Garlic is a common flavoring agent for cooking. So much so, that you may even have some in your home already. But did you know that it’s also good for improving your overall health and well-being? From boosting your immune system and heart health to its antioxidant nature, garlic seems to do a little bit of everything.
So, what makes garlic so good for you in the first place? What benefits can you expect to see? See if the following benefits convince you to overcome that garlic breath smell and elevate your health.
What Makes Garlic Medicinal?
Garlic has been used for thousands of years to heal and treat a variety of conditions. Why is it so special?
The power of garlic comes largely from compounds found in the vegetable. The whole cloves already contain the compound alliin, but the magic happens when you actually crush, slice, chew, or otherwise grind the garlic. This converts the alliin to allicin, a compound that’s responsible for garlic’s distinctive taste and smell.
It’s no surprise then that allicin is the main active ingredient in garlic.
This unstable compound transforms into other, more stable compounds that contain Sulphur. These are largely believed to be the reason behind garlic’s medicinal qualities and there are many studies that back this up.
What positive changes could garlic add to your life?
Boosting Your Immune System
Cold and flu season comes around every year so it’s important to keep your body as prepared as possible to fight back. It’s even more imperative right now with the pandemic going on to ensure your body is ready to take on these pesky viruses.
In fact, if you’re interested in learning other ways to prepare your body for a pandemic or potential emergencies, there are a lot of ways to do just that (don’t worry, garlic is on the list!).
It’s no secret that viruses are behind the ill effects of both colds and the flu. That’s why it’s helpful to boost the number of T Cells found in your bloodstream, something that garlic can help with. T Cells are an integral piece of the immune system that fights viruses, so more T Cells means more defense.
A study published by nutrition scientists in 2012 found that participants taking aged garlic extract not only experienced less severity when it came to cold and flu symptoms, but that those symptoms were also quicker to leave when compared to the people not using the garlic.
This superfood can also help your immune system by reducing stress levels. Whether it’s bills, work, or an unexpected mishap, life can be stressful. But constantly living under the burden of it can and will lower your ability to fight off viruses. And the last thing you want to deal with when you’re already under other stress is the idea of getting sick.
Don’t worry though, garlic can help you here too!
It can fight off that stress and fatigued feeling by affecting your adrenal glands. It turns out that eating garlic alters your adrenal glands’ stress response. They’ll produce less stress hormones and that means you’ll start feeling less lethargic. Your immune system will be able to go back to fighting off viruses and bacteria in no time.
You read that right, garlic has even been found to have properties that aid in cancer prevention. That’s one of the reasons why it’s often included on lists of beneficial superfoods.
Garlic is antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and contains natural antioxidants. And while the role of garlic in cancer treatments is still being researched to find the scope of its effectiveness, its healing properties have already provided positive results in many studies.
For example, garlic has already proven its ability to assist in gene repair. This is especially important to note when discussing cancer, since it mutates important genes. By boosting DNA repair we’re able to combat some of that damage as it occurs.
A study as recent as 2018 shows that garlic enhanced the expression of tumor suppressor genes over the course of the experiment. It can change the cancerous cell’s behavior and lead to slowed growth and metastasis of the tumors.
Unfortunately, not all cancers will be affected by increasing your garlic intake, but you can potentially reduce your risk for:
- Pancreatic cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Rectal cancer
- Lung cancer
Increasing the amount of garlic in your diet also promotes a healthy heart. Research has found garlic to perform better than placebos at lowering total cholesterol levels and blood pressure, both of which are risk factors for heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks.
There’s also evidence that garlic supplements have the ability to reduce the thickness of your blood and lower platelet aggregation (a fancy way of talking about blood cells sticking together). People with hypercoagulability, a condition where a person’s blood is thicker and stickier than normal, can be prone to excess blood clots. Garlic’s capacity to both thin blood and reduce the number of sticky cells means they’ll experience lower risk for the dangerous clots.
Garlic also has a significant stabilizing effect on arrhythmias in animal studies. While it hasn’t been confirmed in humans yet, we know that there are many diseases related to irregular heartbeats that could stand to benefit from these results. Less stress on the heart can mean a longer, more fulfilling life.
Clear Skin & Combat Acne
Remember allicin, the stinky but delicious main ingredient of garlic? Thanks to its antibacterial properties, it can help fight off the bacteria that causes acne. It can also help the skin receive nutrients more easily by improving blood circulation, leading to a clear complexion. Garlic’s anti-inflammatory properties can reduce the appearance of blemishes, too.
There are also other vitamins and minerals found in garlic that’s good for healthy skin, like Vitamin B-6 and C, copper, zinc, and selenium.
At this point you’re probably thinking that you don’t want smelly garlic all over your face, even if it means clear skin. The good news is that you can get a lot of the benefits just from ingesting it. But if you want to get rid of a particularly annoying pimple, there are also topical treatments that incorporate garlic.
If you do go the topical spot treatment route, make sure to test it out on a small non-obvious area first to ensure there are no adverse effects. If it starts burning or stinging, wash the area immediately.
Clear Skin & Combat Acne
As we age, some areas of the brain connected to cognitive functions like planning, learning, and memory may shrink. Narrowing arteries can lower the amount of blood flowing to the brain. Inflammation and free radical damage can also take a toll on our brain over the years.
Garlic’s anti-inflammatory properties help to increase memory and cognitive functions by tackling these problems. It can prevent or slow decline due to Alzheimer’s Disease, another well-known memory loss illness.
We’ve already looked at garlic’s cancer prevention capabilities, but it’s worth noting that a 2013 study demonstrated its ability to protect against glioblastoma—the most aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer. A compound in garlic called dilly trisulfide (DATS) is not only effective at preventing tumor growth but also causes apoptosis (cell death) in active glioblastoma. As an added bonus it doesn’t have any adverse effects on liver function either, a potential side effect of other treatments.
Any time you’re looking to introduce a new supplement into your diet you should be mindful of interactions it might have with other supplements and medications you’re already taking. Consult with a doctor before adding garlic to your health regimen to make sure you’re taking proper doses and that it won’t have negative interactions with any health issues you have.
Excessive garlic consumption can cause side effects, with bad breath and body odor being the most common (good for maintaining that six feet of social distancing, but not all that great for your loved ones!). Eating raw cloves, especially on an empty stomach, can cause gas, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, acid reflux, and heartburn.
If you’re going into surgery, be mindful of garlic’s blood thinning properties as it may increase bleeding during the operation. Stop using the supplement at least a full week before the procedure and follow up with your doctor if you feel unsure.
Garlic is more than just a smelly vegetable that makes food delicious. It’s been used as a medicinal supplement across the world for thousands of years. Its benefits have drawn enough attention that hundreds of studies have been done, solidifying its healing properties in science.
It contains important vitamins and minerals and provides health benefits for nearly every part of your body. Compounds inside like allicin and DATS are proven to assist and reduce the risk of many life-threatening illnesses.
The exact preparation and dose recommended differs from treatment to treatment. There’s ongoing research that is trying to discover the best way to maximize garlic’s healing properties.
Overall it’s an easy, inexpensive way to boost your physical health and defend against many viruses and diseases.
Meditation, prayer, laughing, and a good snuggle session are also great ways to heal—physically, emotionally, and spiritually!