When anyone asks me what I consider to be the top health beneficial herbs, garlic certainly makes the top five. Did you know that garlic is called “the stinking rose”? Even though the “fragrance” produced by consuming garlic is less than appealing, the important health benefits of garlic, especially the reduction of inflammation, are certainly worth it for those who desire a healthy body.
A member of the lily or Allium family, which also includes onions and leeks, garlic is rich in a variety of powerful sulfur-containing compounds including thiosulfinates (of which the best known compound is allicin), sulfoxides (among which the best known compound is alliin), and dithiins (in which the most researched compound is ajoene). While these compounds are responsible for garlic’s characteristically pungent odor, they are also the source of many health benefits of garlic. Garlic is very easy to incorporate into daily means since it adds wonderful aroma and taste to so many recipes.
Most of us know that oxidative damage in the body leads to unwanted inflammation and inflammation is usually the beginning of most diseases. It is also this combination of unwanted inflammation and oxidative stress that puts our blood vessels at risk of unwanted plaque formation and clogging. Garlic’s unique set of sulfur-containing compounds helps protect your body against both possibilities—oxidative stress and unwanted inflammation. Definitely a double positive!
Garlic’s Sulfur-Containing Constituents that Help Lower the Body’s Risk of Oxidative Stress
- allyl polysulfides (APS)*
- diallyl sulfide (DAS)
- diallyl disulfude (DADS)
- diallyl trisulfide (DATS)
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
- N-acetyl-S-allylcysteine (NASC)
- S-allylcysteine (SAC)
- S-allylmercaptocysteine (SAMC)
- S-ethylcysteine (SEC)
- S-methylcysteine (SMC)
- S-propylcysteine (SPC)
- 1,2-vinyldithiin (1,2-DT)
* “Allyl polysulfides” is a general term that refers to a variety of compounds.
DID YOU KNOW? You can increase the health benefits of garlic by letting it sit after its been chopped or crushed. If you give your chopped/crushed garlic time to sit before changing its temperature (through cooking) or its pH (through the addition of acidic food like lemon juice), it will give the alliinase enzymes in garlic an opportunity to work on behalf of your health.
Health Benefits of Garlic
- may help improve iron metabolism
- rich in powerful sulfur-containing compounds including thiosulfinates reliable source of selenium
- may help to regulate the number of fat cells that get formed in the body
- cardioprotective properties
- supports healthy blood triglycerides & total cholesterol
- supports healthy blood sugar
- protects from oxidative stress
- supports healthy blood pressure
- good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6 & manganese
- daily intake lowers risk of most cancers
- antibacterial & antiviral
- effective against yeast infections & clotting disorders
Garlic and Heart Disease
The #1 killer today in our world is heart disease. Millions of people all over the world take daily doses of aspirin, blood pressure, or statin drugs, all prescribed by their doctor so that they can possibly reduce the risk of heart attack and heart disease. These pharmaceutical approaches of prevention come with serious health risks. The jury is still out as to whether theses pharmaceutical approaches do more good than harm.
Of course, we all know that heart disease is not caused by a lack of a pharmaceutical drug. In fact there are many possible causes of heart disease such exposure to tens of thousands of chemicals (many of them drugs) that did not exist in the late 19th century, unhealthy diet, lifestyle factors such as a lack of exercise, stress and smoking and heavy metal exposure all play a huge role.
A 2016 clinical study on the subject of heart-disease healing properties of garlic published in the JN Journal of Nutrition titled, Aged Garlic Extract Reduces Low Attenuation Plaque in Coronary Arteries of Patients with Metabolic Syndrome in a Prospective Randomized Double-Blind Study investigated whether AGE (aged garlic extract) reduces coronary plaque volume measured by cardiac computed tomography angiography (CCTA) in patients with metabolic syndrome (MetS). Metabolic syndrome is a constellation of metabolic issues that includes features of obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and impaired glucose tolerance. Approximately 20% of the US population is diagnosed with MetS.
Dietary supplements such as garlic extract have been known to have a positive effect on cardiovascular disease risk factors, including blood pressure, cholesterol, and endothelial function
Even though a number of previous studies have demonstrated that aged garlic extract (AGE) hinders the progression of coronary artery calcification, its effect on noncalcified plaque (NCP) has not been effectively demonstrated to be efficient in a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
The new study involved 55 patients with metabolic syndrome, with an average age of 58.7 and 71% men. They were divided into two groups (27 orally administered with 2400 mg a day of aged garlic) and 28 placebo. The intervention lasted an average of 354 days. The patients were maintained on current medications such as aspirin, hypertensive, or hyperlipidemia medication, and their medications did not change during the study period.
The results indicated a significant decrease in low-attenuation plaque volume (-1.5% ± 2.3%), compared with an increase of 0.2% ± 2.0%, in the placebo group. Low-attenuation plaque is associated with ischemia risk (inhibited blood supply) in atherosclerosis, a factor in poorer prognosis.
The obvious conclusion of this study indicated that aged garlic prevented plaque buildup in the arteries. When compared to the increase in plaque volume in the untreated group, the intervention has life-saving significance in that it reversed the progression of atherosclerosis.
Garlic is an impressive, time-tested, affordable and easily accessible natural healing food with many documented benefits. However, those who are taking medications, such blood thinners, should consult with a medical professional who knows their health history before using garlic.
Roasted Garlic Recipe
Mix into mashed potatoes. Use in place of mayonnaise on your favorite healthy sandwich. Toss into steamed vegetables like broccoli. Add to creamy dressings, vinaigrettes, or dips.
- 1 pound garlic (6 to 8 heads, depending upon size)
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil or refined cold-pressed coconut oil or macadamia nut oil
Garlic will keep, refrigerated, up to 2 weeks.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a serrated knife, slice off top quarter of garlic heads, exposing as many cloves as possible. Arrange garlic heads, cut side up, in an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish (make sure garlic heads sit flat).
Season garlic with salt and pepper and sprinkle with thyme. Slowly pour oil over each head, letting it soak into and around cloves. Cover dish tightly with foil and roast until cloves are golden, completely soft, and begin to protrude slightly from skins, about 1 hour. Let stand until cool enough to handle.
From the bottom up, squeeze each head to push out cloves (peel skins from any completely enclosed cloves). Transfer garlic and cooking oil to an airtight container.
References & Research
The World’s Healthiest Foods – Garlic
Roasted Garlic Recipe
Adams RJ, Appleton S, Wilson DH, Taylor AW, Dal Grande E, Chittleborough C, Gill T, Ruffin R. Population comparison of two clinical approaches to the metabolic syndrome: implications of the new International Diabetes Federation consensus definition. Diabetes Care 2005;28:2777–9.
Rahman K, Lowe GM. Garlic and cardiovascular disease: a critical review. J Nutr 2006;136(3, Suppl)736S–40S.
Larijani VN, Ahmadi N, Zeb I, Khan F, Flores F, Budoff M. Beneficial effects of aged garlic extract and coenzyme Q10 on vascular elasticity and endothelial function: the FAITH randomized clinical trial. Nutrition 2013;29:71–5.