Used as an herb to flavor food, the fresh cloves of garlic are also notoriously used medically for conditions that relate to the heart and blood system.
It’s no wonder garlic is the second most utilized supplement in the United States — fish oil takes first place. Health supplement makers claim the active health benefit ingredient in garlic is allicin, which is the same chemical that gives garlic is distinctive odor. Due to its instability, the chemical allicin tends to change rather quickly when prepared for use.
Manufacturers who produce garlic supplements, especially odorless supplements, reduce the amount of allicin in the finished product. This of course compromises the effectiveness of the garlic supplement. If processed heavily, some odorless garlic supplements may simply be void of allicin and therefore, void of any health benefits.
Haru Amagase, Wakunagaís director of research and development points out that human stomach acid destroys allicin and that its presence cannot be detected in the bloodstream. He says the only way for the beneficial allicin to be present in the human body is for it to be delivered directly to the intestines, which is accomplished via enterically coated garlic supplements.
Researchers agree that of the 150 varieties of garlic, and of its more than 200 compounds, one clove is not equal to another. Garlic varieties such as Persian Star, Russian Skuri and Oswego White are worlds apart. Not only does processing (specifically the application of heat) negate the properties of garlic, where its grown is also a key factor. Garlic harvested in Japan compared to garlic harvested in California, for example, will have very different qualities in the way of chemical properties. And again, garlic that has been processed and prepared as supplements for commercial purposes will also have different properties.
Garlic is used to help prevent and treat a wide range of ailments such as breast, colon, prostate, rectal, lung and stomach cancer, enlarged prostate, high blood pressure, hayfever, diabetes, diarrhea, osteoarthritis, pre-eclampsia and is a long-time old home remedy for colds and flues.
Garlic is also a do-it-yourself remedy for treating and preventing fungal and bacterial infections, building the immune system and preventing tick bites as well as dealing with headaches, asthma, hemorrhoids, sinus congestion, snakebites, stress and fatigue.
Is garlic beneficial for health ailments? Here are the results:
Garlic does show some effectiveness against fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, ringworm and jock itch. To use garlic to treat fungal infections, a garlic gel product containing 0.6 percent ajoene (another chemical found in garlic) will help when applied to the skin. A garlic gel of 1 percent ajoene is needed to successfully treat athlete’s foot.
Studies on men in China concluded that men who ate a clove of garlic a day lowered their risk of developing prostate cancer by 50 percent.
There is very little evidence to demonstrate garlic is an effective corn or wart remedy.
There is some evidence to show that fresh garlic, not aged garlic, can kill specific bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella enteritidis and antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria related to food poisoning.
Clinical evidence shows that taking garlic extract for pre-eclampsia has no effect in reducing the risk.
There is some evidence to support the fact that taking garlic may reduce the frequency of colds.
High quality research studies conclude that garlic does not significantly lower triglyceride or cholesterol levels.
Research shows that eating garlic does reduce the risk of developing stomach, colon and rectal cancer. The same study showed that garlic supplements do not offer the same results.
There is some support to show that people suffering BPH — benign prostatic hyperplasia — had improvements with urinary issues associated with the condition.
Garlic seems to reduce the effect of atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries with age.
Consuming high doses of dietary garlic does seem to ward off tick bites.
There is no research evidence that positively shows garlic to have any effects on blood sugar levels, rendering garlic ineffective for diabetic use.
According to Cancer Prevention Research, studies show that taking garlic does not reduce the risk of developing breast cancer or lung cancer.
People with PAD — peripheral arterial disease — showed no improvement in blood circulation or leg pain after taking garlic for 12 weeks.
Tests conclude that garlic has no beneficial effect treating patience infected with H. pylori, a bacteria that causes ulcers.
There is compelling evidence to show that AGE — aged garlic extract — is beneficial as an antioxidant in protecting oxidant-induced diseases, including oxidant-mediated brain cell damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Both epidemiological and medical studies show that people who consume garlic on a regular basis have longer blood clotting times, lower incidences of stomach cancer and lower blood lipid levels, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
How to make garlic work for you
When taking garlic supplements look for supplements that are not odorless (less processing and more allicin) and offer an enteric coating to ensure the supplement dissolves in the intestine and not the stomach. Garlic has a tendency to irritate the digestive tract, however, some folks are fine eating raw garlic. Garlic can also be consumed by crushing the fresh cloves, which releases more of the allicin chemical, and then cooking it or using it in salad dressings.