Garlic – The Benefits
Garlic is one of the oldest well known medicinal plants, and it’s known for reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering blood pressure and helping to fight off colds.
The therapeutic qualities of garlic are nothing new. Records show that garlic remedies were first founded in India 5,000 years ago, while Chinese medicine has recognized garlic’s powers for over 3,000 years. Although the discovery of penicillin in 1928 largely took over from garlic, World War One overwhelmed the capacity and garlic was again, the antibiotic of choice.
So, what is it about garlic that makes it so good for our health you may ask? When cloves are chewed, crushed or cut, they release a sulphur bearing compound called allicin which is the chemical that gives garlic its pungent taste and smell. And it’s the allicin that scientists have discovered is the magic ingredient thought to be responsible for garlic’s therapeutic qualities.
How does it help your health?
Most of the modern research on garlic has concentrated on its ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure as well as offering protection against strokes and heart disease, our Pu-erh Tea has similar health benefits. For example, when the journal of the Royal College of Physicians reviewed data on cholesterol in 1993, it found that after as little as just 4 weeks there was a 12 per cent reduction in cholesterol levels in the research groups that had taken garlic.
A review of recent clinical trials, published in the Journal of Hypertension, showed that taking garlic tablets cut volunteers’ blood pressure by between 1 and 5 percent. These results led the authors of the report to conclude that taking health supplements could cut the chance of stroke someone having a stroke by anything from 30 – 40 percent, while heart disease could be reduced by 20-25 percent. Scientists have also looked at the role garlic plays in helping prevent the formation of blood clots.
While garlic has a fantastic reputation for helping to maintain a healthy heart, regular amounts of garlic seems to also help the body fight off infections. These antibacterial effects were first discovered in the early 19th century during an outbreak of infectious fever – English priests caught the fever but the French priests, who ate garlic everyday, remained healthy. However, you don’t need to suffer with a fever to benefit from garlic’s health enhancing properties.
Fighting off the common cold
A recent study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the risk of the volunteers catching a cold by half. The researchers also discovered that even when those taking the supplement did develop a cold they were more likely to make a quicker recovery than those volunteers taking garlic.
If that’s not enough, as little as one clove a day will top up your body’s supplies of vitamins, A, B and C, as well as a vast array of minerals including selenium, iodine, potassium, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium.
Research into the benefits of garlic are continuing all the time and some scientists have been reviewing the evidence that suggests it may even help to protect against stomach cancer. The thinking behind this is the allicin compounds, contained in garlic, may help prevent cancerous changes in the stomach wall. While more research is clearly needed on the subject there is little doubt that even a small amount of garlic, everyday, can go a long way in helping to protect, as well as boost your health.
Embarrassing side effects?
For some, garlic can be a cause of heartburn as well as flatulence. And then, of course, there is the smell that eating garlic leaves behind! For those of you who prefer their garlic odourless, a range of products, from chemists and health food shops, provide the recommended dose which is between between 600-900 mg a day.
If you prefer the real thing, a clove a day can help improve your overall health and two or three cloves a day can help to stem a cold. If the taste is too overpowering, try mixing with plain yoghurt or cottage cheese and chewing parsley can help to neutralize your breath after eating garlic.
Using garlic in cooking
When used in cooking, crush or cut the garlic finely, then leave for 10 minutes to allow the allicin to fully develop before adding. Add the garlic about 5 minutes before the end of cooking, this way you apply just enough heat to convert the allicin into medically active compounds. Garlic is used in a lot of recipes and is perfect for giving flavour to healthy weight loss recipes.
Garlic has been known to interact with anticoagulants, such as Warfarin, so if you take and sort of blood thinning medication or aspirin we do advise you consult your GP before taking supplements. It is also recommended that no supplement is taken for at least two weeks before surgery, as this may interfere with blood clotting and increase risk of bleeding.
Grow your own
Garlic is grown from the individual cloves. Each clove will produce one plant with a single bulb – which may in turn contain up to twenty cloves. Growing garlic is therefore self-sustaining.
When planting garlic, choose a garden site that gets plenty of sun and where the soil is not too damp. The cloves should be planted individually, upright and about an inch (25 mm) under the surface. Plant the cloves about 4 inches (100 mm) apart. Rows should be about 18 inches (450 mm) apart.
Garlic is a very friendly plant and grows well planted with other flowers and vegetables.
Although garlic can protect other plants growing nearby against many ailments, there are some it is prone to
Harvesting Your Garlic Crop
As garlic reaches maturity, the leaves will brown then die away. This is the cue that it is time to harvest your garlic crop. If you harvest too early the cloves will be very small, too late and the bulb will have split.
Proper handling of garlic after it’s been picked is almost as important as looking after it whilst it’s growing. It’s essential that garlic is dried properly, otherwise it will rot. The bulbs are often hung up in a cool, dry place. After a week or so, take them down and brush the dirt off gently – don’t wash the bulbs at this stage.
Then enjoy the delicious results of growing your own garlic in your own garden.
Were you aware of the health benefits of this amazing root vegetable before reading this?