. Garlic and cancer: a critical review of the epidemiologic literature. J Nutr. 2001;131:1032S-1040S.
    • Fleischauer AT, Poole C, Arab L. Garlic consumption and cancer prevention: meta-analyses of colorectal and stomach cancers. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;72:1047-1052.
    • Gullett NP, Ruhul Amin AR, Bayraktar S, Pezzuto JM, Shin DM, Khuri FR, Aggarwal BB, Surh YJ, Kucuk O. Cancer prevention with natural compounds. Semin Oncol. 2010 Jun;37(3):258-81. Review.
    • Levi F, Pasche C, La Vecchia C, Lucchini F, Franceschi S. Food groups and colorectal cancer risk. Br J Cancer. 1999;79(7-8):1283-1287.
    • Mantle D, Lennard TW, Pickering AT. Therapeutic applications of medicinal plants in the treatment of breast cancer: a review of their pharmacology, efficacy and tolerability. Adverse Drug React Toxicol Rev. 2000;19(3):223-240.
    • Milner JA. A historical perspective on garlic and cancer. J Nutr. 2001;131(3s):1027S-1031S.
    • Ngo SN, Williams DB, Cobiac L, Head RJ. Does garlic reduce the risk of colorectal cancer? A systematic review. J Nutr. 2007;137(10):2264-9.
    • Schafer G, Kaschula CH. The immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic oranosulfur comounds in cancer chemoprevention. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2014;14(2):233-40.
    • Steinmetz KA, Kushi LH, Bostick RM, Folsom AR, Potter JD. Vegetables, fruit, and colon cancer in the Iowa Women's Health Study. Am J Epidemiol. 1994;139(1):1-15.

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