Garlic – a good food & a great medicine

by on 16/01/2013

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The health benefits of garlic have been known for centuries. The ancient herbalists knew of the health benefits of garlic, benefits which they used often. The English name for garlic originates back to Anglo-Saxon times, being derived from gar (a spear) and lac (a plant). This is a reference to the shape of the garlic plant’s leaves, which are long, flat and thin.

Garlic is a member of the lily family, one of its closest relatives being the onion.

Garlic benefits are mentioned in old English writings from the tenth to the fifteenth century. Chaucer, for example, refers to garlic as ‘Poor Man’s Treacle’, meaning an elixir or ‘cure-all’.

Writings on the health benefits of garlic date back to the time of Pliny, in the first century. He states that garlic and onion were called upon as gods by Egyptians undertaking oaths.

The main health benefits of garlic from general knowledge, are for: garlic and high blood pressure; garlic and cholesterol; and the use of garlic as an antibiotic. Garlic benefits not only the heart, arteries, immune system and high blood pressure, but also is very beneficial for the lungs. These uses are explored below.

One of the additional health benefits of garlic is that, when considering any problems of using garlic, side effects are very few.

Garlic – antibiotic of nature

The use of garlic as an antibiotic has been known for many years. For many centuries, garlic has been used to fight various infections. Long before antibiotics were developed in 1928, garlic was often used in the treatment of infections from bronchitis and tuberculosis to dysentery and typhoid as well as your general colds, flu, ear, nose & throat infections.

During World War I, The health benefits of garlic were strongly tested: garlic was used to dress the wounds of soldiers, with fantastic results. Garlic certainly saved many lives by stopping infections in the wounds turning to blood poisoning.

It is still not fully understood exactly how garlic benefits the immune system and achieves its antibiotic action; though its pungent, odorous volatile oil, allicin, is considered to be one of the main active constituents.

Other therapeutic constituents present in garlic are, vitamins A, B, C and E; minerals such as germanium (assists toxic metal elimination, restores pH – acid & alkaline balance – and is an immune enhancer); and Selenium (an essential nutrient, and antioxidant which enhances the body’s own healing mechanisms).

Uses of garlic

I have already mentioned garlic’s antibiotic action; it has other benefits too. Here is a summary of these.

Garlic – benefits for lungs & throat

Garlic can assist in:

  • Coughs, colds and other infections of the lungs and throat
  • Reducing and expelling catarrh
  • Asthma
  • Fevers (can induce sweating)

General health benefits of garlic

Garlic can assist in:

  • Healing of wounds, boils, sores etc (applied externally and taken internally). Garlic can be valuable for infected wounds and used as a preventative against infection
  • Fungal infections, athlete’s foot for example
  • Ear & Sinus infections

Garlic – benefits for digestion

Garlic can:

  • Expel intestinal parasites (worms)
  • Reduce blood sugar levels which can help in late-onset diabetes
  • Help with digestive infections, gastric upsets

Garlic – benefits for heart and circulation

Garlic can:

Lower blood cholesterol (fat) levels. This is important in the prevention of heart disease and problems such as obesity

Lower blood pressure. This is another important factor in the prevention of heart disease

Keep the blood thin. This can enhance blood circulation, help to prevent thrombosis and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Dosage

Raw Clove: 1 clove 3 times daily – a vegetarian or gelatin capsule can be filled with the crushed clove for convenience.

Dried Powder: 400-1200mg daily, equivalent to 1-4 capsules daily.

Tincture: 2-4ml in water (about 40-80 drops). I should mention that garlic in tincture form is particularly pungent!

Garlic Oil: taken orally: 2-5ml daily (about 40-100 drops); as ear drops for an ear infection: 2-4 drops in each ear at night; or as nasal drops for sinus infection: 2-4 drops in each nostril 1-2 times daily.

Or follow the instructions on any proprietary pack of garlic product being used.

Many people who have taken a garlic supplement everyday for years have told me that if they miss a day, they notice it.

Health benefits of garlic in combinations

Some products combine garlic with other herbs. This can give added protection against infections or colds: sometimes a combination of herbs is more effective than a single herb. For example,garlic can combine well with echinacea, wild indigo and myrrh, to enhance its antibiotic properties.

Though some people do think that you can’t beat the real thing… by all means, take the fresh cloves for the benefit of both your health and your pocket. (If you can stand to!)

Garlic side effects

The only real concern with garlic is that, as it can help thin the blood, so it should not be taken with Warfarin.

Occasionally, slight digestive side-effects may occur when taking garlic. A few people may be sensitive to it, or find that for some reason it does not suit them. For example, it may produce indigestion or loose bowels, so, if you are starting, take it with caution at first.

It is also suggested that a medical herbalist should be consulted if using anything but a minimal dose of a garlic supplement for a child under 7 years old.

Summary of garlic health benefits

Garlic has been used for thousands of years in cooking; but also the health benefits of garlic have made it a favourite with herbalists.

Garlic health benefits make it valuable for assisting in:

  • Coughs, colds and other infections of the lungs and throat
  • Reducing and expelling catarrh
  • Asthma
  • Fevers
  • Healing of wounds, boils, sores etc
  • Fungal infections
  • Ear & Sinus infections
  • Expelling intestinal parasites
  • Reducing blood sugar levels
  • Digestive infections, gastric upsets
  • Lowering blood cholesterol levels
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Keeping the blood thin.

Garlic is an incredibly versatile herb, safe to use and great in cooking – use it often.

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